"No women are allowed at Deer Camp". That was what my father said.
So every year at Thanksgiving time I stood at the family room window and
watched while my older brother and my dad loaded up the truck, and
drove off to have their time together. It was the 1970's, and in
addition to the Camp being crowded with men, I think Dad just didn't
know what to "do" with a girl.
He let me tag along hunting birds once or twice just to appease me, but
those handful of times wasn't enough to allow me to get over the "GUN"
and relax and have fun. Being a kid, I had a short attention
span, I never got comfortable, and probably Dad wasn't comfortable
either. So, it never really clicked for me, and it all fell by the
wayside. I grew up, went to college, married, worked, and had three
children. Ultimately, I became just another member of society that
didn't know anything about firearms.
That started to change when I entered my Forties. By that time, I had
already started challenging some of my old boundaries, by going back to
school, traveling overseas, and getting a divorce. During that time, I
went with a guypal of mine to a large gun show. This guypal has handled firearms since he was
in diapers. To this day I'm not sure why he let me tag along, but he
did, and because he did, my life was changed.
At the show, during a demo- type thing, Guypal put me in a line -
turns out that the line was to step up and fire an AR-15 style rifle.
Ummm, okay.... this thing is an "evil black rifle" - you realize that I
haven't handled a firearm of any kind for 30 years??? But my pride
wouldn't let me back down. So, I made sure I informed the Rep that I
didn't know what I was doing, he gave me a short tutorial, and I fired
the thing - standing AND prone. I have no idea if I even hit the target.
But it was cool! It was something that I never imagined myself doing.
Later on in the day, Guypal put me in a line to test-fire a handgun
(don't even remember what it was). I had NEVER handled a handgun
before.... and another boundary bit the dust.
Fast forward about two years. In those ensuing two
years I lost my Dad to cancer, and finished with my medical training. I
still hadn't lost the memory of how cool it was to handle and fire
those guns on the range in Florida, and it bothered me that I didn't
know anything about firearms.
Indeed, when Dad died, my brothers and I, my uncle, and one of Dad's
close friends opened and went through his gun safe. They handled the various shotguns, rifles, and handguns and reminisced
about my dad, and the various hunts the guns had been used on. There
was the over and under that I had fired those handful of times when I
was twelve. Here was a "Sporterized Chilean Mauser" (that's what they
called it) that had been my grandfather's, but nobody wanted to run
factory ammo through it anymore. Over there was the revolver that Dad
used snakeshot in. This was the shotgun that had taken so many
pheasant and grouse and woodcock over the years. There were twenty-something firearms
in all. But I didn't know anything about any of them, and didn't know
how to handle them. Consequently, I didn't keep any of them as a
remembrance of my Father. My uncle did, my brothers did, and Dad's buddy
did - but not me. Here was an entire legacy of an outdoor life
well-lived, laid out before me on a table in the basement, yet I didn't
know enough to retain any of it for myself. It made me immensely sad.
I did end up keeping a few things later on as we cleaned out the house
so that Mom could move to a retirement community. At one point I came
across a Crown Royal bag filled with Dad's wooden duck calls. I sat
cross-legged on the hallway floor blowing on them and crying, and
remembering when as kids Dad would make us laugh with the sounds of the
calls. So I kept two of them - the ones with the most teeth marks on the
mouthpiece. They now occupy a place of honor in my curio cabinet. I also kept his orange vest and his fishing license. But I
wished I had known enough to keep a gun or two.
So, when the time came that I finished my training, and passed my board
exams and settled into a job, I decided that I wanted to learn more
about firearms. I decided to start first with a pistol. It was 2009 and I had not quite reached my 46th birthday.