I don’t own a gun now, but guns were a big part of growing up in Wyoming when we were little. My father’s best memories are hunting on Sundays with his father, heading out into the fields to hunt rabbit and pheasant, letting their dog, Mac, run down the game animals. My grandmother came only once — she was an Eastern girl, and it was not her tradition. They didn’t invite her back because she screamed when she was afraid Mac would get hit. But my Dad was never worried. They knew they could tell the difference between Mac and a bird.
Each winter they would choose a gun from a catalogue. They would pack their own shells, melting metal — lead? — and my grandfather would pack them with gunpowder. They were members of target-shooting clubs, and flint-lock clubs. Not long ago my Dad and I opened a trunk full of my grandfather’s hunting clothes — sweaters, jackets, hats, vests — each with a padded shoulder to catch the rebound, and heavy canvas pants with cuffing to fit inside wader boots.
Toy guns were a part of my mother’s life, too, growing up in Dodge City, Kansas. Oddly, the one toy gun we have that she remembered using with great gusto in her imaginary play with her cousin Lloyd Lee, was this Buck Rodgers in the 21st Century gun. It made a loud pop when you pulled the trigger. These other toy guns are cowboy guns my brother and I used when we played in Cody, Wyoming, and the red one is a ping-pong ball bun we had great fights with in Pennsylvania.
My father once had a gun collection — guns that had been his father’s, his brother’s and his own that ranged from Revolutionary era muskets to the hunting guns they used on Sundays. It was all stolen in a burglary decades ago, but going through his books about guns, which he chose to bring with him in his move, he shared the great sadness he felt over the loss of that beautiful connection with his father.