A few years ago I got a call from the principal of my son’s elementary school. She was concerned my son had access to a gun in the home.
I said I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t own a gun.
She explained that he had told his classmates that his grandmother had a pistol. The kids told the teacher, who told the principal.
We told her that the gun lived with my mother-in-law in Texas.
I understood her concern because boys are fascinated by guns.
My grandfather kept a pistol in the headboard of the bed at his farm in Maryland. My brother and I found it one day while poking around. I was about nine years old. My brother was seven.
We liked the way it felt. It was heavy when you held it in your hand.
He had more guns upstairs in the closet, a .22 caliber rifle and a ten-gauge shotgun. The shotgun was our favorite. We loved to lift it up, pressing the heavy wooden stock against our shoulders.
When she was little, my mother says a strange car pulled up in front of the farm in the middle of the night. Her dad looked out the window and saw the lights. The house was on a lonely road in a valley.
Her dad got out his shotgun and went out front. He put in shells and swung up the barrel.
She said the click of a shotgun is unmistakable. It echoed through the valley. The car drove away.
We loved visiting the farm. It was such a different world. There was big barn in the back. There was a good-sized fishing boat up on blocks inside that we liked to climb on. The house had a dirt basement with large mouse traps and boards to walk on when it flooded.
Our favorite thing to do at the farm was accompany Grampa when he drove his World War II-era jeep around the property. He would ford a small stream and get up some speed to climb a hill into the woods.
He would bring the shotgun as a precaution. He said there could be bears. We never saw any bears. Just old cars that were rusting out. We never understood out how cars ended up in the middle of the woods.
Grampa’s gun later resurfaced in New Jersey. We were redoing our kitchen and the contractor suddenly got a worried look on this face.
“Hey lady you better come and take a look at this,” he told my mother. There, under the floorboards, was a rifle. “That’s a .22 caliber rifle ,” my mom said.
She took a closer look. “In fact, that’s my father’s gun.”
She couldn’t figure it out how it got there. Later it emerged my grandmother had asked my father to take it out of the house. She was worried my grandfather would hurt himself with it.
My father hid it in the ceiling of the garage. When they redid the kitchen it showed up under the floor.
After that, he put it in the front hall closet, which wasn’t a great idea because we could take it out and play with it whenever no one else was home. At least it wasn’t loaded.
When my parents moved they were getting rid of lots of possessions. I wondered what they would do with the gun.
I wanted to take it home.
I can’t explain why. I’ve only shot a gun a couple of times when I was at Boy Scout camp. But the idea was irresistible.
I realized it wasn’t very practical. New York has strict rules on gun ownership. Also we don’t have any place to hide it.
The kids would eventually discover it.
And if they did, I’m sure they would tell their friends.
**Published by Ted Merz Oct 28, 2014 **