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Oregon Family Magazine

The Pink Riffle

07/10/2015 14:59 ● By Sandy Kauten
“I’ve heard that you won’t let Wendy come to my house because I have guns,” said the aggrieved man on the phone. His daughter and mine are inseparable.

“That’s true,” I admitted, not wanting a discussion.

“I’m a very responsible gun owner,” he said. “I keep all my firearms locked in a steel gun case at all times. The kids couldn’t break into it with dynamite.”

I fought off a mental image of our two sixth-graders popping up from behind a couch to toss sticks of dynamite in sparking arcs across his rec room at the gun cabinet. “Well, I’ll talk to my wife about it,” I evaded.

He knew he was speaking to a sissy’s sissy, but he said, “Let’s talk about this later.”

“OK,” I said. I feel bad for the guy. Divorced, he hosts his daughter Jenn on alternate weekends and is trying to maintain good relations with her. But when Jenn comes to see him, it is at the expense of separating the inseparable.

Wendy was over there once, and when I came to get her, she and Jenn were in the rec room, sitting on the couch watching TV. On the wall behind them were the mounted heads of six deer, also seemingly watching TV. On the way home, Wendy told me that Jenn has a pink .22 rifle that she keeps at her dad’s house and Jenn had showed it to Wendy. When my wife and I reacted badly to this information, Wendy downgraded the weapon to BB caliber, and it soon became a paintball gun.

Whatever kind of gun Jenn has, her childhood is better equipped than mine had been. My mom would not even let her boys have cap guns. But when we were about 5 and 7 years old, we took to roughing up smaller kids and taking THEIR guns. Reluctantly, Mom decided she’d rather have make-believe killers in the house than genuine muggers. Actually, I didn’t want to be a killer; I wanted to be a cowboy, and accoutrements were needed. When Mom caved in, my 10-gallon hat and lasso were augmented by a cap pistol whose imitation ivory grips were embossed with a longhorn’s head.

Wanting more, I used to ask, “Dad, can I have a BB gun?”

“You want a gun?” he would say. “Join the Army.” Dad was a veteran himself and he loved the Army – not for its firepower, but for its ability to turn adventurous boys into steady men who would embrace civilian lives of comfort and safety.

When I grew up and moved out, I searched every gun shop within 50 miles for the finest six-shooter available, finally buying a handsome Swiss-made gun with walnut grips and brass fittings. I was imagining little children far in the future pleading, “Let’s get Grandpa to show us his revolver!” Yes, I had been planning to be the kind of colorful grandpa who would thrill the wee ones with a display of blue steel and a tall tale.

 Plus, between youth and old age, you never know when circumstances might call for the bold use of a loaded gun. Why, hardly a week went by that I didn’t see such a situation in a movie or on TV. Imagine Gary Cooper in “High Noon” asking, “You really think I’ll need a GUN? How would that teach the Miller gang to make better choices?” By age 25, I had four handguns and two rifles.

Besides shooting targets, the only use I ever put them to was hunting. Rats were eating a neighbor’s chickenfeed, so he let me play Cops & Drug Dealers with them. After dark, I’d get a flashlight and a pistol and burst into the henhouse and blast away at the rats as they raced for their holes. It was exciting for everyone involved, including the chickens. But apart from interrupting their banquets, I never successfully harmed a rat. That’s why there are no trophies watching television in MY house.

Then I met my wife and my evenings were filled with activities that didn’t involve sudden gunfire and scampering vermin. When our first child was born, guns became unwelcome. Sure it would be fun to get the drop on a home invader, although I don’t personally know anyone who has. But I AM acquainted with survivors of three different tragedies in which a kid was shot dead indoors by a supposedly unloaded gun. (I’ve been told my circle of acquaintances is atypical, but I can’t help that.) I lovingly oiled my weaponry and put it away along with my reckless youth. The guns have been in deep storage in a secret place for almost 20 years, and our only home invaders have been our kids and their friends.

So now Jenn’s dad thinks he can argue me into letting Wendy go near his guns. But when it comes to a showdown, he’ll find he’s pressing the wrong hombre. “Sorry, pardner,” I’ll say. “My wife won’t allow it.”

Rick can be reached at [email protected]