More on the Gun Culture

I lost my Dad slightly less than two years ago, and Mom died a few years before Dad.   They lived relatively long and, I guess you would have to say, full lives.  I loved my father very much, but there was an incident that I wonder about to this day.

Dad lost most of his hearing capacity at the age of three when he contracted the Mumps.  As a result, he had troubles communicating all his life.   He had learned to talk a little before he became mostly deaf, and his deafness was not recognized until much later in his life.  He was treated as if he was mentally challenged and had major self esteem issues all of his life because of that.  Although he was a talented carpenter he never made much money because of his communication problems.  In fact, my parents lived well under the poverty level and struggled financially for most of their lives.

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The incident involved the installation of city sewer lines.  The small town of Lynnville, Iowa, (less than a thousand people) in which we lived was putting in a sewer system.   I must have been about six or seven.  Dad had built the house we lived in, and we had a septic system.  He did not want to be hooked up to the sewer system, probably because it would cost one or two dollars a month.

What I remember was that when the backhoe was digging sewer lines for the neighbors, Dad made a point of going outside and cleaning a number of guns.  He did this in a highly visible, deliberate manner.  I might not have noticed it so much except for the fact that Mom was extremely upset.  She was muttering to herself, wondering what he thought he was doing. 

Even at my young age I understood that Dad was doing something that was at best very risky, and at worst extremely stupid.  How did he think it was going to end?  He did not, to my knowledge, voice any threat to anyone, but anyone would understand his actions to be a threat.  Would he end up escalating the threat to violence, and maybe going to jail?  I wasn’t sure.

The thing about small towns is that everyone knows everyone else.  No violence transpired.  We did not get hooked up to the sanitary sewer.  There must have been some conversations both before and after the gun cleaning incident.   Maybe someone smoothed out feelings and worked through the issues.  It could have been Mom, or it could have been one of his sisters.  Or maybe the display was just ignored by the people it was performed for.

Sometime later Dad sold most of his guns.  They were old antiques, not worth much at the time, but probably worth a lot of money now.   He said it came down to feeding his hobby or feeding his family.  But I wonder if maybe it had something to do with the gun-cleaning episode.

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About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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2 Responses to More on the Gun Culture

  1. Perry Thostenson says:

    Harlan,

    I saw your post on the Gun Culture and wanted to relate a story. One thing that really caught my attention was the photo of your parents posed in front of Rayford’s prairie in New Sharon. I even recongized his shirt. I think it was the nicest prairie re-establishment I had seen anywhere.

    I had visited your folks over the years and have fond memories of walking around your dad’s prairie as he told stories. What prompted me to comment was that I never thought of your father as one who especially loved or hated guns. I know he was fairly passive on violence and was a kindly old gentleman. But I also think he was an American patriot and was not anit-gun. I remember one time while chatting with him and your mother in the kitchen that he showed me his collection. He had built a secret gun case behind the china closet. It was like something out of a James Bond movie. He pushed a hidden button, swung open the front of the china closet and there was his gun collection and ammo. I was somewhat sworn to secrecy, and until now, had told no one. But with his passing and the demolition of the house, it is a moot issue, but one of my fond memories of your dad.

    • I may have ranted a little too much on the gun culture thing. My issue with some of the gun people now is the complete abdication of any responsibility some people seem to have with regards to guns. Dad was pretty responsible about the guns–the incident I related being an exception. The secret closet and secret compartments were kind of fun–Dad loved building that kind of stuff. By the way, the house is gone, but I think parts of the prairie are still there, thanks to the neighbor who bought it.

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