Last night I had cause to go to the Sportsman's Warehouse that opened near us some few months ago. It was mostly a curiosity visit -- the item I was actually looking for fell into a category they turned out not to stock. For although it is described as being for 'sportsmen', the sports in question are pretty strictly fishing, hunting and camping.
Fishing holds no particular fascination for me. Not even the prose of Izaak Walton can inspire an interest in standing around for hours waiting for the nibble of a cold-blooded ictheiod -- not that there's any other kind.
I did my share of camping as a boy scout, but I must confess that I am not in a huge hurry to get back into the great outdoors overnight in the near future. My mother used to call camping "the same as housekeeping, but under more difficult conditions". I may not be a full time professional in the housekeeping arena (I slip off to relax in an office for 10-11 hours a day where I can lark among relational databases and marketing metrics) but I now feel a great sympathy for her comment.
So I moved quickly through the fishing and camping areas to the back of the store, and what unfolded around me was a veritable garden of male delights. I refer, of course, to weapons.
If you do not experience it yourself, I am not sure I can explain to you the hold that knives, guns, bows and all things dangerous hold upon my mind. The bow, of course, is a noble instrument, dating back farther in our history than writing, rice pudding or income tax. Guns are perhaps no more pleasurable to use than bows, but they infinitely more fascinating, since they combine the joy of a complicated yet elegant mechanical construction with noise and destructive power.
I was ten when, after much pleading and a parentally mandated independent study of all issues related to gun safety, I received my first air rifle. So I inspected the air rifles and found that not only are there more varieties than I had available seventeen years ago, but also that to my adult wallet they are wonderfully cheap.
At fourteen I built from a kit a fully functional Remington-style (circa 1868) black powder revolver. (Black powder guns, at least back then, were not considered fire arms and could thus be purchased by a minor.) It had a twelve inch barrel, a wonderful slow, arching recoil, and concealed you behind a large cloud of pungent smoke when fired. (Which wasn't very often since it took a good five minutes to load all six chambers.)
Sportsman's Warehouse had a good variety of black powder guns and supplies as well. They've come a long way in the last thirteen years, including fascinating inventions like pelletized black powder substitute (less smoke, plus you can care a little case of the pellet rather than horn of loose powder) and plastic jacketed copper plated bullets (no idea what the point of them is). In addition to a decent range of replicas of models from the 1700s and 1800s they had a wide range of modern-style black powder rifles -- apparently for the black powder hunting set.
In the year between when we got married and when Princess Noogs was born, I bought a .22 semi-automatic target pistol. At the time, I was working an office job from 8-5 and MrsDarwin was stage managing from 4pm-11pm, so I had plenty of free time in the evenings and an indoor shooting range right down the street from work.
Back in California, handguns are a disreputable commodity, which cannot be found at a sporting goods store. You need to go to a gun store, past the cement and steel barricades to keep potential robbers from crashing a vehicle through the store window, take a test to show you know which end of the weapon to point, wait until the next ice age just to make sure that you're not buying your .22 for a (low caliber) crime of passion, etc., etc. Not so here in Texas, it seems. Beyond the dense ranks of rifles and shotguns, there was an entire wall covered with hand guns, ranging from expensive, more expensive, to really, really dang expensive. (In case you've ever considered buying a handgun to commit a crime, be advised you're not going to spend less than about $500 for a 9mm, .45, or even a revolver, and you can easily spend >$1000. If it's just a quick crime of passion, rather than assassinating the bi-metalist prime minister, I suggest you go third world and use a machete instead.)
At this point, I realized that hanging around any longer would only increase the temptation to resume expensive hobbies, so I vacated the premises. But I've decided that the Darwin family will have to someday yield a male heir, so that I can train my son in the manly arts of weaponry. I could, of course, train the girls to shoot (the cat is hopeless, and I don't trust him anyway), but I would do so with some trepidation. Having three beautiful daughters is likely to provide enough headaches. Allowing them to enjoy male hobbies such as shooting would turn them into veritable Helens (Doubtless Helen truly captured Paris' affection by professing an interest in skeet shooting or car mechanics or rugby, at which point, who can blame him?), and you know what kind of trouble that can cause.