It felt strange, even for someone who has owned some kind of firearm for more than 50 years, to open the trunk of my car, take out an assortment of rifles, and openly walk through the parking lot with what any newspaper reporter would love to describe in lurid verse as an "arsenal" and including of course "weapons of war." Wars are wars after all, even those that ended 150 years ago. I was hardly the only one with an armful of expensive hardware of course, it being a gun show. There were acres of cars that the acres of "gun nutz" had arrived in, but if I had been expecting vintage Dodge Chargers with Confederate flags or jacked up trucks with nasty bumper stickers and layers of mud, I would have been disappointed. No Daisy Duke. I was parked between a Prius and a Cadillac. After having my relics examined by a nice chatty fallow to be sure they weren't loaded, to insert plastic zip ties to be sure they couldn't be loaded, I was advised not to take any less than $900 for one rifle. Welcome to gun prices. Welcome to the gun culture.
Lots of army surplus clothing, holsters, belts, boots -- even bulletproof vests on display. Booths from a local gun range offering senior discounts on Tuesdays: booths full of sporting goods and bow-hunting items, a booth with costumed civil war reenactors who kept me there a long time talking about my 1863 Tower carbine. Some of the gun culture, a large part of it, is history culture.
Tables and tables of new commercial ammunition, hand made cartridges, surplus ammunition which usually comes in boxes of 100, or 250 or 500 rounds and would having even one box delight those people who write howling headlines? A couple of hours at the range? Hell no, it's an arms cache suitable only for a mass murderer.
And of course there was a large, well staffed NRA booth with a bowl of Tootsie Rolls and piles of safety pamphlets. Maybe they were perverts and murderers and closet Nazis -- even the ladies -- but they didn't look it. Still I walked on. Well dressed businessmen, an off-duty cop I know, some guys in camo, some guys in Army uniform, a fellow Ham and pillar of the community Sunday School teacher type just there to buy a few boxes of ammunition for cheaper than Wal-Mart sells them. It's the South and everybody loves guns. Even your mama.
All in all, a nicer looking crowd than I see at the barber shop and some of the restaurants I frequent. I spent more time talking about history and historical weaponry and to people making sure I knew what my stuff was worth, than I spent conducting business and met several history buffs but not one snob and not one unfriendly person. No swastika tattoos, no white sheets, no one talking to himself. What can I say? I may do it again.
I sold most of what I brought and all to licensed firearms dealers who yes, despite what you hear, really do conduct background checks and boy, were my pockets bulging when I left. Did I mention that gun prices have soared and continue to soar?
I don't know, maybe it's like my experiences with the scary "biker Culture" that have had nothing whatever to do with the stereotypes we fling around. I've begun to suspect that there are so many gun cultures that don't resemble either the others or the stereotype as there are kinds of Liberals or Conservatives or Bikers or Bookworms or Bloggers. There might be a lesson about lumping people together, stereotyping people and making cheap shots here somewhere, but it's time for dinner and I'm part of the food culture too, doncha know.