Guns have always scared me, and for a good reason. But fear is natural, isn’t it, when you handle something capable of taking lives. Fear though, can be tempered by respect, and there’s the fine line. My Dad always says that farm kids—kids in the country—understand guns and respect them, because they’ve seen what they can do and exactly what happens when you pull the trigger. When you’re behind a screen with a video game, it’s hard to understand the impact. There’s no real red, the change in the air, the rush of energy—good, bad or otherwise—when a life is taken. And I know that feeling, so I have a healthy dose of fear, and respect, for guns. The first time I shot the Verona, we were out at Mitchell’s, the place by Salem where you walk the course. I was with my Dad, and Duane and Mike, and Garrett. She’s a double barrel .20 gauge shotgun with an interchangeable .28 barrel, and she’s pretty—light and slim, with a silver and gold engraving on either side of the stock, depicting flying geese and duck. I always feel like everyone is aware of that gun all the time, because it really is a beautiful gun—I could tell when I set her down in the rack the first time we went that all the good old boys checked her out and tried to do the math, why I would have a gun like that. They were probably justified—I wasn’t quite sure why I had it either. But my Dad said take the Verona, it’ll be a good fit, and (like he is most of the time) he was right.
Even though I didn’t shoot very well (to be fair, I hadn’t shot in nearly a year and a half, and the sun was right in the wrong spot—you know all the excuses, don’t you?), I think people like to see girls with a gun. Maybe it’s the breaking down of the stereotype (you know the stereotype, don’t you? Women are the gatherers!), or the pleasure of seeing a girl acknowledge the fear and take the power anyway, or whatever it is—maybe just the unexpected juxtaposition of cute and small with big and mighty, people like to see a girl with a gun.
That’s not why I like the Verona, or any gun really—I don’t see myself shoot, so the effect of all my long hair sticking out of the back of my hat while I take aim means nothing to me. Really, I like to be outside, and I like feeling connected to what I’m eating and the world around me, and participating directly in the food chain by hunting is one way for me to do that. It’s another reason to be out and walking around. And you know, it’s something I can do with my Dad and my Uncles, something that connects me to them. That may be the biggest thing—there are so many things that the world lets me do with my Mom, it’s easy to be a part of her life and spend time with her. Don’t get me wrong—you’d be hard-pressed to find a more involved Dad than mine in our day-to-day lives, but there’s only so many dresses Dad wants to help shop for. He came with me one time but his knees started to hurt and all the dresses he picked out were black. We didn’t go again. But we can spend all day outside, looking for things, and making memories, and my Uncles are always usually around doing the same things, so it works out pretty well for all parties involved.
You can see then why, when I got the Verona for my 23rd birthday, it was particularly meaningful for me (even though I didn’t cry or make a scene, sorry—public emotion is not my style). My Dad had just given Spence the first rifle he ever bought, and Garrett got a rifle too a few days before me. I didn’t think by any means I would be on the list, I really didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even want to ask or make a snarky comment after those guns were given out because I didn’t want it to be my idea if I ever did get one—that’s not how someone should bequeath something special to them, I don’t think. I got the Verona on my birthday proper, and I opened a present (it was very heavy) from my Dad that had turkey shot and .28 gauge bullets in it. And I said, that’s for the Verona, but it wasn’t until later that I opened the bag with the gun in it. It’s a gorgeous gun, and it’s the kind of gun that I’ll have for the rest of my life and probably for one of my kid’s lives, and theirs after that. That kind of gun. I’ll always feel lucky to be setting that gun down into the rack and say, yeah, it’s mine, and someday I’ll probably become a good enough shot to have earned a gun like that, walked enough miles with her to feel worthy of the power. All that and this too—the Verona is affirmation for me, that for as much as I want to be around my Dad and hunting with him and my Uncles, they want me to be there too.
It’s an expensive, powerful object, but it only has as much meaning as I give it. This one, though, means a lot to me. I'm no farm kid, but I've seen a lot of guns--enough to know that they aren't all made equal and they each have their own character. I'll spend my whole life learning about the Verona, but one thing I already know for sure--I'm in.