Unfortunately, this is a true story. I have not embellished the facts, in fact, I have toned them down for the gentle reader.
With the passing of Valentine’s Day this week, it had me thinking back a few years to the nervous occasion of meeting my (then) girlfriend’s mother and her “life partner,” Dave.
My gal and I had driven all day to a tiny town near Lacrosse, Wis., for a family reunion, of sorts. As we approached I was given a not-totally-unexpected set of instructions that I should try to “go with the flow” as these folks were a little bit different.
I kind of had an idea, but there was more.
I was warned that the restroom in their house had a composting toilet. “No problem,” I said. “That’s not an uncommon thing in a hunting cabin where there’s no plumbing.”
I was informed that the house did, in fact, have plumbing but they had chosen not to have a flush toilet to keep themselves mindful of places in underdeveloped countries that have no sanitation systems.
I bit my tongue.
And there were some other things I needed to know, like the fact there was no peanut butter in the house. I thought that seemed like a detail that wouldn’t come up, but I was told it was to protest the unfair labor practices against migrant workers on peanut farms.
Slowly the picture was starting to develop.
And, if I wanted a beer while I was in town, I would have to go buy one at the fire station, because the town had voted to ban beer specifically, not alcohol, to protest the corporate greed of the big three American breweries … blah, blah, blah. But they had decided to make an exception for the fire department because they weren’t going to do the job if they couldn’t have a beer now and then.
Curiosity got the best of me at this point and I asked what kind of work people do here. I had thought it was a farming community, but these special folks didn’t have farmers’ sensibilities. Is there any industry or anything they make? I was equally unprepared for the answer.
Apparently, the town’s major business is taking worn-out sweaters and “upcycling” them into mittens.
So, I pretty well knew what I was in for when I we got to the “Life Tree Renewal Celebration,” aka family reunion, or so I thought.
When I met my girlfriend’s mother she greeted me not with a “hello” or a welcome but with these words exactly: “We think it’s all right for you to have a gun for hunting animals but not for shooting people.”
I wish I could have seen my own face.
Dave, the life partner, chimed in, “We mean, it’s not all right to use your gun in self defense because it deprives the accused of his right to due process under the law.”
As confused as I was at this moment, I’m thinking, “We, Dave?”
I had all these nice words ready like, “So nice to finally meet you, thank you for inviting me” etc., but now I’m caught between being on the defensive in an argument I wasn’t expecting and, frankly, had never heard before, and wanting to just get back in the truck and go home.
Instead I decided to try to defuse the tension. I shifted my weight from foot to foot and said, “Well, this is a little embarrassing, but I didn’t bring my gun and besides, I didn’t know it was going to be that kind of a party. Or do I have to go to the fire station if I want to shoot somebody?”
Apparently being weird as hell was the secret handshake in that town because after that I was one of the family. They even let me sit around the fire in their Druid Circle that evening and chant to “Creator” with them.
I’m not trying to offend anyone, but aside from my little odyssey, the point of this column is this: “Do we have to be so confrontational with each other all the time?”
I mean, here were two people, nice enough folks, obviously thinking people who care about things and have a good conscience, however different, and they had apparently worked themselves up over the foreknowledge that I was a hunter and I owned a gun. So much so, in fact, that it had crippled their ability to do anything other than plead their case about the absolute extremes of being the kind of guy who owns a gun and hunts.
A fellow I work with helped me carry some things to my car once, and when we got there I could see him staring at the NRA sticker in my back window. The words almost fell out of his mouth by themselves.
“I didn’t know you ...”
Now, I didn’t lay an hour-long lecture on you about who I voted for or how I feel on any other issue in the world. But why is it that civility and manners are forgotten virtues? Is voicing your opinion going to change the law, the way of the world or even how I feel?
I’m against some things that are currently legal, too, but it doesn’t mean you can’t help me load my car or that we have to sort it all out before we can have a beer ... down at the fire station … after a long day of making mittens.
Incidentally, I got through that weekend and, no, I didn’t marry that girl.
Contact Byron Scarbrough at ByronOutdoors@gmail.com.