Q: How old need a boy be to receive the gift of a first gun?
A: Assuming that we are not speaking of some wild-assed hellion who will bury his relatives in a torrent of tiny steel balls the first time a firearm is laid in his hands, age is neither here nor there. The key to safely arming a young person is found in the guidance provided by the caretaker. If you are willing and able to teach your li’l shooter the finer points of gun use, you may start him early indeed. The Texanist knows whereof he speaks. He has been called a William Tell—cum—Lucas McCain, a modern-day Ad Toepperwein, Annie Oakley reincarnated in britches, and one heckuva shot. Once, he silenced revelers at a cocktail party by extinguishing a candle flame in the host’s living room with a Daisy Red Ryder from twenty paces. Many have surmised, as the nimbus of gun smoke cleared from yet another feat of marksmanship, that he must have been born with a gun in his hands. This was not the case. The Texanist, like many a tyke, climbed the firearms ladder—BB (Daisy), pellet (Crosman), .22 (Browning), 20-gauge (Browning)—under his father’s tutelage, and therefore has yet to shoot anything (or anybody) he didn’t aim to.
Q: My husband and I have inherited a great deal of guns from his father. We do not want guns in our home and are somewhat “anti-gun” ethically, but these guns do have sentimental value, and we don’t want to sell them. What do we do with them?
A: The Texanist has safely kept arms since he was a child and has never had a problem with guns that are not pointed directly at him, but he respects your hesitance to exercise your Second Amendment rights in your own home. When the Texanist’s grandfather died, in 1952, a .41-caliber single-action Colt with a long, long barrel was passed along. Despite the fact that this firearm had in no way earned such a moniker, it would become known by the Texanist and his brothers as the Widow-maker. The gun—a big iron, Marty Robbins would call it—was eventually mounted in a shadow box frame with a small brass plaque and became a prized heirloom after the passing of the Texanist’s father. Now the Texanist looks at it and thinks of his dad and granddad, whom, but for told and retold tidbits, he never knew.
Cull your newfound arsenal if you must, but don’t banish everything. Guns can be made nonfunctional and yet, as you see, still serve a purpose.
Q: Can I bring my pocketknife to work?
A: Unless your employer has explicitly forbidden it or your “work” happens to be run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, with your stint more nine to ninety than nine to five, you should be able to tote a pocketknife of reasonable size and reputable manufacture to any office. What worked for Jim Bowie ought to work for B.S. of Sachse. Although the day-to-day situations in which men find themselves in need of such a tool have changed somewhat over the years, cold and well-honed steel, it seems, serves its purpose still. Bowie, before defending the Alamo, shivved an archenemy to death after being shot and repeatedly stabbed in the legendary Sandbar Fight of 1827. You, on the other hand, will most likely be leveling the score with loose threads, hangnails, and packing tape. The Texanist brings his blade to work with him every day and finds that, in addition to dispatching the occasional archenemy, he uses his for drawn-out bouts of lunchtime mumblety-peg and opening letters like this one.
Q: I have just married a Texan, and recently we got pregnant. It’s a boy! I was hoping for a girl, only because I thought we might be able to avoid the following dilemma. I am a peace-loving gal from Chicago, but my husband says guns and knives are part of his culture and a rite of passage for boys that happens around age fourteen. I say no kid of mine needs a gun. Is this truly a cultural issue?
Jen Graf Sims
A: The Texanist gathers that your husband has up until now been hesitant to tell you that this “rite of passage” is actually a legally mandated procedure in the state of Texas. It is time you knew. According to the state constitution, at the age of fourteen, all Texas boys are required to participate in a full-scale weaponization. The occasion is marked by a solemn ritual usually held in the woods. The governor is present, as are three Texas Rangers and at least one Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. The boy is presented with a razor-sharp bowie knife and with it must successfully shave his left arm from elbow to hand (if his arm hair has not come in yet, he may shave the fuzz from one side of a plump peach). Having completed this difficult trial, he is then made to demonstrate his abilities with a Colt six-shooter of very high caliber by blasting a beer can off his little brother’s head at fifty paces (in lieu of a little brother, a beloved family pet may be used). All of this is done by firelight and accompanied by the guttural chanting of the boy’s living grandparents. Since you reside outside the state, you are free to abstain, but you must understand that your son will be missing out on one of the great traditions of Texas masculinity. Another great tradition, of course, is telling whoppers.
Q: I live in a subdivision on the western edge of San Antonio, and recently I found a fairly large rattlesnake in my backyard. I reacted just as I was taught by my daddy to react in such a situation: with one blast from a 20-gauge. This alarmed my neighbors, and now I feel like they look down on me as some sort of rowdy hillbilly, which I can assure you I am not. I don’t see how I could have handled the encounter any differently. Do you?
A: There was a time, about a century ago, when almost the entirety of the state’s citizenry made their homes outside our bustling urban centers. These were sturdy, self-reliant, God- (and snake-) fearing people. People like your father, who took care of many a perceived threat with a barrel or two of hot lead. But according to the last census figures, the state’s population of hearty country folk has dwindled to a paltry 15.3 percent. As ruralists pull up stakes and move to town with the newly arrived Californians, our metropolitan areas respond by expanding into the hitherto-rural hinterlands. What was Old Brown’s back four hundred yesterday is the brand-new Colinas de Serpientes de Cascabel subdivision today. But in the midst of our transition to a state full of urbanites and suburbanites, some Texans (the Texanist is looking at you) have managed to hold on to their rural roots just as firmly as they have clung to their scatterguns. The old saying, it seems, sometimes holds true: you can take the shotgun-toting boy out of the country, but you just can’t take the shotgun out of the country boy’s hands. The thing is, while a thunderous discharge—whether it be focused in the general direction of a dove, sporting clay, old rusty bucket, or supposed venomous trespasser—may be nothing to you, your less-countrified neighbors are sure to frown, as they have, on such a ruckus. So will your local law enforcers. Like it or not, the new realities of your changing environs would have you leave the gun under the bed and the snake to the professionals, who will “take care of it”—albeit in a slightly different manner than that of your daddy.