So here we were, just an hour since our arrival at my sister's home in oh-so-rural Kentucky. Cavin and I brought our nephew, Andrew, here for a summer vacation to experience farm life, horseback riding and some boating time on Kentucky Lake. As we'd arrived in the early evening, it was a bit late to get started on the main activities, so Andrew was out in the large front yard working off his pent-up energy from the long drive in a game of ersatz badminton with Cavin and our brother-in-law.
My sister and I sat in the kitchen, catching up on some family news. With the sun setting and it nearing the time when the full force of a 12-year-old boy was about to be unleashed on her house, she asked, ''So, what do you want to do about the guns?''
My sister and her husband aren't gun collectors or even what I'd think of as enthusiasts. But they have more than one or two — a few rifles, a shotgun, a couple pistols. Some are heirlooms from his family, others they bought for themselves over the years.
This is the point where a lot of my urban-raised, progressive friends — and more than a few conservative ones — can't resist the slight sniff of disdain: ''Oh, Kentucky.'' I should point out, though, that when I drove to the ''nearby'' Walmart to pick up some groceries for dinner, for the first 15 miles the only things I saw on the narrow, twisting, country roads were two pickup trucks and a dead possum.
This is not the part of America where you expect a police car to show up within a few minutes of calling 911. It's neither lawless nor frightening, but it is far removed and it makes sense to approach things differently. I grew up with guns around me, though in my family they've always been kept for use rather than displayed as a statement. I only remember my father's gun coming out twice: once for a rabid dog that had to be put down, and again for an escaped convict from the nearby prison farm who sauntered down the road past our house in the most lackadaisical prison break ever.
Obviously, the gun was only fired on the former, not the latter.
Still, guns make me uneasy. In elementary school, a friend's father was shot in his truck by another local man over an argument I never understood. Two kids a few classes behind me accidentally killed their father when they were goofing around in the cab of his truck and set off the rifle in the gun rack.
This is why I have no patience for suburban nimrods who press for open-carry laws; who think no visit to Starbucks, church or a political rally should be without a pistol on the hip; who fervently believe that an armed society is a polite society.
Actually, it's just a society where lots of rude but innocent people get shot.
So, while Andrew was still outside developing his new two-fisted ninja badminton style, my sister and I gathered the guns from their various storage places in the house — as I said, my family's about utility, not display — and put them in one remote place where they wouldn't be discovered by the curiosity of a city-raised 12-year-old. There are many things I want him to experience about life in the country — it's a beautiful place, even if I've chosen the city for my own life — but we can do without the gun lessons for now.