A few months after my father left our family home for good, my mother heard me screaming in the middle of the night. It was the kind of scream that made her grab her rifle in one hand and some ammo in another.
It was a spring night and I was sleeping with my window open, which was right above my bed; I loved breathing in the fresh air. That night, in that open window, I heard the banging of a ladder, and by the time my mother made it into the room and began loading her gun, a man was about to climb in.
She said something along the lines of: “Bethany, come over here. I don’t want you to get his brain matter on your face.” I backed up behind her and my mother raised her gun. The would-be intruder slowly backed down the ladder. As he climbed down, my mother approached. The barrel of her rifle was inches away from his face and she told him, “Next time you come here, I won’t hesitate.” She had her gun pointed at him through the window on his way down, and as he went down the ladder she grabbed the top and shook it, just to put the fear of God into him one last time before he fled.
My mother admired Ralph Nader and voted for the Green Party candidate during every presidential election I walked into a booth with her. There was not an issue on which she was not the most progressive person in the room. And yet, she owned guns.
They weren’t “weapons of war” to us, nor were my parents “gun nuts”; they just had a camper trailer in upstate New York, where bears were common campfire intruders. And soon, she had reason to keep them around the house for self-defense as well.