A Postcard from The Doghouse
As any married gun owner knows, there are more ways to anger a wife than there are wives in this world. What follows is a tale of a married man, bad timing, and five thousand rounds of ammunition.
Many gun owners will remember the .22 Drought of 2008-16, which began with the election of Barack Obama. After his election, .22 Long Rifle ammunition disappeared from shelves across the country. Every morning, the ammo flippers descended on their local Walmarts and bought every .22 bullet in sight. They brought friends and family, and each bought a 3-box limit. Then they changed their shirts and circled back through for another limit. They sold their ill-gotten wares on the net and at gun shows, charging fifteen cents a round or more. Monsters. For eight long years, I watched friends and family suffer from ammonemia, which is the technical term for a lack of bullets. I gave away more .22 than I shot during those years, hoping to save some poor wretch from having to pay scalper’s prices or worse, give up plinking altogether. I picked up ammo in a catch as catch can manner, buying a box here and a bulk pack there, but without shooting any. The ammo cabinet at the local Walmart was ordinarily empty of .22, but about every month or six weeks, I’d spy some and I’d grab it. There was a little sign on the locked cabinet that said, “Limit 3 Boxes of .22 Per Customer.” Fortunately for me, some of the younger folks who work at Walmart have never been taught the distinction between “box” and “bulk pack.”
By late 2017, .22LR was showing up on local shelves again, and at more reasonable prices. I’d grown up with prices around three and a half cents per round, and they’d naturally gone up since then. The Drought of 2008 was more than just normal inflation, though. Prices had peaked somewhere north of seventeen cents per round, so three and a half just wasn’t going to happen. When they dropped back past about twelve cents per round, I began to watch, hoping to score a lot of ammo at a good price. As I sat at my computer one December day, there it was. It reached out and grabbed me as surely as a twister grabs a trailer. Glorious, copper-plated, 40 grain Federal .22LR for five and a half cents per round, shipped. Compared to the last almost-decade, that was a steal. And I figured that the more I bought, the more I saved. Wasn’t that what Mrs. McGee kept telling me about sales? If it’s on sale, you gotta buy a lot of it? Why else would one whole shelf in the pantry be stocked with Mac & Cheese? Why else would we own 113 cans of condensed tomato soup? So I bought the ammo, but just one case. I figured that five thousand rounds would set me for a while.
There’s another thing that every married gun owner knows. He knows how to sneak things into the house. Unfortunately, I was out of practice in this most sacred art. I tried to convince the ammo company that an adult signature really was not required, and that the FedEx driver really could go out behind the house and stash the ammo under the blue tarp behind the shed, preferably while nobody was home. I was unsuccessful. Barring that, I tried to time the shipment so that I’d be home when it arrived, and hoped that I could get the package out to the garage without catching Mrs. McGee’s attention.
Unfortunately, I ordered in late December. Anybody who shops online should be able to tell you that Christmas screws up delivery times. Still, I persevered in tracking the order so as not to alarm Mrs. McGee with its arrival. The key to my ultimate downfall came when I saw a sign that read “Gun Show.” I figured I could go to the show in the morning, and be home before my ammo arrived. I began moving my chess pieces some time around Wednesday.
I announced my intention to go to the gun show in my usual manner: “Honey, can I go to the gun show?” The missus responded in her own sweet way: “You’re not going to buy another gun are you?” In truth, I did not intend to buy another gun. “Of course not.” I intended to trade for another gun. “Then why do you need to go to the gun show?” I was prepared to announce to her that, as a real man, I didn’t need a reason or permission from my wife. Then I remembered how little I like sleeping in the garage. I said, “I have a couple of guns I want to sell.” She responded, “You hit your head again, didn’tcha?” Her concern for my well-being was touching. “No. I’ve just got a couple I’m probably not going to shoot again,” I replied. She quipped, “Are we broke again?” I do so love Mrs. McGee’s sense of humor. “No, we’re not broke this time.”
By Friday, I had gotten permission to go to the gun show. I packed up a rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, each with a handful of magazines, and off I went. I wanted to do my horse-trading and be back by lunch to get my ammo. I had told Mrs. McGee that I had ordered some ammo, but gently glossed over the issue of how much. She need never be the wiser. I loaded my guns into the car, and off I went. I knew that I wanted a new plinker, but I also knew I had more than enough trade bait to get more than just that. I wasn’t sure what else I wanted. Maybe a couple of cases of 9mm, a bolt action rifle, or even a suppressor.
As soon as I hit the entryway to the show, I was hit with the usual “Whatcha got?” I proudly showed off my guns, certain that they would net a king’s ransom. As it turns out, I was mistaken. I roamed the floor, testing the fit and finish of new pistols and snacking on deer jerky. (For the record, though, gun dealers get a little testy when deer jerky grease gets on a brand new gun.)
I made a lap around the hall and got a nibble here and there. I got a few low-ball offers, but I knew the value of the treasures I held in my hands. One particular dealer asked me what I wanted for the pistol and I gave him a fair asking price. In the usual good-natured ribbing that happens during negotiations, he came back with a counter-offer: “You’re out of your %$#&% mind.” I knew better, though. I could see the gleam of desire in his eyes every time he looked at that pistol. I circled the show a couple more times, stopping at his table now and again to resume negotiations.
By the time I’d made my third or fourth round, I’d come down a little on my price, and the dealer had backed off on his assessment of my psychological condition. We were getting close to a deal. Then came The Text. FedEx had delivered my ammo! Mrs. McGee had uncovered my plan, and she had a question. “HOW MUCH FREAKIN’ AMMO DID YOU BUY?!? I HAD TO GET THE DOLLY TO MOVE IT!” This was followed by a picture of a scowling Kermit the Frog. My cover was blown, and it was time to implement Operation Pacification.
Mrs. McGee has always been supportive of my shooting, as long as I didn’t risk losing the house, having utilities shut off, or such things. In fact, she has always enjoyed target shooting. I remembered this little fact, and in a moment of blinding brilliance, I had my answer. For years, I’d wanted to buy Mrs. McGee her own target pistol, and now was the perfect opportunity. I had two guns for trade, and 5,000 rounds of ammo sitting at home.
I returned to the dealer’s table. “Can we cut to the chase?,” I asked. “Depends. You gotten over your delusions?” he cheerily replied. I looked over two almost-matching Ruger Mark IV 22/45s, one with a threaded barrel, and one standard model. “If I could trade you straight across the board, my two guns for these two, I’d walk away happy.” The dealer was undoubtedly a seasoned haggler, and I could see him doing calculations in his head. I could also see him doing them on his calculator. “Yeah, we’ll do that.” He said. Ten minutes and a 4473 later, I was headed home, already rehearsing my story for the missus.
Twenty minutes later, I marched through my door, barely bothered by the cactus that whistled past my head. My wife’s timing has always been impeccable, but her understanding of succulent aerodynamics is less finely honed. “Honey, I’m ho-ome!” I sang. My wife warbled back, “Spats McGee, what in the hell have you done this time?!? We need five thousand rounds about as much as we need extra holes drilled in our heads!” I pulled out the Mark IV 22/45 that I’d bought for her. I carefully shielded from her view the Mark IV 22/45 Lite that I’d bought for myself. As it turns out, it’s a little difficult to use your body to shield things from view when you’re afraid to turn your back on someone. “Honey, I’ve wanted to get you your own .22 for a long time. I finally did that today. I got us matching .22s.” I then showed her the 22/45 Lite I’d bought for myself. As I held her pistol out to her, I could tell that she was overwhelmed by my generosity. Her face flushed, and tears welled up in her eyes. “Christ on a crutch, Spats! Don’t tell me you actually spent money on that damn thing!” I beamed proudly. “No, ma’am. I did a little horse trading. I spent the princely sum of ten dollars to get in the door, and I traded the two guns I left the house with this morning.” Something changed in her face at that point. At first, I thought it might be just a change in the light, a reflection from a passing Peterbilt. Then I realized that her expression had actually softened a little. She closed her eyes. “Spats, you moron. I didn’t need a gun! I guess that’s your love language, though . . . .” She has not shot her new 22/45 yet, either with me or at me. We’ll head the range soon, though, and maybe then she’ll let me come in from the garage.