Over the weekend, I joined my parents in attending a gun show. Normally I find these events to be a waste of my time. Most of the vendors display modern weapons with composite stocks, overly-priced shotguns, antiques from WWI and WWII, or handguns with slides and clips. But none of these guns interest me. I’m not into shooting sports (although I was an archery instructor for a summer camp), and hunting in my little neck of the woods is not good enough to justify spending more than $300-$450 on a shotgun.
But this weekend’s show was different. None of the modern guns I find ugly were to be seen. The tables were filled with wood, metal, flint, horn, and leather. Outside in the field next door, people were at target practice with atlatls and in another building sat rows of display cases filled with arrowheads, spearpoints, and other artifacts. This show was about black powder guns and living history, Pennsylvania long rifles and custom-crafted flintlocks. At one table was a replica of DiCaprio’s rifle from the Revenant. The vendors and attendees were not rednecks, gun nuts, or overly-enthusiastic hunters. These were the modern day mountain men who are keeping a dying art and forgotten history alive.
At the show I saw two different fiction authors and another vendor selling books on North American artifacts and local archaeology. While other gun shows I’ve attended have had vendors selling old magazines and books on gunsmithing, this was the first time I came across writers of historical fiction at a show. This gave me pause. Why? It’s not that unusual for me to find authors at historical reenactments in my region, but for me at least, it changed the whole atmosphere of the gun show.
Any serious writer knows it takes persistence, patience, and devotion to write a book and get it published by a company. While there is a great deal of research that can take a historical fiction author away from the confines of their writing space, the act of writing itself is typically an indoor endeavor. Guns, shooting sports, and marksmanship are, by nature, outdoor activities. To find the author of an entire historical fiction series for middle grade students along with just as many chap books of short stories and poetry at a gun show was completely unexpected. But it gives me hope to see people like him and the vendors at this show sharing both art and history alongside the guns and accessories on offer.
It’s easy to become envious of other writers, photographers, and artists, especially when they’re living the dreams we want for ourselves. I find that after this weekend’s event, I’ve been hit with renewed eagerness to pursue my own writing endeavors. I might write fantasy rather than historical fiction, but as someone who struggles to balance my indoor and outdoor hobbies against my limited free time, it makes me want to work harder towards my personal goals when I see local authors whom I can relate to on more than just the shared love of writing. This weekend was unexpected, but well worth the trip.