Or... was it?
If you could look onto our back porch around lunchtime, you might see me sitting back in a chair that is wide and deep, with great cushions. You will also see me holding a Winchester rifle with lever action. If you look closer, you will see it is a John Wayne commemorative rifle.
Am I an overzealous protector of my wife’s flowers waiting to shoot squirrels with a caliber rifle that would send the squirrel leaping into the sky or splash the plastic windows of our birdseed feeder that serves as a snack machine for our squirrels throughout the day?
No. You will see me cradle the gun, the way you have seen John Wayne or any other movie cowboys, protecting fellow travelers or settlers, many of whom are family members. Only my .32-40 Winchester carbine with a saddle ring is not loaded. And I take strong sips of Sumatra coffee out of my mug during this grownup timeout at lunch. You see, I have a love for the old west, fictitious or real.

I love especially the movies from the 1950s and the early episodes of Gunsmoke. They are depictions and testimonials of good vs. evil, where those two elements were clearly defined. When the bad guys happened upon settlers, it was clear their intentions were to harm good, innocent people and it was equally clear that the cowboy hero, and sometimes a pioneer woman, would use a gun to protect the lives of the innocent. The innocent could then go on with established order and peace and enjoy all those little things that were a big deal in the westerns, such as Joey drinking a soda pop or Janey catching a fish off the banks of a clean creek. When Marshall Matt Dillon shot someone, it was to protect the lives of the innocent. And he, too, took no pleasure in killing. In fact, in one episode when he had to shoot an evil man he expressed his condolences to the wife of the man.
I am by no means condoning the act of killing another human being. What I wish to convey is that weapons can protect us and those we love when the stakes are either kill or be killed. At present, guns are the only way for those of us who are peaceful to continue to live and preserve our way of life. This might sound like a strange notion for some, considering these words come from someone who carried a Swedish passport until he was naturalized a U.S. citizen in the late 1980s. This same person kept a distance from weapons and hunting, great passions of his father and younger brother. I should just come out and use the first person singular, but as you can see, even now, when it comes to the issue of guns, I somehow slip into a distancing third person narrative.

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I remember hearing of and tuning out exploits of my father who hunted moose in Sweden. I looked at wildlife covers of some kind of Swedish hunting magazine and never opened it because I knew it related to animals and killing. When my brother and father returned from the hunt, I noticed a scent that did not please me as I caught a whiff of them, my nose in a book. Today I know it was sweat mixed with gunpowder that invaded my nostrils and non-approving consciousness.
How do I know this? From Sherlock Holmes-like deductions of an adult who ponders the slightest thing and impressions during every waking minute? No. I know this because this afternoon I returned from a firing range. The scent still lives in my shirt.
Do I like the scent? Not particularly. Do I feel manly and blood-thirsty? Heavens no! Did I go out to the firing range with a nefarious purpose cloaked in the back of my mind? God no!

I went to the firing range to shoot my Smith & Wesson Model 29, 6 1/2” barrel, blued, .44 magnum (the gun made famous by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry) because I live in a small city that has become increasingly violent. Peace-loving people are gunned down frequently for money to buy drugs or even toys. What is a lover of peace to do? Call 911 when faced with an intruder high on drugs inside my family’s home? Sic the three mini-Dachshunds on one, two or three intruders? Start a dialogue about violence, the socio-economic and mental health realities of America? Not at that time. You see, I want my family to continue to be able to live. I want to be able to spend time with my nieces. My wife wants to be able to continue her volunteer work. I want to be able to play Words with Friends, both when I score above 100 in one move or lay out letters worth 8 points, the latter score bringing joy to my brother. Sound selfish? That I want to live to be able to experience the little joys and the big moments that life has to offer?
So when you see me cradling my John Wayne Winchester rifle and sipping a mug of coffee at lunch, be happy for me, because this is a time I can think back to the old west as I imagine it. Should you happen to come by my garage where I am cleaning my Dirty Harry revolver, trying not to inhale the fumes of the oil and cleaner, stop by and we’ll chat about what your children did today, or what you hope to do with them when you go on vacation. You see, I am just a person who wants to continue that strange journey we call life. And you might be a person like that, too.

Unfortunately, I have to bear arms, that overused phrase, not to overthrow my government or rob my neighbor, but to maximize the odds that I will be able to stand there cleaning my gun and trying not to inhale the bad vapors so that you can come around and we can have a pleasant chat. And is it not Swedish to want to have a pleasant chat about the weather, and let’s not forget the need for another mug of coffee....

By Ulf Kirchdorfer
Born in Sweden and raised both in Europe and the U.S., Ulf Kirchdorfer is as Swedish American as we come. Ulf, who has a Ph.D. in English and is dean of global studies at Darton College, will keep all of us - Swedes, Americans and Swedish Americans alike - on track.