A handmade sign is taped to the front door at the monthly Huron Gun Collectors meeting at the Washtenaw County Farm Council Grounds. It says, "Cameras, video equipment, tape recorders, and concealed weapons strictly prohibited — violators prosecuted." The older women inside who take my money don't give me a second look — but the first collector I visit quickly steps forward and wants to know what I'm writing down.

I tell him I'm writing an article and ask about the sign on the door. He says there are lots of reasons for the strict policy — including the hope of deterring thieves. I listen but am distracted by a beautiful single-shot Remington rifle. "Oh, you like that, do you?" he asks, and he shows me an antique model 42 Winchester, made in the 1930s or 1940s. It's engraved with a hunting scene, complete with pointing dog and flying pheasant inlaid with gold. The wood is AAA-grade walnut. Price tag: between $20,000 and $30,000. "These aren't the kind of guns that somebody's going to rob the 7-Eleven with," he laughs.

The club president tells me stories about antigun activists who take pictures of gun dealers and then put them on their websites. It's never happened here, or to anyone he personally knows, but hearing about it is enough to worry him. "We're like family here," he says. "We take collections for the Saline Food Bank — have a scholarship program for colleges and trade schools."

My father has a lifetime membership in this club, and I came here with him as a young girl. In fact, there are lots of kids here today with their dads. The old dealers tease them a bit, asking, "Are you staying out of trouble?" They nod and smile. Most of these dealers are older folks — farmers and hunters. Except the National Rifle Association instructor — he's my age, and is a retired police officer and Drug Enforcement Agency agent. He eyes me warily for a minute till I reassure him with my my-dad's-a-lifetime-member speech. He gives me handfuls of pamphlets about gun safety and Michigan laws, and two magazines — one entitled Woman's Outlook — celebrating firearms freedom and outdoor lifestyle.

In addition to shotguns and handguns, I find holsters, skinning knives (some with gorgeous bone handles), ammunition, powder horns (made from real horns), books, handmade wooden birdhouses and toy boxes, and a wide range of hunting supplies that don't cost $20,000. I'd really love a Sydney oilskin slicker — a long weatherproofed coat designed for horseback riding in nasty weather. It has a cape across the shoulders and is split down the back. It's fifty bucks, though, which is more than I can afford. I'd wear it too, despite being a country girl transplanted to the city. With no horse. Or gun.

The next Huron Gun Collectors show is at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9.

[Review published December 2007]