I'd just paid for my big ammo purchase — shells and cartridges in various calibers from 12g to .280 Rem, and generous, family-size boxes of subsonic .22 LR, as the silencer makes it too easy to shoot my Anschütz in the backyard without sending half of the neighborhood in a surrender frenzy(1) — to refill my boxes and restock my shelves, when I figured that I had a bit of time in front of me. Since the friend who was driving this currently un-wheeled frogman around didn't care, I might as well ask the guy: "Oh by the way, do you sell Marlin rifles?"
"Mais bien sur Monsieur" answered the Gallic gunsmith, "let me show you what I've got."
Back to the back of the shop then, where the rifles lie in all their naked beauty.
He hands me two Marlin babes, the 336 in .30-30 and the Model 444 (unsurprisingly in .444). I've never seen the .444 up close before, and I'm rather impressed by the dimensions of the bore: this looks like 11 mm give or take, and makes for quite a big "tube" for someone more used to 7 mm rifles. I express my amazement. "Yeah, it's big. Let me show you the cartridge" says the gunnery salesman, as he grabs a box of Remington Soft Point under the counter.
What a suppository. The .444 looks big alright, particularly when placed alongside the more "modest" .30-30, prompting my non-hunting smart-ass friend to remark that the chances of me stumbling on a rogue elephant in our neck of the woods are very small indeed, while I simply stand by my statement that size doesn't matter anyway. The salesman doesn't jump on the joke train however, and goes all preachy-teachy on us:
"Well, it's big because that's an old, historical caliber you know. That's what the cow-boys used to shoot each other with, you know(2)..."
Oh dear is the first thought that crosses my mind at this point. You see, I just know...
"... and of course," continues the unstoppable Wild West Pundit, "particularly the Indians, who they shot to steal their lands..."
You see, I just knew where this was headed.
Being a native speaker and living in close contact with the French does that to you. I can detect upcoming anti-American horse manure in any conversation, formal or informal, sometimes minutes before it happens(3).
Adjusting the conversation's temperature a couple of degrees down, and charitably letting the anachronism aside, I try to move back to a neutral ground: "Well, I rather suspect that's because they have much bigger game over there in America than we do here."
The bovine look of the man
screams moos "Say what?", telling me unequivocally that some elaboration is in order "I mean, around here we don't have that much grizzly bears and moose..."
No reaction. Apparently, "grizzly" and "moose" don't register. My friend comes to the rescue, adding "... and buffaloes..."
Bad move, as it instantaneously become apparent that "Buffalo" is the magic word that brings this Gallic Golem back to life. Yeah, you bet he's heard about buffaloes:
"Oh yes! They exterminated all the buffaloes, so the Indians would starve and then they could steal their lands. You know."
Though we're not very close, my friend has already seen the effect this things have on me, and she knows I'm just seconds away from becoming as amicable as the aforementioned grizzly bear on a rainy Monday morning(4). Disaster looms, and yet it was such a nice sunny day.
I take a good hard look around. The walls and the shelves are covered with fine products Made in USA, bearing names from the prestigious to the common. Behind the guy,
Remington Browning semi-auto BARs and Winchester bolt action rifles are crammed into the racks. Smith & Wesson handguns and Allen Company camouflage tape on display next to an impressive presentation of KA-BAR and Benchmade knives. Between 80 to 90% of the store's merchandise come from the maudit US of A, and he's making a comfortable living off it all. Yet even here, in what shall be a temple of American craftsmanship and an altar to US engineering(5), I have to put up with the same old French tripe and bile.
I've just hit 40, and I've had these jerks tossing their reflexive and uneducated anti-Americanism at me in the same casual conversations — assuming that, being French, I'd naturally agree with them — for as long as I can remember. Today, I'm so tired of this country and sick of these people, I just can't muster the energy to shove this jerk's stereotypes down his throat. Life is too short, I've spent a far greater share of it here rather than where I always really wanted to live, and I've had enough.
I say, icily, "Well, that is a nice rifle."
"We're selling them like hot cakes. I have one myself and love it: I can't begin to tell you how many hogs and deer I collected with this rifle", goes the oblivious gun shop clerk(6), "I can make you a 10% rebate on the .30-30, if you're interested."
That brings it down to 650 Euros, which is a very nice price indeed. The best offer I've had so far.
"Thanks, I'll think about it."
I couldn't make it out of this country so far, but at least, I can make it out of his shop.