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Mama Get Your Gun

When I was little, my Mom had this incredible purse. One of those highly-structured bags from the 1960’s, it was covered in tan snakeskin with an off-center brass clasp along the top. Even the interior was lined with leather. Oh, I was too tiny and oblivious to appreciate all of these details back then. I merely thought the purse was pretty.

Mom had this bag made for her by someone in Nashville, Tennessee. I don’t know whether she designed it herself or if she let the maker draw it up for her. Either way, it was, to me, a priceless work of art.

My Mom is the most beautiful woman I know. Still. But, carrying that purse, she was electrifying.

The chic designs of the 1960’s gave way to the fashion disasters of the ’70’s, and Mom put her out-of-vogue pocketbook away, storing it far in the back of her closet, on a shelf at the top. For years, I never saw it.

But, I never forgot it.

When she asked me what I wanted for Christmas a couple of years ago, my mind raced back to that vanished bag. Of all the things I could think of that conjured my mother, nothing did it for me better. “Do you still have that big snakeskin pocketbook?” I asked, trying to be casual and not give away how much I craved it.

“That old thing? THAT’S what you want?” she asked, incredulous.

When I nodded, she said distractedly before hurrying off down the hall, “Well, I’ll have to go get the guns out of it first.”

Guns?

?

!

MTM and I exchanged a look before quickly following her to her bedroom, the doorway into which we both saw her disappear. When we got there, she was up on a chair, rooting around in the top of her closet. She moved boxes and shoes and all manner of detritus before, finally, pulling that purse from the farthest corner. Even covered in dust, it was gorgeous. My breath caught in my throat, and I reached my hands out eagerly to touch it again for the first time in years.

Instead, she moved past me and put the bag on the bed, clicking open the clasp to reveal two guns: a Glock-type handgun and an antique pearl-handled pistol. She started to stick her hand in there and pull one out, when MTM stopped her. I don’t know whether this was all too Southern Gothic for him or what, but he did not want my mother handling her own guns. He eased them out of the purse like he was handling nuclear weaponry.

He and I were both shocked to see that the antique gun was loaded. Every chamber contained a bullet. MTM cried, “What are you DOING with this in the house? I’m taking these bullets out right now.”

My Mom – my prim, proper, dainty, Southern-lady Mom – said, “But, if someone breaks into the house, I want to be able to defend myself.”

How she planned to defend herself when it took her at least five minutes to FIND the bag that contained the guns in the first place was a mystery to both of us. MTM unloaded the weapon and left the whole mess there on the bed, and we’ve never seen those guns again.

Who knows where she’s hiding them now. If I ask for her wedding dress, will it come with guns attached?

Too Much is Just Enough: Strong Southern Women

81 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lou Mello #

    Soooo, Mama’s a gun moll, could have been worse, what if she had an AK-47 tucked under the bed.

    The amazing thing is that we never expect our parents to surprise us, and yet, they constantly do. Makes you want to step back every once in a while and say “who the heck is that lady”?

    My Mother is a pack rat, she lives more or less alone….a lady lives there with her, but, is on the road 3 weeks out of 4. Any way, back to the pack rat issue, she has a 2 story apartment with a full basement and there is literally only enough room to wind your way thru the living room, kitchen and dining room. There are boxes of all kinds of Avon products, she sold these for years and still has people selling for her, and there are books, tapes, cassettes, photos, etc everywhere. I am not exaggerating, there is only enough room in the basement to walk to the washer and dryer, and the boxes of whatever are piled about 5 feet high.

    I have only been in that basement once and don’t intend to go back again….too scary.

    I’m sure that there are lots of surprises in the boxes, I just hope to never be the one to find out….that’s what younger brothers are for, let them be the ones to root thru the mess, I sure don’t want to come across an old Glock.

    January 13, 2011
    • I suspect, Lou, that there are a few surprises in those boxes that you will want someday. I hope none of them is an AK-47.

      How old is your mom? (If she doesn’t read blogs, you can tell us and she’ll never know.) It sounds like you inherited your indefatigable energy from her. πŸ™‚

      January 13, 2011
      • Lou Mello #

        The good lady is 83 and just chuggin’ along like crazy. Takes “old people” to their Doctors’ appointments, does Library work at church, babysits young kids at the church nursery. And if you happen to mention going somewhere, she is packed and waiting for you to put a ticket in her hand.

        When we lived in California form 92 to 99, she came out for a week and I took a week off to show her around. Wore me plum out, never stops going.

        January 13, 2011
      • I’d love to meet your mom, Lou. I hope she comes to visit you so that I can. She sounds like the kind of woman I hope to be when I grow up.

        January 13, 2011
      • Teresa Mello #

        Andra, she is a wonderful woman, ready to help out anyone…..always wears a dressm, hat and cowboy boots! Reminds me of Minnie Pearl! What a hoot!

        January 13, 2011
  2. Oh, dear goodness. A beautiful woman (no doubt about it) packing heat. How wonderfully badass. Mama Watkins, please don’t be offended by me calling you a badass. I mean it with the utmost respect. πŸ™‚

    January 13, 2011
    • You can get away with it, Angie. I loved your post today, too. http://angiemizzell.com/2011/01/13/history-of-us/

      I hope you have fun with Mickey!!

      January 13, 2011
      • We’re not even at I-95 and we’ve already gotten one “are we there yet?” I’m glad my badass was well-received.

        January 13, 2011
      • It’s the word of the day. You’re going to be badass at Disney. πŸ™‚

        January 13, 2011
    • Yes, I am of the belief that most of we native Southern women are badass!

      January 13, 2011
      • Amen!!

        January 13, 2011
      • Lou Mello #

        You got that right…never cross a Southern lady!

        January 13, 2011
  3. Mama packing heat (fashionable too). Don’t mess.

    January 13, 2011
    • Yes, Vera. I’m sure her tiny little gun matches her shoes and her bag.

      January 13, 2011
  4. Linda Watkins (Mom) #

    It should be no surprise that a Kentucky hill girl would know how to shoot a gun. I was known as the “Annie Oakley of Boone’s Camp.” There wasn’t much to do in the way of entertainment so one of our past times was target shooting and I loved it. My boyfriends even bought me guns for gifts. One time we leaned our targets up against my mom’s favorite young June apple tree that she was nurturing and by the time all those bullets went into the trunk – alas…. Believe me, she was very upset with us. The gun I now have could be for a gun moll, Lou, because I could carry it in my shoe or in a holster on my leg it is so little but that is another story that I won’t go in to.

    January 13, 2011
    • Lou Mello #

      Oh My Goodness! Linda is packing concealed heat…my new heroine. πŸ™‚

      January 13, 2011
    • Okay, I have never heard that your boyfriends bought guns for you as gifts, Mom. Stereos, yes. Guns, no. I’m not surprised, though.

      January 13, 2011
  5. Kim Vozel #

    I LOVE IT! Go Mrs. Watkins!!!! Love this 60’s picture, Mrs Watkins…you gun wielding knock-out you!

    Hey Andra. You forgot something. The purse? Where are the pics of the purse?

    January 13, 2011
    • Kim, I knew someone would want photos of the purse. I was writing this at 1am, and I was too lazy to drag myself out of bed to take photos of the purse. I promise to do it today and post them up on Facebook for you. I’m carrying the bag right now, though the strap is dry-rotted and I’m afraid I’m going to break it.

      January 13, 2011
  6. Shannon Patterson #

    We all have our own safety “Quirks” I guess. Growing up I always felt safer knowin that there were guns in the house, and there WERE guns in our house! We all knew at a very young age how to use them safely! I still feel safe with my own gun (a pink and grey S&W 38 Special) tucked away, loaded of course, in our filing cabinet. Tom, however, feels safer with it LOCKED and HE has the key! LOL

    January 13, 2011
    • Shannon, I think that’s great. Especially the part about the ex-policeman who wants to lock your gun up.

      I guess, like you, there were always guns in our house growing up, too. I never really knew, and probably didn’t want to. Unlike my mother, I don’t know a thing about guns or how to shoot them and am thus scared to death of them. Alas, I am not a badass.

      January 13, 2011
      • mtm #

        Badass Cootchie Mama?

        January 13, 2011
      • No, MTM, especially not Badass Cootchie Mama.

        January 13, 2011
  7. A Guess #

    Awesome. I know that purse and I love it, but it just gained a new dimension. I think a good southern girl should know how to shoot a gun, wether she packs or not.
    My Canadian husband does not agree.
    I have my great grandfathers civil war era shotgun in my closet by the front door. I broke a number of blood vessels in my shoulder the last time I fired it, skeet shooting at my parents house.
    You go Linda!

    January 13, 2011
    • I didn’t realize there was skeet shooting at your parents’ house. THAT is something I’ve always wanted to try. I know I will suck at it, but I just want to say I’ve done it once.

      One of my favorite photos of you is the one at your parents’ with you and your first deer. You look so proud in that photo that you’re practically alight.

      January 13, 2011
  8. What an interesting story Andra! I guess your mom had to keep the guns somewhere and that purse needed to have some useful purpose other than collecting dust at the top of the closet. πŸ™‚

    I am sitting here thinking that perhaps there is an unspoken stereo type that says that women (ladies) should not handle guns nor have a loaded one in their vicinity. Coming from the male perspective there are times of the month that I am careful not to make my lady mad and if I do I am sure that the “loaded” weapon is no where within her reach. LOL…

    It is sad that we live in a society in which we have to be concerned about some (here comes the stereotype) “crack head” kicking in our doors during a home invasion while we are sitting in our homes minding our own business. There is nothing wrong with people owning weapons (guns are not the only type of weapons) as long as we are “responsible” with them and trained to use them properly. I applaud Andra’s mother for taking personal responsibility for her safety and the safety of her loved ones.

    I recently obtained my concealed weapons permit and everyone in my house understands weapons safety and how to handle the weapons that are located in our home. The teenagers understand that they are not toys and that their use is for self defense only. I took Katy to ATP recently and she shot three or four clips worth of Ammo through the Ruger 9 mm and did a very good job of hitting the kill zone. I am so proud of her for that accomplishment.

    January 13, 2011
    • That’s the only way I’d ever have one, James. If I took enough classes to feel like I wouldn’t shoot myself with it by accident. Somehow, that’s what I’d manage to do. I’ve only fired a gun once trying to target shoot with a friend.

      I guess we can call Katy a badass, too. πŸ™‚

      January 13, 2011
      • Yes, Katy was a bit scared of it at first but I helped her to not be afraid of the weapon and taught her how to handle it properly. A couple of times the weapon jammed and I had to step forward and take the weapon from her and unjam it. I think that was a very good experience for her since it is possible that that can happen.

        I agree with you whole heartedly that if someone is going to have a weapon in the house or carry it concealed (with a permit) that they must get training on how to handle it and use it responsibly (self defense). I also submit that folks should take an advanced weapons retention and self defense course that shows people how to handle themselves without having to resort to deadly force in case that ever occurs.

        January 13, 2011
      • I never was very comfortable growing up knowing guns were in the house. I mean, I didn’t see them, but I knew they were there. I’ve only half-heartedly wished I had one when going on a long, isolated hike in the middle of nowhere. If a wild animal got after us, it would be nice to be able to do more than stand there and be dinner.

        January 13, 2011
      • πŸ™‚

        January 13, 2011
  9. I’m going to be looking for pics of that pocketbook! Up in my closet is my 1960s crocodile pocketbook that belonged to my grandmother. It’s the Queen Elizabeth II type…you know, wedge shaped too, with the brass clasp on the top. I remember her carrying that bag all the time.

    As a girl, my grandfather taught us all how to shoot. My boyfriends took me out shooting cans off fence posts. All the men in my family hunted. (and we ate what they shot–still do.) My deceased mother-in-law had her loaded shotgun in the gun rack over the mantelpiece. When stray dogs or foxes or other critters came wandering up in her pasture, bothering her cows, she would take that thing down, go out to the back stoop, and fire at the offending varmint.

    James, my sons were most impressed with me when a friend took us all to the gun range to shoot his pistols and they found out their mama could shoot! My son Nate has an extensive gun collection. Which he keeps locked in his gun safe.

    Bill has a few guns too…and I’ve been bugging him to get them out and get them cleaned up and maybe let’s go shoot them.

    Andra, if we do, you can come with.

    January 13, 2011
    • Cheryl

      I have 13 years of law enforcement experience and I guess that is where I developed my “interest” in their existence and proper use. I have had several excellent instructors who have taught me the proper techniques necessary to use weapons and retain control of them successfully. I would love to pass that knowledge on to anyone who is interested within our group.

      I go to ATP in Summerville and utilize their range and I have also been to the open range off of US 17 in Mt Pleasant. Maybe we should think about scheduling a day to go shooting at some targets?

      January 13, 2011
      • Dare we have a tweet-up at the shooting range?? πŸ™‚

        January 13, 2011
      • Lou Mello #

        agree with Andra, would love to do a shooting range deal on a Saturday. I used to shoot a lot when I lived on a farm and had to keep the varmints out of the beans and corn. I have a 38 which I bought in Savannah 20 years ago and have never even fired it, so I would enjoy a chance to go to a range and shoot it.

        January 13, 2011
      • I’m happy to do a shooting range date. (And I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.) I can just stand there and cringe and watch all my friends shoot everything up. I think it would inspire at least one blog post…….

        January 13, 2011
    • You should get that bag out, Cheryl. They are very fashionable right now. Of the moment.

      You and Mom should go sometime. She used to be in a shooting club, and it sounds like she misses it……..

      January 13, 2011
  10. mtm #

    Out of respect and admiration for my lovely mother-in-law, I’d say she is Righteously Badass!

    January 13, 2011
    • Of course you say that, she is packing heat! Better be a good boy… πŸ˜‰

      January 13, 2011
    • Your mother-in-law is likely appalled by now at how many times the word “badass” has been used on her post. πŸ˜‰

      January 13, 2011
      • mtm #

        So, given that she is also an avid fisherwoman…how about AdBass?

        January 13, 2011
      • Lou Mello #

        all right!!! adbass is the best word of the day.

        January 13, 2011
      • This blog is such a joy for me. Really.

        January 13, 2011
  11. Ok, I am the token liberal way-out left winger here. I hate guns. All guns. I have had to temper that somewhat with my son being in ROTC and on the rifle team.

    How do we always end up with kids that go the opposite direction of us? If we are liberal, our kids will be conservative. If we are conservative, our kids will be liberals. Oh well, I digress.

    I guess I don’t totally hate guns. I have friends who are hunters and I don’t have a problem with that. But handguns are made for one thing only – to shoot people. I see no use in them. The violence begets violence. If we look at the statistics in countries where weapons like this are banned, the death statistics in crime show the evidence. We have made our own violent society and now we have to deal with it.

    I know my friend James will disagree with me! We have had this discussion often. He carries, and I find that disturbing. But tell me how we can ban cigarettes, but not ban weapons like guns. Just makes no sense.

    Ok, down off my high-horse.

    Now, as to your mother’s purse, where are the pics?

    January 13, 2011
    • Michael

      I wondered when you would stick your opinion in here. LOL.
      BTW, I respect your opinion to dislike handguns however I completely disagree with you. You already know that. πŸ™‚ Handguns do not kill people, people kill people. If our government were to come up with an effective way to ban all handguns and EVERYONE, both criminals and law abiding citizens were to abide by those laws and it could be verified that this is happening then I would happily stop carrying a concealed weapon. πŸ™‚

      The reality of that happening only happens in fairy tales. The horrific tragedy in Arizona this last weekend is proof of that. You can not predict crazy and crazy people will always perpetrate violence against innocent people that do not deserve to die. God help us all…..

      January 13, 2011
      • OK, not to turn Andra’s wonderful blog into a battleground, but the tragedy in Arizona proves that people shouldn’t be allowed to carry them.

        While I agree that people kill people, not guns, guns enable those people to do more harm more quickly than if they did not have guns. They simply couldn’t exact anywhere near the damage if they didn’t have guns.

        And finally, from my personal experience, I know far more people who have been hurt accidentally with guns than I do of people attacked with them. And I personally know people who were killed accidentally with them, none by intentional violence. The once case I have personal knowledge of someone I know being shot, it was in an elementary school with a gun that the kid took from his parent’s house. If that gone had not been available, the incident simply would not have taken place.

        In my personal experience, and this is only my experience, they are far more dangerous that advantageous.

        January 13, 2011
      • mtm #

        OK…back to the pocketbook!

        Since Andra is defenseless in this interchange, given that she is currently sitting in the dentist’s chair with a stranger with their arms up to the elbows down her throat, I’m going to ask that you all take this up at your next Zia confab….fair enough?

        January 13, 2011
    • mtm #

      As good as she is, Andra may not have fully conveyed my astonishment and dismay at the discovery that the guns were loaded, and not locked.

      January 13, 2011
      • And, how old was the ammunition? Beside, you are simply a brave man to be around a mother-in-law with a gun. Something not even I would risk!

        January 13, 2011
      • Fair enough MTM! Or we could talk about the relationships between son-in-laws and mother-in-laws? How would that be for a tempest in a teapot?

        Sounds like you have a fairly good relationship with yours. I love mine, but I did bring her back a broom from Salem so that she would have a new one to use on her nightly airborne missions… πŸ˜‰

        January 13, 2011
      • I do believe that was one moment in our marriage where you truly wondered just what kind of Southern Gothic family you had married into. It was pricelessly funny.

        January 13, 2011
    • I will put pics up when I can escape the blasted dentist. (Okay. That isn’t fair. My dentist is very nice.)

      As to the rest, I avoid political discussions in general, but I will say that I can see both sides of this argument. I’m terrified of guns, largely because I’m such a klutz that I’d end up shooting myself with it by accident. Therefore, I don’t want them around for that reason.

      The rest of it can wait for Zia. πŸ™‚

      January 13, 2011
      • You know the best thing – James and I can totally disagree. We are on diametrically opposed points on this issue – but, we remain friends and we remain civil. I think that is the point behind a lot of this. We can disagree with people, we can have other opinions and views, heck we can even wear paper underwear!, but we can do it all in an adult and friendly manner.

        Now, back to the cilantro salads.

        And Zia on Tuesday???? Please???

        January 13, 2011
      • Bill and I are diametrically opposed on so many topics, but I still love him wildly and never let our difference of opinions stand in our way!

        January 13, 2011
      • Yes, I can do Tuesday at Zia. No cilantro.

        Cheryl, MTM and I often joke that we go vote just to cancel each other out.

        January 13, 2011
  12. I promise not to respond to Michaels last comment to me and I will respect the gag order on further comments about it.

    Hugs all around

    πŸ™‚

    January 13, 2011
  13. Amber Deutsch #

    Kudos Linda! All women should be well trained in firearms operation, even if they choose not to own or carry. I own a bit of an arsenal, and carry at times.

    I have taught several friends to shoot, so I am happy to take you anytime if you develop an interest, Andra. The local ranges offer great, comprehensive, straightforward instruction, where you learn that a gun is a machine just like a kitchen mixer, and when you follow strict rules of safety and operation, is a safe tool in your control. For the record, I shoot only paper, not animals.

    I agree, James, ATM and the outdoor range in the National Forest north of Mt. P are the best.

    And Lou, I do have an AK-47 tucked under my bed (though safely stored and locked).

    January 13, 2011
    • Lou Mello #

      Amber, please remind me to be vewwy, vewwy nice to you at all times.

      January 13, 2011
      • Lou, I read this at the lunch and cackled loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear.

        January 13, 2011
      • Amber Deutsch #

        Lou – I promise not to shoot at you unless you turn into paper or clay … or break into my house … or stand in the way of my next Paul Harris pin …

        January 13, 2011
    • All I can say after reading all of these comments is that I have some badass friends. I know who to come to now if I ever need to be protected from anything.

      January 13, 2011
    • Amber Deutsch #

      ahem, I meant ATP, not ATM. I think that was a telling slip πŸ™‚

      January 13, 2011
  14. Lou Mello #

    Yikes, I am checking this out at lunch at home and just by coincidence there are 44 comments….MMMMM?? Colt 44?

    I think there is some strange gun karma going on here.

    January 13, 2011
    • I think it is a fascinating glimpse into people. I’m loving it.

      January 13, 2011
  15. Tomi Jean Cleveland #

    Love, love, love this post! Makes me laugh, almost cry! Your mom is so perfectly beautiful and I will never think of her again as being anything but badass!

    My Louisiana brother-in-law took me on my first shooting encounter, skeet shooting. I LOVED it. I think it scared Greg to see me holding a gun or maybe it was the joy in my eyes at that moment! That was ten years ago and I don’t think I’ve touched one since…..

    LOVE the bag! I think my mom had some stelleto (sp?) shoes that looked to match that purse! I’ll have to ask if she still has those! So wonderful to now enjoy a bag that you’ve coveted for so long! Enjoy!

    What’s the next venture for you and Leigh Ann?

    January 13, 2011
    • Tomi Jean, I’m trying to imagine you skeet shooting. That’s awesome!!

      Mom used to have shoes to match this purse. Sadly, the shoes wear out much more quickly than the bag. You should definitely get your mom’s shoes.

      LA and I are talking about possibilities. We’ll see what we come up with. When do you see Kellie again?

      January 13, 2011
  16. That pocket book is awesome!

    January 13, 2011
    • Lou is going to get on here and brag that he got to touch the bag tonight………just wait………

      January 13, 2011
  17. Amber Deutsch #

    LOVE the bag. I bet you could find someone local to restore it.

    January 13, 2011
    • I had to send it to a place in NYC the first time. Sadly, the handle is so dry rotted that it’s only a matter of time before it breaks. I don’t know what to replace it with. Several people have suggested a chain, but that would scratch the skin.

      January 13, 2011
  18. The bag is cool! Looks like it is just about the right size to hold an iPad… πŸ˜‰

    January 13, 2011
    • OMG. You’re RIGHT. It IS the right size to hold an iPad……with a camera……..from Verizon……

      January 13, 2011
  19. Laura Evans #

    I dig that bag. If it makes you feel better, my mom walked straight up to the skeet station at Thanksgiving, said “gimme that gun”, and yelled “pull” at my obviously shocked 7yo nephew.

    January 13, 2011
    • Well, she is from the county in Tennessee that contains Bob’s Dairyland……..I think women like our moms are awesome.

      And, the cheese straws are gone.

      January 13, 2011
  20. Michael, you make me weak in the knees when you talk about our friendship that way. LOL

    Hugs

    January 13, 2011
    • He’s going to start grossing out. I hope you will be able to hug him on Tuesday.

      January 13, 2011
      • Michael Carnell #

        I don’t have a gun, but that doesn’t mean I won’t taze you bro!

        Stand back Andra, this could be shocking… πŸ˜‰

        January 13, 2011
  21. Andria #

    Southern Gothic, indeed! This is right out of a Flannery O’Connor short story.

    January 13, 2011
    • I adore her, Andria. That you even put her name on my blog made me tear up.

      I hope your mom is healing.

      January 13, 2011
      • Michael Carnell #

        Doesn’t get much better than Flannery O’Conner! I have always loved her. A perfect reference.

        January 13, 2011

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