There are certain places that, for one reason or another, I try to avoid at all costs. Houston, Texas is about six of those places. Not only is Houston huge and confusing and full of people who evidently learned to drive by playing the go-cart Wii game, it’s also surrounded by a dense, interwoven net of toll roads. These roads are festooned with signs every mile or so, proclaiming in clear, legible Chinese lettering which lane I’m supposed to be driving in (the other one).
Now, I pay road and bridge taxes when I register my vehicles, and so do you. Therefore neither of us should be required to pay an additional fee to drive on ANY of the improved roadways anywhere in the state of Texas. And yet Houston and Austin and probably some other Texas towns have toll roads, which were built by private companies with the consent of Texas sellout politicians. This is unacceptable. It’s like buying a pair of shoes and finding out the laces aren’t included.
This is blatant theft perpetrated by our government on its citizens, and a couple of weeks ago, as I was leaving for the Operation Game Thieft Sporting Clays Shoot in Austin, I told my wife that if Rick Perry was there I was going to get him in a full Nelson and not let him go until he promised to By George Fix It. The governor had attended the shoot the previous year, and I expected to see him again.
Fortunately for Rick, and me, he had to cancel at the last minute, and James Stewart ended up taking his place on the Aggie team at the shoot. I briefly considered getting James in a full Nelson, but I decided Rick probably wouldn’t care, despite the Aggie connection. Plus James gives me money sometimes.
But my point, which you have probably forgotten by now, is that I don’t go to Houston unless I really, really have to. There has to be a serious payoff to make the risk of death and higher insurance premiums worth driving down there. Last weekend the incentive was the 142nd NRA Annual Meeting, which was held at the George R. Something Convention Center, right smack in the middle of Racetrack Central.
So I put my ear to the ground, bit the bullet, held my nose to the grindstone, threw the baby out with the bathwater, and drove to Columbus, Texas. My friend, Herman Brune, lives near Columbus, so another friend and I stayed with him at the Brune Land and Cattle and Dog and Cat Company. We stayed with Herman and communted to the NRA Thing, because there was no way to get a hotel room in Houston at the Last Minute. Plus staying with Herman was free. I like free.
The three of us loaded up and drove to Houston for the event, and through sheer skill and good management made it through the traffic to the venue, where we paid twelve bucks to park for the day. It’s not cheap to get out of your car in Houston.
The NRA show was, in the end, worth all the trouble. We spent all day visiting the various booths containing knives and hunting clothes and boots and jackets and scopes and, of course, guns. Lots of guns. More guns than you could shake a cleaning rod at. Everywhere you turned, guns.
The booths also contained people who were very knowledgable about the stuff in their booth, and some of those people were friends of mine. Linda Powell was in the Mossberg booth, and Eddie Stevenson was in the Trijicon booth, and Mike Nischalke and Karen Lutto were in the Steyr booth, among others. I like these people because they sometimes let me take some of their stuff home and play with it for a while. Unfortunately they eventually want the stuff back, but I always say I lost it.
Cam Edwards, the NRA radio guy, was there doing radio-related things, but I managed to get him to quit long enough to talk to me for a while. I tried to get him to let me be on the radio, but he said it was broke. I think he was lying.
Wiley Clapp, the famous gun writer, was at the Colt booth, and I got to interview him. He seemed surprised when I didn’t ask the regular questions other reporters always ask him, like what his favorite handgun caliber is, and how he designed the Wiley Clapp Colt 1911 commander pistol. I guess no one else ever wanted to know his dog’s name, but there you go.
I also got to meet The Gunny, R. Lee Ermey, who represents Glock. The Gunny seems like a really tough Marine on TV, but in person he’s a very nice fellow. He only made me do 50 pushups for shaking his hand. I’m kidding, of course. It was 75.
Considering all the fun we had, I think it was probably worth a trip to Houston to attend the NRA Thing, but I’m not sure. If we ever find our way out of here and get home, I’ll let you know . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who took a wrong turn at that last intersection. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or email@example.com