Firearms are an essential tool on any farmstead, and it's good to get comfortable with them if you plan on living in the country.
Of top priority is a good shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge pump. 10-gauge is overkill (but good for hunting Canada Geese), and 20-gauge or .410 may not have enough stopping power. When the dog starts barking his head off in the night at some predator, a 12-gauge is a wonderful thing to have slung over one's shoulder when going out to investigate. Just a few weeks ago, I blasted a possum which Scooter discovered near the house. In the past, my Mossberg has easily dispatched everything from skunks to coyotes --- and a blast in the air or the ground is very effective for getting the neighbor's dog to high-tail it back to his own property.
A pump action shotgun is generally the most reliable. And if one awakens to the sound of an intruder in one's house, simply working that pump action is usually enough to send the burglar sprinting for the nearest exit.
Which brings us to another important issue: isolation in the country is a two-edged sword. Privacy is golden, but criminals like privacy as well --- and may see a country house as an easy target out of neighbors' earshot. And it takes the sheriff significantly longer to respond to a call out in the country than in town (assuming the burglar hasn't cut your phone lines, and you're even able to call). In the meantime, the family needs defending.
We've fortunately never been the victims of crime, but with increasing economic troubles (particularly in this state), it's hard to know when rising crime rates might touch us.
This is on my mind because just this morning a car pulled into our driveway and down to the back door of the house. From my office, I had a very clear view of it the whole time. I didn't recognize the car, and there were several youngish people inside who I didn't recognize. I placed a quick call to the house, and Mrs Yeoman Farmer said she didn't recognize the car, either. And we weren't expecting visitors.
I locked my office door and tried to think. What's a guy living out in the country to do in a situation like this? The vehicle certainly didn't look threatening enough to justify a call to the police. But were they casing the place? Sending someone to the back door to break in? Minutes passed, and the driver didn't budge. Why was the driver sitting there behind my house with the engine running? There was simply no way for me to know, but not enough justification for dialing 9-1-1.
I decided to go out to the car and investigate, but the number of people in the vehicle concerned me. I was clearly outnumbered, and they looked to be in the prime of youth (also the prime ages for criminality). But I certainly didn't want to stroll out to the driveway carrying a shotgun. Firearms are like golf clubs, and need to be used situationally. A long gun would've been far too intimidating and confrontational. That's why I also keep a very small, easily concealable, semi-auto pistol close at hand in my office. I slid it out of its place, inserted a clip (but for safety reasons did not yet chamber a round), and slipped it into a pocket. Should I need it, it would be easily accessible...and a round could be chambered quickly enough.
Fortunately, that was completely unnecessary. The driver rolled down his window as I approached the car, and one glance told me everyone in it was harmless. A kid in a safety seat was playing with religious literature, and I could tell from their dress that these were some kind of proselytizers from a local church. The driver explained that "a friend of ours is inside visiting," and I smiled and returned to my office...because I knew Mrs Yeoman Farmer, a highly trained apologist and catechist, would be skillfully handling everything the visitor might want to discuss. An encyclopedic knowledge of both the Bible and Catholic doctrine, coupled with a cheerful and upbeat personality, means MYF usually throws these kinds of visitors for a complete loop. She always invites them in, and they always depart befuddled. And they seldom come back to try again.
As I replaced the pistol in its hiding place and returned to my desk, I said a quick prayer and began offering up my work for the fruitfulness of MYF's encounter with the visitor inside. Roughly 20 minutes later, the car pulled away and MYF jogged out to my office with a report: Jehovah's Witnesses (or "JWs," as we call them). We used to get them all the time when we lived in residential areas, but this was our first since moving to the country (which is another nice thing about living this far out of town). She gave me a run-down of the conversation, which I won't trouble you with here. The bottom line, though, is it's doubtful these people will be returning any time soon.
But back to the firearms...did I feel a little foolish for my overreaction to these people? Sure. And if that car does come back, I probably won't arm myself before going out to greet them. But do I regret carrying a pistol this morning? Not in the least. Because it never hurts to think ahead, or to take prudent measures. And I felt much more comfortable approaching that car than I would have otherwise.
I was never a Boy Scout, but I do remain a firm believer in their motto. And sometimes a firearm is the most effective way for a guy who lives this far out in the country to "be prepared."