So have I, and generally, I've found it to be true. If I sat here and typed out a thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, from my own parents and grandparents, to a good friend who took My Bride and I shooting when were in college and she wasn't My Bride yet and he wasn't really my friend yet (he set her up with scoped 10/22 shooting balloons at 10 yards. Prone. She was hooked) I could bore you to tears. Some of you know about the ParaUSA-sponsored weekend at Blackwater, and how SailorCurt and Laughingdog made it easier for a lot of us to get it into our budgets by offering free couches for the night. Yesterday, an email arrived out of the blue, entitled "Appleseed Project," from a shooter who lives near Evansville, Indiana. There's an Appleseed shoot there in November, and he's planning to go, he says, and if I'd like to go I'd be welcome to crash on his couch to make it cheaper.
Now, I hadn't thought about making it to that event, so I don't know that I'll want to go. But think about that offer for a second. This guy doesn't know me. He owes me nothing. I didn't ask him for anything. But it occurred to him that he had something I could use, so he thought he'd better make an offer. That's where the "Shooters are the best people you'll ever meet" line comes from. But I know that's not perfectly true.
Shooters are often great people, yes. But if you have fairly diverse interests, you've probably already spotted the hole in the logic. It's been my experience that most hobbies have the same saying in one form or another, and most hobbyists can back it up. Martial artists certainly say the same, and if you've ever been to a Throwdown, you'd have to believe it was true--here are a bunch of strangers from all over the country who rent a mat space, drive in on the appointed day and beat and thrash and crank and choke each other for a few hours, making each other laugh all the while. Then they take each other out to dinner and solve all the world's problems over beer. Best people in the world. Except that cyclists know that bike people are the best people you could meet. They'll share parts, tires, food, water . . . . they'll keep the new guy going on his first century . . . . they'll teach people into their clique. Local bike shop owners are more like your old friends than people from whom you buy stuff, so goes the legend, and in my experience so far it's been true. My parents are great collectors of junk antiques, and they're so far gone in their sickness that, far from content to feed their own merciless addiction to Hitler pincushions (bend Hitler over and stick pins in his ass--WWII produced a lot cooler stuff than "Nuke Osama Yo Mama" t-shirts) and sewing tape measures (shaped like everything under the sun) they've become pushers dealers themselves, traveling with a small trailer to shows on the weekends so they can feed the ravening beast within. They can tell you that "antiquers" are the best people in the world, and they can give you concrete examples.
So how does this all work? My theory is that most people are basically good. A lot of people say so; it's not exactly breaking new ground to say it. However, most of those people don't actually believe that most people are basically good; they just think it sounds nice to say it. When a bitter curmudgeon like me says something so completely, sickeningly Pollyanna as "Most people are basically good," though, you can take that to the bank if your bank has not collapsed and been converted into a coffee shop by its new management, the federal government. Anyway, if it were true that "most people are basically good," we would expect to see the results I've described--when you encounter people doing something they like to do, on their own free time, without the pressures placed on them by jobs, bosses, and other necessary evils, they generally appear to be the best people ever. They're happy, they're generous, and they're helpful. It's not the specific hobby these people happen to be engaged in at the moment; Geese-Juggling only seems like the most virtuous hobby to goose-jugglers because it's the window through which they view people at their best. If the goose-juggler branches out into Nude Tai Chi, or Chessboxing*, then he may notice that THOSE people appear to be just as happy, generous and helpful. Now, obviously, there are probably exceptions out there. I'm sure few people have ever said, "You know, snuff film actors and crew are the best folks you'll ever meet. What is it about this hobby that attracts such great people?" or "I've always found that the most generous, down-to-earth friends you'll ever make, you'll make with crystal meth." But then again . . . . .
*One of those hobbies is totally real, one is from a movie, and one I just made up as far as I know. Which is which?