Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Generations

My hunting days are over.  The years have taken their toll on this old body.  I still fish whenever I can, and I can still get to some moderately difficult places where I am often the only person around, but I am no longer able to carry the rifles or shotguns on those necessary long treks to find deer, elk, moose, etc.  And even if I could bring down such an animal, I could never find the strength to bring it home.  So for nearly twenty years, my rifles, shotguns, and pistols have been in storage.

About three years ago the decision was made to give away my firearms.  One of my colleagues at work wanted to teach his two sons about rifles and shotguns, so I gave him my .22 and my 12 gauge single shot.  A friend of mine was an actor extra and needed to put together an authentic pirate outfit.  I handed him my old flintlock tower pistol.  My .357 went to a law officer.  My .28 gauge went to a collector.  My .410 went to a friend who wanted to go rabbit hunting.  My 9mm is now in the hands of a weekend shooter.  It feels good to just say, “Here, take this.”

A few months ago I was visiting my nephew in a nearby city.  He is nearly thirty years old, but we have rarely had the opportunity to even see each other, much less sit and talk to each other.  I learned a lot that day.  I learned that he and his father-in-law often spend weekends at a shooting range, and he has always borrowed the firearms he uses.  I decided that day to give him two of my four remaining long guns.  These two firearms were passed to me from my two grandfathers—two of his great-grandfathers.

The first one I gave him was the twenty-gauge bolt-action shotgun I had inherited from my mother’s father when I was a teenager.  He had never seen anything like it.  When I gave him the history of the old gun, he almost cried.  He had never owned anything in his life that had history, much less family history.  Then I brought out the rifle.  My father’s father had purchased it new for a hunting trip in 1953.  It was a Winchester Model 70 in .30-06 with every deluxe feature that it could possibly have.  To top it off, it came with the original target and paperwork from the day it was factory proof-fired.  That date, Wednesday, August 24, 1949, was the day I was born.  I have held finer rifles, but I never held a better rifle.  And now it is his.

Over the years I have owned and sold many firearms.  I bought a strange-looking shotgun at an estate sale that turned out to be a W.J. Jeffrey Double Rifle .600 Nitro Express.  I fired it twice.  I unloaded the right barrel, and a few days later after the pain subsided, I pulled the trigger on the left barrel.  Enough was enough.  I turned a decent profit on it.  Almost as painful was a double-barreled 4-gauge flintlock rifle.  This beast threw a 4-ounce, 1-inch round ball.  And it was a sad day when I sold it, but the offer was just too good.

I like muzzle-stuffers.  Charcoal burners just seem to me to be a more fair way to hunt, giving the animal a better chance than is allowed with the modern high-tech weaponry.  Even the modern bow hunter has advantages over most of the click-boom shooters.  But I just like the process of loading and shooting the way it was done a few hundred years ago.  There is something about the smell of burning sulfur that brings out the ‘Daniel Boone’ in me.  Or at least it did at one time.  I gave away my tomahawk, Green River knives, and possibles bag to a neighbor who works with kids in outdoor adventures.

All I now have left are my .30-30 and my .50 cal. black powder rifle.  I’m making a new saddle scabbard for the .30-30, and when it’s finished my nephew will receive it.  The history for this rifle is simple: I purchased it new on my 21st birthday.  That leaves the .50 cal.  This one is hard for me to hand away.  My wife gave it to me on our first wedding anniversary.  I think I will leave it to him in my will.

I’m not planning to visit the ground any time soon; I’m just not able to hunt any more.  In a few years I may have to make the same decisions about my fishing gear, although I hope to be bringing in trout twenty years from now, even if it is just a few steps away from the car instead of a few miles up a stream.

I benefited from many who came before me.  The generations of experience they passed to me was jealously guarded for well over half a century.  But now it is time to entrust it to someone much younger.  And I already know he will pass it to his children.

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