Lost

We impart a piece of ourselves on the things that we carry.

My father’s knife, my grandfather’s block plane, the gun that I have carried across a dozen states and hunted nearly every species of upland bird in America – these things do not define us, but they are significant exhibits that help explain us as people.

My gun was a light, quick handling Italian 20ga, made by I. Rizzini and imported by B.C. outdoors as a Verona. It came with a spare set of barrels in 28ga. More important than all that was that I shot it well. So much better than everything else, that in the years since I have rarely hunted with anything else.
Light parade, Jason, Boys, Matt, Thomas
My wife bought it for me on my 30th birthday. Completely unbeknownst to me, she ordered it, went to pick it up, didn’t like the one she got and sent it back for another one. The one that I ended up with was perfect for me and I loved it even more for its origin. There are few things in life like getting a truly special gift from the person you love most.
I’ll miss shooting that little gun and the confidence that I felt when I swung it on flushing birds. I regret that I never got to restock it, for once sanding, fitting and checkering a gun that would always be mine. More than that, I regret that I won’t have it to pass on to my sons and tell them about how their mom bought it for me.
It’s been a week since I drove off and left it behind in a nondescript parking spot near Arimo, Idaho. A week since I rushed back hours later in a panic, only to find it gone. It’s been a week since someone else picked up my gun, the one my wife gave me and that I held in trust for my kids.
It’s been a week since I filed the report with the sheriff, called every gun shop for a 100 miles. A week since I told my wife that I had squandered the effort that she put into that special gift all those years ago.
It’s been one day since, shooting another gun, I missed 12 shots in a row. And no, that is not a typo. 12.
I try tell myself that it was only a gun, but it was more than that.
Maybe someday, whoever picked it up will read this and the gun will find it’s way home. Maybe the serial number will come up somewhere or a gun shop will recognize it. Maybe I will have a chance to buy it back. Maybe a guilty conscious will deliver it to the sheriff, who will return it to me.
Or maybe the Verona with the faint crack in the wrist and the worn bluing on the action, the gun that I carried and left my mark on, will simply go somewhere else.
Somewhere out there, someone has a gun that I was holding in trust for my kids. It is part of a narrative that helps explain who I am and what a special person my wife is. It is an exhibit that means more than birds and miles and hunting. It has been imparted with my story and I want it back.

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Unrequited

It’s not you, it’s me.
You are great – beautiful, classy, refined – but it just wasn’t meant to be.
I knew it couldn’t last when we met. You were out of my league – unattainable. Through some bad decisions on the part of your previous owner, I lucked out and we ended up together.
What we had was beautiful, but we both knew it wasn’t forever.
Let’s just go our separate ways and cherish the time we had together.
I’ll go back to my old, lowbrow ways. You will go on to someone special.
Someone with a gunroom, and maybe a collection of leather-bound books and an apartment that smells of rich mahogany.
I wish you all the best, and I will remember you fondly…

– GM

Beauty marks

I like shotguns.
Specifically, I like old, lightweight shotguns with two barrels and well-figured walnut.
Preferably in 28 ga. or 16 ga.
Some of my hunting buddies now carry guns made of black plastic that look like they might shoot lazer beams.
Personally, I don’t own anything I won’t hunt in the rain with, but I also don’t own any guns I would put a bumper sticker on.
When I was ten, I had a Remington Nylon 66 rifle. It was black plastic with white diamonds where the checkering should have been and it had glimmering stainless barrel and action.
It was the ugliest rifle I have ever owned and it could not dependably shoot beer-can sized groups at 20 yards.
Since then, I have stuck to guns that are made of dark-blue steel and checkered walnut.
I like them to smell of boiled linseed oil and 3-in-1 and if I leave it leaned against a fence, I want to be able to imagine my grampa standing next to it.
Last year I bought a 1936 Ithaca side-by-side 16 ga. with no butt stock.
I spent most of the spring fitting and shaping, sanding and oiling until I had a new-to-me upland gun.
She still has some of her case coloring and when the light is right, the barrels shine like obsidian. I added a few inches to the trigger tang and an english style stock in place of the Prince of Wales that would have adorned the gun originally.
The maker’s marks on the barrel denote ‘modified’ and ‘full’ chokes. On the pattern board, it’s more like ‘full’ and ‘rifle.’
Still, I managed to shoot a few birds with it this year and that brand new stock already has its first ding, earned high in the Pecos Wilderness on an early grouse hunt. I don’t worry much about the scratches and scuffs that mark the passing of the years.
I think what I like least about plastic guns is their inability to show the character that comes with age and use.
My guns carry their dings and scratches proudly, like little historical records of antlers and pack frames and chukar hunts gone wrong.
It’s how I like them.

GM

Joint custody

Greg was the first friend of mine I could remember having divorced parents. Since I didn’t have to deal with the emotional fallout of the mess, my role was often to simply pull up a seat on the over-compensation gravy train and enjoy all the cool shit Greg’s parents heaped on him in exchange for them abdicating their full parental responsibilities.

These days, I’m the one spoiling – only it’s not my kids, it’s a shotgun. More precisely, it’s a 20-gauge Fox Sterlingworth that my wife’s grandfather (which would be my mother-in-law’s father) left in his estate.

The gun was supposed to go to my wife’s brother, Larry. Trouble is, Larry’s wife grew up in beautiful Hartford, Conn., where guns are bad – mmmmkay? So She Who Must Be Obeyed handed down a “no-guns” decree in Larry’s house and it ended up in my hands. For safe keeping, because it’s still Larry’s gun. Technically.

But you can’t keep a good gun down – and even though it’s choked tight and tighter, I trot the Sterlingworth out a couple of times a year (usually later in the season) and try to kill a bird or two with it. The gun is spoiled all right, spoiled because I don’t have the go-ahead to add it into the full-time rotation. So it sits for much of the year in my gun safe. It must be lonely and depressed. Sort of like Greg was when he was shuttled between parents.

Ideally, I’d like to have the stock refinished, I’d like to open up the bores a few hundredths of an inch and I’d like to make sure it fits me well. But I can’t. It’s Larry’s gun, and while it sees the grouse woods a couple of times each year, for the most part is just sits around waiting.

Maybe I should file for sole custody.