It was just a few very long days ago I said goodbye to my hero, my Dad. An emotional roller coaster to be sure, and its long from over. Oh, I’m perfectly at peace with the fact that Dad is in The Kingdom, and at peace. My faith assures me of that.
Anyone who has traveled this road knows there are so many details to take care of after the passing of a loved one. While with my Mom today, she gave me a few things Dad wanted me to have. There are a lot of things, but one was Grandpa’s rifle. I have several that were my Dads that he gave me many years ago, Sweet 16, an Ithaca Model 37 16 gauge pump action shotgun that I cut my hunting teeth on popping pheasants and rabbits as a young teen. Then there is the Stevens .22 single shot bolt action rifle that I learned to shoot with. Dad bought it when he was 14. To this day, shouldering that gun is akin to slipping on an old pair of slippers. It just feels good in the hand, and shoots dead on. Many a rabbit was introduced to the stew pot by that gun.
My Dad, and his Dad, hunted off and on together back in the day. By the time I became old enough, my Dad had given it up, for various reasons. The least of which was the simple fact that he didn’t like being cold, and he was busy working his ass off. So, as I got interested, it more or less a self learned recreation. Dad never killed a deer, and I oftent joked with him that its probably a good thing he didn’t teach me to hunt. We both got a good laugh.
But what Dad did teach me is a love of the shooting sports. He was always a stauch supporter of the right to bear arms, and we spent many hours together shooting holes in an old steel barrel behind his shop when work was slow. We would compete for the tightest groups, or hitting a bottle cap hanging by a string. Then we would try to cut the string. Thousands of rounds went into his burn barrel. Dad loved to shoot, and taught me a lot about shooting, and safety. Screw up a safety rule, and there would be hell to pay. Thats just the way it was. Guns weren’t toys, and I knew it at an early age. But Dad trusted me, and never kept his guns a “secret”. My kids were reared in the same way, with the same predicatble results.
Anyway, when Mom handed me that gun case this afternoon, I was speechless, and felt a tear well up in the corner of my eye. I first saw that rifle after my Grandpa has passed when I was 14, when my Grandma gave it to my Dad. To my knowlege, it has not been fired since Dad got it. It was his Dads, and its been cased since. Dad did have a scope mount put on it several years back, but never put the scope on, and didn’t shoot it. He told me then that when he was gone, it would be mine.
Sadly, it now is. I slowly took it out, made sure it was clear, and worked the bolt a couple times. Smooth, tight, smelled like Hoppes #9. I closed my eyes and could see Grandpa slipping through the northern Michigan swamps with it, in his plaid red wool hunting suit, stalking deer.
The rifle is a Remington Model of 1917 .30-06. Bolt action beauty. Its stock is not fancy, as it was orignally a military rifle. Its going to take me some research to find out its true age, but its in great condition. The leather sling strap is a little dry, but they just don’t make ’em like that anymore. I shouldered it, and it is naturally steady in the hand, and no doubt a fine shooting rifle. I remembered Dad saying to me once, when I get it, maybe I could do something with it.
I don’t hunt deer in the rifle zone in Michigan. In fact, I’ve only deer hunted with a rifle once in my life. I hunted many seasons with Sweet 16, until I bought a newer 12 gauge slug gun, and lately, a muzzleloader. As I looked over this beautiful rifle, now in its 3rd generation in our family, a few things came to mind. My Grandpa loved to hunt,and fish, and that is for sure still alive in me, and my sons.
Dad was stationed for a time during his military service at Lowry AFB in Colorado, and I remember his love of the Rocky Mountains from his stories he told. I have bowhunted the Colorado Rockies several times, and they are forever burned into my heart as my favorite place in the world.
While I really prefer to hunt with my longbow over a firearm, I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to take Grandpa’s rifle, Dads rifle, out west one time, and hunt elk with it. One hunt. One time. One shot. One elk. I know Dad and Grandpa would be looking over my shoulder the whole time. When I get to the top of the mountain, I can scatter some of Dads ashes over the mountains he loved, carrying Grandpa’s rifle, in a place as close to Heaven as I can get here on Earth. feel the cold steel, the smell of Hoppes #9, gunpowder, oak brush and juniper.
Yeah, I think I’ll go huntin next fall, with Dad and Grandpa.