The best thread I have read to date
This is not a post by me, but it is my favorite thread I have read...
The weight of History (inherited guns)
Well, that's it, dad's gone.
It was all I could think as I sat there looking at the old (c1968) Remington 552 Speedmaster sitting on my workbench. It was dad's favorite "rabbit" gun and the one that was never going to leave his possession while he was on this earth. It was also the first real firearm I was ever allowed to handle, the one I learned all the basics on, the one that made me the terror of the rats at the local dump (where we used to earn an entire nickle for every tail we brought back!).
Sadly, when dad's emphysema really took hold I think the rifle was also a reminder of his younger and more vigorous "outdoor" days. Wistful recollections turned from bittersweet to simply bitter as his body failed him and he stuffed the wood and steel yardstick of his youth into the back of a closet and did his best to forget it.
When we uncovered it during the cleanup I pulled it from the closet to find that time had taken it's toll. The rifle looked bad enough then, but now the excellent lighting in my workshop revealed all. The rifle was bone dry and coated with dust and cobwebs. Wiping off the surface grime revealed a diseased looking finish with a peppering of rust spots all over the metal. The wood had also sprouted a dusting of mold. Still, a patch run through the bore revealed a bright shine so, I thought, maybe there was hope.
The cleanup was tedious and frustrating. Every part disassembled revealed more rust spots and a ton of rock-hard, dried up, lube and old powder fouling but I could hear dad's voice saying "well you started the job, you need to finish it". A lot of time was spent with patches, brushes, solvents, oil, and steel wool until the ugly warts of rust had been reduced to mere surface blemishes. The wood was oiled and rubbed until the manufacturer would have been proud.
Re-assembly was as satisfying as the dis-assembly had been frustrating with the parts clicking together precisely and the mechanical actions working smoothly. I stood up to un-kink my back, crabbed by the hours bent over the workbench, and appreciated the results of my labor. The metal had a deep glow interspersed with a mottling that gave the gun a pleasing appearance of honest use. The wood caught the light with a warm-honey glow, and the smell of clean metal and gunoil were still in the air. I think dad and I were both smiling at a job well done.
The next morning was clear and very cold as I tramped into the woods with the restored Remington and a box of .22LR shells. As I "broke trail" through the deeper snow I could see my dad, all those years ago, dressed in his red and black hunting jacket and the fur cap with the ear flaps tied up. He was stepping carefully, his big boots creating a nearly heel-to-toe trail through the snow that my 10 year old feet could easily follow. I'd been given the awesome responsibility of actually carrying the gun (not just the box of shells) and he spent the walk constantly reminding me to keep the the gun pointed in a safe direction and issuing sharp warnings that "I'd better keep the barrel out of the damned snow or he'd tan my hide". I smiled as I visualized what my serious little-child face must have looked like as I labored mightily to simultaneously keep up the pace and carry the weight of responsibility along with the weight of the gun.
Finally I arrived at the chosen location and set up a swinging target. Then I backed up a fair distance, loaded the gun, and prepared to fire.
Suddenly my trigger finger was paralyzed by a flood of internal doubt.
Thoughts clashed in my head "What if shooting this gun wasn't as cool as I remembered?", "What if the gun was really a worn out piece of scrap metal?" Did I want to risk shattering the beautiful childhood memories all around me?
I was laughing...with relief? with joy? Yes all that and more as the little metal spinner twirled. The old Remington was still "cool", it was still accurate, and after it's long slumber it was ready to play.
CRACK!...... OOPS, a miss. And there was dad's ghost, beaming but trying to look serious as he gently chided me on "wasting ammo" and once again walked me through the steps of breathing and trigger control.
150 rounds later I walked out of the woods side by side with the spirit of my father. When I got to my parked Jeep I looked back and in my mind I could see him older, but still healthy, still dressed in that ratty old hunting jacket, heavy canvas pants and huge rubber boots sniffing the clean forest air and smiling. It was like he was saying "You go on boy, I'm gonna walk in the woods for a while".
So I pulled out, me heading my way, him heading his, but I could almost hear his gruff last words "you make sure you clean that damned gun good or I'll tan your hide!"
Dedicated to Frank George Hawley 1940-2010
NEMO ME IMPUNE LASSIST