For generations, hunting has been a big part of my family’s life. Grandpa got that old shotgun from his dad, my great grandpa. It was passed down to him upon his father’s death. It was said; he bought that shotgun shortly after the Civil War and carried it with him to Iowa after he was mustered out. It doesn’t have any markings on it to indicate the manufacturer, only a series of squares, diamonds and numbers. What it does have are nicks and gouges of a lifetime of hunting trips; its origins paralleled my family. We don’t know where he came from and the first and only record of my great grandpa appeared when my Grandfather was born; his name was on the birth certificate. It’s a matter of record in Boone.
This morning I got that old shotgun out of the safe and examined it once again. Sitting next to it was my father’s old Remington Model 11. It was the old humpback model with a pedigree as long as your arm. Some say that John Browning had Remington make the shotgun because another gun manufacturer wouldn’t live up to its’ agreement. That turned out to be a big mistake on their part. The patent was taken to Belgium and, until World War II broke out, it was made there. When shipments were lost due to boats sinking during the war, the manufacturing of the Model 11 was brought back to the States where Remington began making them. I think between the two guns enough game was harvested to fill a hundred freezers.
It was some time after the war that Grandpa bought the Remington for Dad. Together they hunted the hills, brushy draws and bottomland all around Boone. Grandpa was a talker, unlike my dad. Whenever we got together for a hunt Grandpa would tell us some of the most amazing stories of big game they had harvested. Big bucks were a favorite topic; he once told of my great grandpa taking two big 10-point whitetails with a single shot from that old exposed hammer shotgun. Then there was the time when a friend, Bill Mohr, took them down on Turkey Creek and they hunted raccoon at night. Bill nearly drowned when one of his black and tans got in between two big raccoons; it wasn’t until he was able to pull the dog away that Grandpa could get a clear shot. Score another double for the old side by side.
I remember when my dad gave me that old Remington Model 11. I had just turned 13 and had passed my hunter’s safety class. I was excited to get it but at the same time I was sad. A few weeks prior to that Dad had gotten into an accident at work and it rendered him paralyzed from the waist down. As hard as I tried I couldn’t talk him into even trying to hunt again; knowing it was one of his true loves. As he handed me the gun I thanked him, with tears streaming down my cheeks, and went off to school. All day all I could think about was getting home and going out hunting with his old gun. I had gone with him several times but only as an observer and now this would be my first hunt, but I have to do it by myself.
The clock ticked by so slowly that day: Nine, ten, eleven, and finally, lunchtime. I told Tommy Bradley, my best friend, what Dad had given me and he said, “Lucky dog”! His Dad didn’t hunt but Tommy wanted to. Finally, lunchtime was over and now there was only three more hours before I could get home and hunt.
Shortly after returning to class there was a knock at the door. It seemed I had a visitor. As I slowly made my way to the door there stood my grandfather; dressed in his hunting clothes. From what I gathered my Dad had told him about giving me his shotgun. It wore on him something fierce so he just dropped what he was doing; hunting, and caught a ride on a school bus that was dropping off kindergarten kids at noon. He got permission to take me out of school and the butcher, Dave Niblock, was waiting to take us out to my place so we could go hunting.
That afternoon I shot pheasants, squirrels and one old raccoon with no teeth. Grandpa said it was probably kin to the two he took back in the 1930s when those two raccoons nearly drowned that black and tan.
The mystery was finally solved! As for the old shotgun that was left leaning against the tree, it’s never hunted another day since then.
My grandpa met me every Saturday for three years, until he passed, so he could enjoy spending time with me in the field. After that Dad got one of those electric wheelchairs and he began hunting shortly after Grandpa died so I’d have a hunting buddy. My son Todd is now three and I’m not sure he understands all he thinks he knows about hunting as yet. He comes from a long line of outdoorsmen and one day I’ll pass down my shotgun to him the same way I got mine and my Dad his and his Dad his. We now know where we came from and have a good direction on where Todd is headed.