As this is the last column before Thanksgiving, I am going to beg the reader’s indulgence for an old guy, as I’m going to wax nostalgic. My main focus will be on my dad’s old shotgun.
I first met Dad’s shotgun 59 years ago, when I was 11, and the gun was already old then. It was a Davis 16 gauge double barrel. Most of the bluing had worn off, and the stock was covered with nicks and gouges. Dad had gotten it as partial payment for work he had done on someone’s porch. It had been a pretty good deal all around. The other guy needed his porch fixed and Dad, knowing that I’d soon be old enough to go hunting, needed a gun. I, of course, already had one that I had received the previous Christmas.
From the moment he brought it home, I coaxed Dad to let me shoot the old relic. Since the previous owner had thrown in a few shells, Dad agreed. It was the first time I had ever shot a double.
For the next year or so, the old gun stood in the closet with my mother’s ironing board. At last, however, my first hunting season rolled around, and Dad got the weathered double out. He used it for the next four years, until I was old enough to hunt by myself, when he decided to end his hunting career.
Then one day a local tavern owner mentioned that he collected double barreled shotguns. Dad sold the old Davis to him as I, now in my twenties, had several shotguns of my own. For many years, I never gave the gun a thought. When the tavern owner died, his son, knowing the story of the gun, returned it to me. After he left, I sat down with the old gun and really looked it over. It dawned on me that my Dad was probably the last person to have ever hunted with it. I took it out and shot it a couple of times, as I wanted to make sure that it was in good working order.
For many years, my son and I hunted squirrels on Thanksgiving morning. One year, he suggested that I use his grandfather’s old gun, and I agreed. It was a unique feeling to know that the gun would once again be part of a father and son squirrel outing. I should add that, nowadays, I spend Thanksgiving morning on the couch, watching YouTube videos, as I can’t stand those stupid parades.
Anyway, back to the old gun. On that morning, I sat for a couple of hours hoping to bag something with the old Davis. Just as it began to look hopeless, a nice fox squirrel materialized on a tree trunk very close to my stand. Apparently, I had been so lost in thought that I missed his approach. I slowly slowly raised the gun and took a bead. A blast from the left barrel sent the bushytail plummeting to the ground. I decided that this would be the last squirrel hunt of this shotgun with me. It took me back to a wonderful place, but, if you visit those places too often, they might lose some of their charm. I gave the gun to my son. Its fate is now up to him. I know that he will show it the proper respect.
You know, Thanksgiving is a great time for nostalgia. As we sit around the dinner table, it is only natural that we think of our loved ones who are no longer there with us. For us outdoor folks, however, we can’t help but think about some of our hunting and fishing companions who are gone. In my case, they would include Gerald Wetzel, who owned the finest coonhound I have encountered. And I can never forget Joseph “Doc” Scisly, with whom I shared so many outdoor adventures, both in the United States and Canada. And, I’ll never forget good old Earl Lytle, the closest person to a mountain man I ever met. Last, but by no means least, there’s John Kusick, a genuine master hunter.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!