A Gun with History
A Gun with HistorySeptember 27, 2012
Two weeks ago, I was almost ready to leave my parents’ house in Ohio for my stint here in Charleston, South Carolina, at Garden & Gun magazine. I had four or five boxes in the back of the Jeep when my dad called me down to the basement. He was holding my great-grandfather’s hundred-year-old Remington 20-gauge shotgun.
A hundred-year-old shotgun is not such an anomaly in our family. We’ve always been good about cleaning our guns. My grandpa, who was a pretty tough guy, made sure my dad learned good habits; my dad, now, will wipe down a gun if he’s so much as handled it. So the guns last, and we keep using them.
Was I ready, though, to take this one? It’s a responsibility – bearing the weight of three generations now, and their work maintaining it – but a blessing, too, as a reliable shotgun and as a family totem. I didn’t have much space in the car, but I wouldn’t ever take a thing like that gun for granted. I packed it in its case and laid it on the back seat.
Like most of the milestones of growing up, leaving town with a family gun is a bittersweet thing. For more than a decade, my little brother and I have borrowed our guns from, first, our grandfather, and then from our dad. Now, I’ll start counting down the years until someone borrows this one from me. Before I know it, I’ll be passing it on myself. And in the meantime, I’d damn well better take care of it.
The burden of an heirloom shotgun is also the beauty of it. Every time I shoot that gun, I’ll be reminded of a great-grandfather I know only from stories and of a grandfather who has been gone for two years now. Both were no-nonsense outdoorsmen better remembered in a blind than a graveyard. I’ll think of my dad, who’s pulled the same trigger many times, and of my own place in a lineup of men to whom I’m awfully lucky to be related. I can only hope that my performance in the field this fall is worthy of their old gun.
Any one else have a family gun that’s been passed down through generations?