When I stopped in to check on my elderly uncle he said, "Sit down, I want to talk to you."
He was in his Easy chair so I slipped onto the couch. "Your Dad was seven years older than me and when I was a boy he would often take me rabbit hunting. He had quit school so he could get a job and bought himself a 20 gauge shotgun.
I was too little to carry a gun but he let me shoot his sometimes.
He let me carry the rabbits and since he seldom missed a shot I always had a full load.” Uncle Claude laughed.
“Later on," he went on, "your Dad bought himself a 16 gauge,” , “That was in 1937. It was an Iver Johnson too - had a 30 inch barrel with full choke and cost $9.95 at Advance Hardware. Dennis gave me his old 20 gauge."
For several years, your Dad hunted with the 16 gauge and I hunted with the 20 gauge. We ate a lot of rabbits in those days.
Dennis joined the Army when the war broke out and just before they shipped him off to Europe he gave me his 16 gauge.
After he returned from the war I tried to give the 16 gauge back, but he wouldn’t hear it and bought himself a new shotgun, a 12 gauge!” Jr. (Claude Jr) paused – deep in thought.
“We didn’t get to hunt together very much after that and then he died…how old were you? About twelve?"
“Thirteen.” I answered, “Two months after yall’s dad died.”My 83-year old uncle was dying from cancer but his memory was still sharp.
"Then, “He said, “Years later, some guys broke into the house while Lucy and I were at work and stole all my guns. The cops in Alexandria, Virginia recovered one of my guns from a pawn shop. They sent it to the sheriff in Pulaski and he called me to come get it. It was the 16 ga!
It’s under that couch; reach under there and get it."
I handed it to him. He held it a moment while looking it up and down, then handed it back, "I want you to have it."
We both fought back tears.
The fore-end needed tightening due to wood shrinkage and the entire gun required a good cleaning. Over the years the bluing at the balance point, just ahead of the trigger guard, had completely worn away.
I too, remember hunting with my Dad when I was a boy. I carried the rabbits so he would be free to shoot when another jumped. “Sometimes he loaded me down with rabbits. We ate a lot of rabbits in those days”
I also remember going to shooting matches with him. He had his no–longer-new 12 gauge Iver Johnson back then. Shooters would grab up their guns with a scowl and leave when they saw us enter.