“A Really Rough Diamond”
(For one dollar and the making of a gift)
Sage on 1935 JD “A”
“The Basics of Mechanics”
“It hasn’t got the right stock on it”. My brother said with an air of satisfied superiority.
“What do you mean”? I said with more than a little disbelief.
“The stock should have a deep curve on the butt-plate”. And with that he marked a rough outline with his finger on the stock of the little Winchester.
“It’s alright”. I said as I took the empty rifle (the action was open) out of his hands and headed down stairs.
I was around guns early enough in life that I don’t actually remember the first time I handled or fired one. I’m sure it was consequential to my Father’s and brother’s use for hunting and pest control. I don’t recall being referred to as particularly bloodthirsty but at the same time, I was used to the farm life and all that it entailed. Animals were to be controlled, utilized and cared for as needed for productivity. In most cases the end result of that production was the market or directly to meat due to the fact that we sometimes butchered our own stock for the freezer.
The model 90 Winchester ‘22 (and all of our other guns) had been kept in the corner of the stairway landing as long as I could remember. Dad had allowed me to shoot the little pump action ’22 on several occasions but always one shot at a time with him loading and handling the rifle. Then, after he unloaded the gun, I was taught how to clean it and had been cleaning it for what seemed like (to me at the time) forever. Now (in the summer of 1965) he had promised to teach me how to load and fire the rifle without assistance but under his watchful eye. I had long since become “Expert” with my Daisy BB gun (as far as I was concerned anyway) and now I was ready to move up to the real thing.
That was the first time I was allowed to handle a loaded gun by myself. Later that summer and into the fall I was allowed to go squirrel hunting (using a .410) with my brother John (I even got one that first year!). That winter I used that same single-shot Savage shotgun for rabbit hunting (under supervision). So, by the late summer of ’66, I was sure that I was ready to handle a gun on my own. Dad agreed and I couldn’t wait for the 10th of August (I believe this was the first day of squirrel season; later changed to the 15th).
I went squirrel hunting with John on the first day and several days after but by this time, John had a car and better things to do on Friday night than walk the woods with little brother. So on Fridays I would stay at The Hill and go squirrel hunting. I had started staying at The Hill on Friday nights about a year before. In the beginning, Mom and Dad would pick me up on their way home. Later, I would just stay all night and Dad would pick me up Saturday morning when he came to do the feeding. This meant that with my chores done and with Mrs. Riggins’ almost universal consent, I could do just about anything a boy wanted to do on a 200 + acre farm with 80 +/- acres of woods (containing some old growth trees).
Later that evening, I could sit on the davenport in Mrs. Riggins’ living room with a bowl of ice cream (and usually cake). With my feet on an oriental rug and my free hand equipped with a television remote control (that was a big deal in the 60s), I could rein as a potentate (albeit a very minor one) until I went to sleep or my ride arrived.
For a boy with solitary tendencies, a grain and stock farm in Boone County Indiana during the mid-1960’s, was a wonderful place. Oh, there were issues with family, school and of course, the War (unfortunately, we seem to have similar issues today, whenever “Today” happens to be for the reader) but for a boy, a curious, daydreaming, self-styled adventurer of a boy, this farm was a place where all things seemed possible. I never missed an opportunity to be outside and with the help of my brother’s old Boy Scout Manual as well as a little guidance from my brother and Dad; I gained proficiency with the basics of mechanics and outdoor life. While learning to hunt, trap, start a campfire (with matches; rubbing sticks together was before even my time) and tying knots, I developed the start of a keen appreciation of the land as well as everything on it, both natural and manmade. This was to become a love of understanding how things work. It was a love that I didn’t recognize at the time but one that would continue to grow.