…goodby is not an option.When my ex-wife died, due to complications before surgery, she left with me a couple of things aside from her memory – a Dan Wesson Model 15 .357 magnum, a Marlin Model 39A .22 lever-action rifle, and a Winchester Model 12 20 gauge shotgun.
Her father used the Model 39A gun to bring home small game when they lived in mid-eastern Ohio. Marlin manufactured this particular Model 39A in 1943, according to the serial number. It sported, and still sports, a scope and shoots as fine today as it did in its youth. I still have the original scope that came with it but have replaced it with a newer, but almost identical, one. The scope mount attaches to the left side of the receiver and I thought about removing it altogether but decided to let it be. The forearms and stock bear the scars of a well-used rifle, have darkened with age and use, and every now and then I hand rub them with a little linseed oil to keep them moisturized. My ex-Mother-in-Law, after her husband passed, gave the rifle to my ex-wife.
According to the serial number, Winchester manufactured this particular Winchester Model 12 20 gauge in 1946 and was one of those that was modified for the 2 ¾ chamber (originals were chambered in 2 ½”). As you can tell by the picture, the metal has a good patina to it and the wood shows scars of use when working in the woods to bring home game. According to what my ex-wife had told me, her father was not an avid hunter but managed to bring home lots of fowl and squirrel for the cooking pot. She also remembered deer hanging in the shed during deer hunting season and that soon became the central source of hot venison stew on a cold day. This gun had seen some good times and in those times, hunting was a necessity.
She remembered that the shotgun hung over the kitchen door with her fathers hunting bag hanging from its barrel. She would pass under it every time she had to go to the shed for firewood or to go to the double-seated outhouse for other things. The gun, she said, was more of a family member than a piece of wood and metal.
Recently I had been looking at getting a new 20 gauge. I have a Mossberg 500 20 gauge that has been turned into something tactical looking and is now the upstairs home defender of choice. I also have a Remington 870 Express Combination 20 gauge shotgun that sports a rifled slug barrel. I just wanted a 20 gauge that would provide me with grab-and-go capabilities with no add-ons and no frills. I poured over what was available and finally settled on the Remington 870 Express Tactical; a seven shot 20 gauge, synthetic stock and forearm, sling points, and front bead sight. It would serve the purpose for my needs.
While I really did not want to give up anything in getting this gun, I also realized that in order to finance the purchase of a new shotgun, I had to give up something. I had some money set aside for a future purchase but faced with unemployment I was probably going to take that money and use it where and when it was needed. An option was a trade-in to help defray the cost. The Winchester Model 12 20 gauge would serve that purpose, as it was no longer necessary or used.
Taking the Winchester to my favorite gun shop, one that I had been a customer of for over 23 years, I placed an order for the Remington, as they did not have one in stock. We agreed on a trade-in price and the shop owner (a friend, as well) let me bring the Winchester home until the new shotgun arrived and we would seal the deal then.
Almost two week passed until the new shotgun had arrived. I had scheduled a gun test (the Ruger P345) and would simply take the Winchester shotgun with me and slide over to the gun shop when I finished testing.
I finished testing two guns (the Ruger P345 and the SR9) and headed over to the gun shop, filled out the necessary paperwork, checked the new gun out, and talked to the owner. A few minutes later, I walked out with my new Remington. I ended up renegotiating and paid the difference of what my trade-in was going to be.
You see, when I reached in to take the Winchester out of the safe, I felt the profile of the gun through the silicon-treated gun sock that protected it. I pulled the gun out of the sock and held it, worked the action, smelled the hand-rubbed oiled, natural wood stock that had darkened with age (lacquered stocks were for “high class” people) and that indistinguishable smell of metal and gun oil, and remembered why I had this gun. Slowly, I slid it back into the sock, put it back in the safe, and closed the door.
As fine as a shotgun as it may be, the new Remington lacks warmth and character to me with its stock and forearm made of some sort of synthetic material. The other two Remington 870s (12 and 20 gauge) that I own have wood stocks and forearms against a matte finish. It is the wood that gives them character. Each stock and forearm is natural wood and not lacquered. It gives me comfort every time I put some Formby’s Lemon Oil in the hand, rub it in to the wood, and watch the grain pop out at me in its beauty. I do miss a good bluing job on metal, though. This new gun, Remington 870, is not about aesthetics, however. Its purpose is to keep predators at bay and it does not have to be pretty to do that.
Meanwhile, the Winchester resides in the safe. I will take it out from time to time, rub my hands over its form, and smell the sweet smell of wood and metal. I have never said goodbye to my deceased ex-wife. I cannot bring myself to do that. The emotional ties are still there. I cannot say good-bye to the Winchester Model 12 20 gauge either, as I closely associate it with her. With some things, goodbye is just not an option.
In Memory of Sandy (1946 – 2003)