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Gramps' shotgun.

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HectorFuego
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Gramps' shotgun.

#1 Post by HectorFuego » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:45 pm

My grandfather was born in 1893. His name was Howard, but to me he was always Gramps. He was nearly 54 when I came along – the only son of his only son – his only direct line down.

Family legend has it that he was an excellent hunter, and beginning at the age of ten, roamed the fields around Vine Creek, Kansas bringing home ducks, geese, and all kinds of game for the table. The only tool he had was a Marlin 1898 exposed hammer 12 gauge pump shotgun. Gramps would carry the shotgun and do the shooting, while his seven year old brother Lynn would be responsible for carrying the game they harvested.

Well, Gramps grew up, as young boys do. Had a couple of kids, as young men do, and sometime during that process the extractor on the old Marlin broke (along with a couple of other parts), and it became nearly impossible to find the 2-1/2 inch shells for which it was chambered. Not willing to part with the object that had brought him so much joy as a child, the gun languished in his closet for many decades. He did acquire another shotgun when I was just a young sprout, but without the Marlin the fun was gone, and he only hunted a few times after that.

When he was around eighty nine years old it became apparent that he and my grandmother were no longer safe living on their own, and my father sadly had to move them to a nursing home. In the process of cleaning out their house, he asked me if I wanted Gramps’ shotguns. Of course I accepted them, and they went into my gun safe.

At the age of ninety one Gramps passed away. After the funeral, while we were standing by the grave site, my wife and I struck up a conversation with Uncle Lynn who was eighty eight by that time. He reminisced about their boyhood around Vine Creek and Gramps’ hunting skill. When I told Uncle Lynn that I had that old Marlin, he became visibly excited, grabbed my arm, and said, “Oh! Don’t ever get rid of that shotgun. If it hadn’t of been for Howard and that shotgun, we’d of starved to death. We were terrible farmers.”

So the old Marlin stayed in my safe, untouched, for another decade or two, and finally I forced myself to decide if I wanted to weld it shut or have it repaired and shoot it. In deference to Gramps’ memory I could not bring myself to de-mill it, so - in spite on the dire warnings from Marlin - I tracked down a gunsmith who liked working on really old guns. Between the two of us we managed to find the necessary parts, and got it operational. To keep the chamber pressures down, I learned how to make my own 2-1/2 inch black powder shells for which it was probably designed originally.

The gunsmith had tested it with modern loads and it didn’t blow up, so I took it out to my dad’s place in the country, loaded it up and fired it. A big cloud of smoke followed by another cloud of wadding debris confirmed that the old dragon could still breathe a little fire. I doubt that my dad had ever fired it so I made sure he got to touch one off. Then my son fired it. He did really well, going three for three on hand thrown clays.

Due to a fire in the Marlin factory the actual production date of Gramps’ gun is impossible to pin down, but the first surviving records are dated March of 1901. The serial number on Gramps’ gun pre-dates that one and extrapolation of production numbers and serial numbers would put his at around 1900 or early 1901. The path it took from Connecticut to Kansas will always be a mystery, but it’s a safe guess that my great-grandfather was the original owner and passed it on to my grandfather. That means it’s been in my family for nearly one hundred twenty years, and five generations of our men have fired it.

Eventually it will go to my son who will, hopefully have a son of his own to whom he can tell the story of the old Marlin – a scruffy working man’s gun that has its share of battle scars from climbing over barbed wire, or busting through bramble thickets. It’s fragile from the years though so, for now, it will stay in the safe, yet every time I think of it I’m reminded of what Uncle Lynn said, “—Don’t ever get rid of that shotgun. If it hadn’t been for Howard and that shotgun we’d of starved to death. We were terrible farmers.”

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Re: Gramps' shotgun.

#2 Post by 72 usmc » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:58 pm

Neat story. I love that family history. We always had dad's Winchester shot gun by the back door. It was loaded and as kids you knew you did not mess with it. Most Wi farms had shot guns on the back porch or inside the door for critters. Heck, we got the youth, short wood stock, kids, single fire .22 rifles at around 7 or 8 years old. Dad thought a BB gun was a waste of cash. Then by 10 or 12 you got a used.410 or 20 gauge for hunting. Man times have changed.
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Re: Gramps' shotgun.

#3 Post by Charles Lipscomb » Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:35 am

Great family history. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Gramps' shotgun.

#4 Post by steamer » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:32 am

What an honor to have such an heirloom - thanks for sharing.

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