There are few items in life you can’t put a price on. The car your grandpa built and passed down to you, the family farm, your mothers’ jewelry, etc. For me it has been a gun that has been in my family since 1952.
My great grandfather had passed away late in 2008. He was 82 years old and I found out that he had left me something in his will. A browning A5 lite 12-gauge shotgun. It was the most beautiful piece of shooting equipment I had ever seen. It had a light brown stock, golden trigger and a long smooth barrel that was interchangeable. My uncle told me stories about it that my grandpa had told him. The most interesting one was the reason and means for purchasing the gun in the first place. He bought the gun in 1952 out of a catalog and made payments on it. He didn’t use the gun in the same way we use our guns now a days. When we buy guns today, we do it for our own enjoyment. We love chasing things that gobble, quack, grunt and bugle. These pieces of equipment allow us to harvest the things we love, but when not successful the grocery story is a viable second option. My great grandpa, Robert E. Mann, bought this gun to provide for his family. He shot birds, squirrel, rabbit and just about anything edible in Northeast Oklahoma. This gun wasn’t just a gun to him. It was a very important tool that he used to provide for his wife and his 5 growing daughters. My grandma Virginia now laughs about all the things Gramps would bring home that were taken at the hands of that Browning A5. Many squirrels were quickly turned into stew after the harvest. I figured my grandmother would replicate the recipes of her youth but I have yet to eat squirrel stew so I guess my Gramps should’ve saved his ammunition on that one.
I can’t begin to explain the things that gun has seen. If only every scratch or imperfection could tell its own story. I imagine they would tell of run ins with the barbed wire fence, knocks against the lay out blind as we burst out in excitement or even contact with trees as my grandfather ran to fetch a bird that would help feed his young family. I have harvested hundreds of animals with it myself including Rio Grande Turkey, Dove, Canadian Geese and about every species of Duck you could imagine. That gun has seen the heat of an Oklahoma Dove season in September but also survived the negative temperatures of a harsh waterfowl season. It still amazes me that after 67 years of repetitive action that gun has stood the test of time.
This season I was able to harvest a mature Oklahoma Tom with my Gramps gun. As my friend, Jakes Ayers, and I walked backed to the truck in the pouring rain with my 67 year old gun in one hand and 20-pound Tom in the other I couldn’t help but ponder. I sat the gun in the backseat and there it lay blood soaked. I have no idea how many times it had sat in that same position before. After examining the condition of the A5 I realized it was time to quit actively using it. Years of rain and poor weather had taken its toll on the stain but left the functional pieces intact. I knew if I wanted to preserve a crucial piece of my families story it was time to retire the gun. My uncle and mother always said, “Your Gramps was very proud of that gun. Don’t you ever dare think about selling it. He wanted you to have it.” That stuck with me. That’s the same narrative I will tell my children when that ask about that old, weathered gun sitting in the safe. Oh, the stories I will be able to tell.
In today’s age it is rather easy to discount the value of a gun. Their often cheaply manufactured and apart from being a good tool to take game with they carry no true significance. Guns are often thrown under the backseat, wrapped up deep in the gun safe or left to rust in the back closet. As for the story of this gun, it will be far from that. This timeless classic will be stored and cleaned properly. It’s not often you can say that I gun has lasted 4 generations and possibly 5. I cannot wait to show my children the gun that has created hundreds of fond memories not only for me, but for my grandfather as well. Rest easy Gramps, I will surely take care of your A5. Not only because it’s what you would’ve wanted, but better yet so I can share your life, story and legacy with my children as well.