The Stevens with an Indiana County fox squirrel.
Utilitarian. That would be a good way to describe it.
It’s a Stevens Model 311A side-by-side double barrel 12-gauge made by Savage Arms Corp. in Chicopee Falls, Mass., in 1956. It’s got 28-inch barrels of “selected forged steel,” one choked modified, one full.
Functional but surely plain looking even in its earliest days, it’s a bit worn now.
That much I know.
It’s what I don’t know that leaves me wondering.
My paternal grandfather gave me the gun when I was about 15. I’d been hunting a few years then, always borrowing one gun or another, when he brought it down from an upstairs closet.
I was stunned. Not by his generosity but because Pap never talked of hunting, never talked of shooting. The only time I’d ever heard him mention a gun was when he told of accidentally digging up a flintlock pistol while plowing behind two draft horses.
In the way of a child, I offered a quick thanks, then moved on.
I took to the woods often with that gun for all kinds of small game. It proved especially effective on squirrels. The right barrel in particular, loaded with a high-brass No. 6 shot round, threw a pattern unbelievably tight. Woe to the bushytail that found itself in front of that muzzle. If I could see it, I could bag it.
The gun was almost as lethal at the other end.
Firing six or eight rounds left my wispy teenage self with a tender-to-the-touch knot the size of a tennis ball on my cheek.
But what fun it was.
These days, I make a point of taking that gun out a few times each year in an attempt to remember what I never knew.
How exactly did my grandfather come to own it? He’d have been 39 when it was made.
Did he buy it new then? He always was building or fixing something, so I can almost imagine him getting the Stevens in one of those old-fashioned hardware stores, maybe on the same day he bought the rusty old pick axe we found in his basement at the end.
Is that where the gouge in the shotgun’s grip came from? Did it run up against that tool or another or scrape a nail in a barn?
No matter. I left it when I refinished the stock.
And what was it intended for?
Pest control maybe. Pap’s best childhood memories, the only ones he really talked about, where the few years he spent living on a farm with his grandparents after he got out of the orphanage where his brother died and before their deaths left him homeless in the Great Depression as a teen.
He still gardened when I knew him and sometimes complained of groundhogs. Maybe the Stevens was for them.
I should have asked more of those questions when the opportunity was there, but we realize too late too often what it is we really need to know. That’s the way of it, I guess.
The chance to get answers is lost to history. Pap’s been gone for years now.
The Stevens will have to remain a gun of memories, if incomplete ones.
This story originally appeared at triblive.com/sports/outdoors.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.