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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Phil -- Settling In.

Originally Posted - 03/22/2005 : 14:21:28

Things around the campfire went well. I was still surprised at the welcome I was getting. One guy named Jack-something told me it was like having the return of the lost dolphin-- whatever that meant. Another guy, one of the first that met me darn near fell of his stump. I couldn't tell if he was just really lit, or if he'd just seen a ghost. I had a bunch of questions for everyone. Finally somebody offered to show me to a bed and gave me a quick rundown on the facilities.

I got to see the bathrooms, the kitchen, the shed with the freezers and the fridge. I had plenty of ice in the cooler, so I stowed it in the floor of the shed and decided I'd unload it in the morning. Nobody had yet claimed any beds in the loft, and I liked the thought of an upstairs bed. I had a duffle bag and a rifle case. The guy that was helping me, asked if I wanted to leave the rifle down on the rack.

"Sure," I said. "Point the way." I was not expecting the response. I opened the case on my rifles. I'd brought my Marlin in 35 Remington, and I'd also brought along a rifle my Dad gave me when I first started hunting. I reached to put the Marlin up on the rack and looked back. The guy had his jaw hanging open, and he looked dazed.

"Is that?" He stammered. "Is that what I think that is?"

"I dunno." I said. "What do you think that is?"

"That's a Savage, right?"

"Yes."

"What's it shoot?"

"Three-oh-Three." I said. "It's kind of an oddball gun, isn't it? It looks like an Enfield had sex with a Savage and they didn't know how to finish the job." That was a line I'd gotten from a gun shop owner a few years ago, and it was funny. It really did look that way. From the action back to the buttstock it looked like a standard Savage 99. However, it had an inletted full stock, and a muzzle that looked like an Enfield Mk I. The guy had offered me a couple of hundred for it at the time, but I turned him down. Dad had said it had been in the family.

"Three-oh-three Savage," he said. "Right?"

"Guess so." I said. "I had a heck of a time finding ammo. Everyone wanted to sell me three-oh-three British. Shoots good though."

"Wait right there." said the guy. He was gone for a minute or two. I had a silicone rag and I polished off both rifles and put them on this huge gun rack. I put the case on the table, and figured I'd return it to the truck in the morning. Pretty soon, the guy was back with three other guys I'd met at the fire.

"Can we see it?"

"Sure." I pulled the rifle off the rack, opened the action and handed it to him. He gingerly laid it on the table.
Everyone circled the rifle and the room went very quiet. It was as if a holy relic had been brought into the room.

"What's the big deal?" I asked.

"This is your deer rifle?" somone asked.

"My backup gun." I replied. "It's hard to find ammo anymore, so mostly I shoot the Marlin."

"I'll be danged!" said someone.

"What's going on?" I said again.

"I'll show you what's going on." said a fellow I remembered from the funeral. "Come here. I'll show you what's going on." He walked over to the opposing wall and lifted his glasses and peered close at a picture on the wall. "There, this is it. Come here, and I'll show you what's going on."

I went over to the wall, and there was a picture of an old guy sitting on the porch of a large Victorian house. There was a set of antlers hanging from the front of the porch. Two younger men were sitting beside him. The younger men had pump shotguns in their lap. The older guy had a rifle that looked identical to the one I had brought. Someone had typed a caption on a slivver of now-yellowed paper. "J.Cooper, W.Williams, A.Cooper-- Port Simmons Hotel, 1915 "

"That's your rifle." said the guy. "That's Bill William's gun."

"That's a Savage Military Musket that Bill Williams brought back from the Yukon. They say he pried it out of the frozen hands of a dead Mountie. That was Bill WIlliams deer rifle. In those days, the only ones that had those were Royal Canadian Mounties, and they woulda hung any Mountie that sold his rifle."

"Who'd you here that from?" asked another.

"My Dad."

"Your Dad was pulling your leg."

"Bill Williams never killed any Mountie."

"Didn't. He was already dead. Bill got it off a dead body as he was heading back to Skagway."

"You're full of it."

And on it went. I looked at the picture and then went back and retrieved the rifle from the table. Either Bill William's, my Great-Grandfather, had allowed his Savage 1899 rifle to engage in unnatural congress with a British infantry rifle in a case of parallel evolution, or I had his rifle. I suspected the latter. It would have explained the "R.C.M.P." stamped on it along with a bunch of other odd markings that looked like it had spent time in a military armory. I put the rifle on the rack and told everyone that I was going to bed. I picked up my duffle and went upstairs.

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