When I was a kid growing up, there was a storage trunk in the basement. A trunk with a gun.
It was quite safe - not only was the barrel separate from the stock, there was no ammunition, percussion caps, or powder. But it was a gun nevertheless. Great-grandfather's gun.
I thought that it was Great-Great-Grandfather's Civil War musket, that he had carried with Sherman through Georgia. Kind of interesting when I lived in Roswell, where Sherman had burned the mill. To this day they hate him - maybe it was less burning the mill as it was packing the women folk up on trains and sending them to prison camps in the north. Don't think that Great-Great-Gramps had anything to do with that, but you never know.
Last week when I was in Washington DC, I stopped at my older brother's house to see them. I drove it back with me because after all, I'm the shooting nut of the family. I hadn't seen it for thirty years, and so was surprised when I unboxed it.
This is no Civil War rifle. It's a hunting rifle. Percussion cap, second half of the nineteenth century, but it's clearly not military. There are no markings on it, other than an engraving of some birds.
So dad and I had a chat on its history. He found it in his Grandfather's house, back in the 1930s. He thinks it was originally his Great-Grandfather's rifle. Says he was told that it took the last deer in Elk county, Kansas (one of the probably thousand rifles that took the last deer in Elk county, no doubt). Family tradition is that there's a ball stuck in the barrel. I don't think that I'll poke around to find out about that ...
It's sadly abused. The stock is broken in a couple of places, likely when the barrel was removed. My plan had been to get it repaired, when I thought it was a Civil War rifle. Now, I'm not sure. I'll probably reattach the barrel so that I can hang it on a wall, along with its powder horn.
Historical value? Probably none. Family value? Immeasurable, at least to me. My family never came from money, and this put food on the table, nourishing past generations of the Borepatch clan. It's earned a place of honor.
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life.Welcome home, brother.
Thus, I will learn it as a brother.
UPDATE 25 July 2009 13:52: More here and here.