Thursday, August 03, 2006

Little Chief – part 1

by Tom Gaylord

You grow up as a kid thinking that the whole world is exactly the same. That all kids are just like you and every place is like the places you've seen. Slowly, this fantasy begins to break down as your experience grows. Sometimes the breakdown is painful; other times it's delightful and still other times it can be just plain strange.

When I was a boy in 1920, life was pretty good. Although I had no way of gauging things then, in retrospect I see that I was well provided for and very fortunate in selecting my parents. My mother was a former debutante and my father was a successful lawyer, who later entered politics. My maternal grandmother also lived with us for a long time, so I got to know her quite well, too. She ran an antique store in our town, which afforded me the opportunity of seeing the finest furnishings, housewares and art that were to be seen in a small Ohio town. After I matured to adulthood and had a family of my own, my taste in furnishings was impeccable as a result of this long association.

But there was another reason I enjoyed my grandmother's company. She was a gun enthusiast! Through her dealings in the trade, she came across scores of fine firearms, many of which she bought and sold through her store. And the prices were unbelievable. Often, when a man would die, grandmother would be called by the widow and asked to dispose of certain items of the estate. If the man kept guns, these would almost certainly be at the top of the list. Many of the widows would feign great fear and loathing for the evil thundersticks and would not even touch them. They wanted the house to be rid of their evil spirits, and the sooner the better.

My grandmother began teaching me about guns when she saw I had an interest at a very early age. My father couldn't be bothered with them, except that he did attend the local shooting matches on holidays, simply because that's where all his clients were. But at home, his interests ran to the garden and to his new automobiles. Guns were of no interest whatsoever, despite the fact that his only son was completely captivated by them.

But grandma made up for his lack in spades! Often, when there was nobody in the shop, she would let me hold some of her guns as she narrated their story. I got to see rare 18th century Kentucky long guns, European fowling pieces, fine Schuetzen rifles, military guns of long ago and one time she had a Winchester model 1873 marked "One of One Thousand!" She didn't have that gun long and I never found out what it sold for, but the day she sold it she took the whole family to a fine restaurant for a steak dinner with all the trimmings. That much I remember.


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