It was a cold Tuesday in February when I turned 10 years old. I remember it was mostly an ordinary day as I went to school and then came home at the usual time.
Chores were done and I was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework in the late afternoon. It was a modest mobile home; avocado green with windows that opened via a hand crank. The windows were closed tight against the cold breeze outside. Times were tough but we were getting by. I didn’t expect much and hadn’t asked for anything.
But my dad and Uncle Guru had already decided that the 10 year mark was a worthy occasion. They had gone down to a local department store and found something they thought I would appreciate.
I’ll never forget when my dad got home that day. I heard the truck come down the driveway. Dad came in the house, clad in a heavy jacket, work boots clomping. And to my surprise he handed me what is now one of my most prized possessions. It was a Stevens Model 311 20 gauge side-by-side. There was no case, box, or wrapping paper, but I didn’t care. He just handed it to me and said “happy birthday”.
It’s hard to explain how happy I was. We didn’t have much money but he was able to get it at a reasonable price because it had been shipped from the factory with an unfinished stock. As the story goes, dad and Uncle Guru (who are brothers) hatched a plan to finish the stock quickly so they could give it to me that day. According to them, they finished it using shoe polish of all things. All these years later I find it strange that it would have been shipped without a finish on the stock, but according to my research that isn’t unheard of.
Many clay pigeons met their doom via the Stevens. We just had a hand thrower for the clays and we’d shoot a box or two at a time up in the “holler”. It was probably just as well to have them lobbed out there gently as opposed to using a spring loaded thrower. It was tough for me to throw it up to my shoulder all day long, and I needed all the help I could get to hit the clays in the beginning. But I kept at it and eventually I got to the point that I could hit most of them.
That special birthday was more years ago than I’d like to dwell on, but I will always remember it. I think back to my uncle and my dad, sitting there rubbing the shoe polish into the stock, knowing that there were going to make some kid’s day.
I still have the shotgun and I’ve taken good care of it. It is in excellent condition and once in a great while I will still take it to the sporting clay range and put some shells through it. Uncle Guru is no longer with us, but every time I throw it up to my shoulder I think about him and my dad and that cold day in February when I got my first firearm.
My gun cleaning/smithing bench probably isn’t the best backdrop but here’s a couple pictures:
In case you were wondering: No, it is not for sale. Ever.
Safe and Happy Shooting to you and yours,