It was always a quirky rifle, but dropping out the trigger group and giving it a good cleaning always seemed to get it going again. I’ve probably been prolonging the inevitable. No matter what, I always tried to hunt a couple of days each season with it. It kept me close to my old hunting buddy, Jerry. Oh well, we all have to go sometime.
I got the call from the gunsmith late on Saturday. My Remington 742, my first deer rifle, had trouble. The smith had found a dent in the receiver that had also put dent in the chamber. The bolt was sometimes sliding off its rail. It was more than the smith wanted to try and tackle. Remington no longer services the 742. End of the road. It was also 14 years to the day since Jerry had called me from the hospital and told me he had cancer.
The smith indicated that the rifle had been damaged for some time, probably before I bought it. I figured it as much. It came to me with a problem or two back at the dawn of my hunting career. There was now a good reason why the original magazine had been bent out of shape, and had needed replacement.
The previous owner had been a good friend of mine, but he had a dark side. This was not the first rifle with problems that I had seen come through Jerry. Jerry was the kind of guy that could get you to accept the flaws in a rifle, or in himself. Jerry’s been dead now 13 years. Oh well, we all have to go sometime.
Mooseboy had gone with me to the gunsmith to drop off the 742. I had resolved at the end of last year to refit it for him. No matter how I’d persevered through the Spring and Summer to get it set up for him, there had been a growing series of jams and misfires that had thwarted me. It was as though Jerry had been reaching out to me.
“So Jerry, ” It was like I’d said, talking to the air up on my stand in the growing gloom of that last November evening. “I’m thinking of giving the Moose my 742.”
“Don’t do that.” Jerry would have said.
“Nevermind.” he would have said, growing unnecessarily angry from beyond the veil.
“What’s with you?”
“Look, you come to me asking my advice, and I’m telling you– don’t do it!”
“I wasn’t looking for advice. And you haven’t explained why?” I would have asked again.
“Just because I said so.” Jerry would have replied. “I sold that rifle to you– to you. I didn’t mean for you to go giving it to somebody else.”
“Oh.” I would have replied– suspecting something was up. Something was always up with Jerry. Still, to push it any more would have had Jerry questioning my loyalty as a friend, and then I would have had to put up with his sulking. At that point, I would have let it drop.
In some strange way I understand. It was okay for Jerry to pawn a flawed rifle off on me– I was a friend. After the sale, he could shepard the situation for years– suggesting ways to keep the flaw from really showing itself. If I sold it or traded it, or gave it away, he lost control of the situation, and also it put me in a bind with the next guy. Jerry would have thought he was protecting me.
In the end, Jerry got what he wanted. The 742 will go upon the wall, probably up next to the picture of us boar hunting back in 1984. It will look good up with the trophies.