Heirlooms

During my pre-teen years, my father taught me to hunt in the palmetto bush laden woods of north Florida. Our primary prey were the abundant grey squirrels that inhabited large acreages of woodlands where my father’s employer, Hudson Pulp and Paper, grew pine trees for use in the company’s paper manufacturing process.
My father hunted with a .22 caliber automatic rifle he had purchased shortly after he returned from the Asiatic-Pacific theater where he served during World War II on LST 619. LST is short for Landing Ship, Tank, which supported amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and troops directly onto shore, enabling amphibious assaults on almost any beach.
As a Machinist Mate First Class, my father spent most of his time below deck in the ship’s machine shop, learning skills he would use in his life’s work. While he saw no live action, he told me once he could hear guns firing and bombs exploding from deep inside the belly of the ship.
For Christmas one year, he bought me a bolt action, single shot .22 of my own, taught me to shoot while emphasizing that the proper way to shoot a squirrel was in the head so as not to destroy any of the tasty meat on the rodent’s body. I can remember to this day the first squirrel I ever shot, and the pride I felt when my father responded proudly with, “Good shot!”
When my father died, I inherited his Remington .22 rifle and a 12 gauge pump action Sears and Roebuck shotgun, which he used on his turkey hunting excursions into the same Florida squirrel-hunting woods. Like his .22, he had purchased the shotgun when returning from the war. Later, after moving to Georgia, he and I took turns using the shotgun on east Georgia dove shoots.
I still have those firearms. Several years ago, I had the .22 re-blued and finished and, today, it looks like a brand new rifle. Last year, I had the 12 gauge refinished, too.
I don’t hunt with them now, and never will. To me, they’re 75-year-old family heirlooms and need to be preserved in their new, pristine-looking condition.
One day, Dad’s grandson will own the firearms to be passed on later to one of Dad’s great-grandsons.
I have no idea what became of my little single shot .22. I wish I still had it. If I had it, it, too, would command a place of honor along side the .22 automatic and the 12 gauge pump.

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