His name was Ed. He was my grandfather’s best friend. Growing up, my sister and I spent most days at my grandparent’s house while my parents worked. Ed, a widower, was also a fixture at their house. Several days a week, Ed would stop in to shoot the breeze with my grandfather. Often they’d talk about fishing or hunting, and make plans for trips. Friends for years, the two of them were all-around best pals. Whether they were deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic, catching halibut or salmon up in Alaska, or trekking up to Maine for their annual and much-anticipated whitetail hunt, these avid outdoorsmen loved going on adventures together, much like the characters in Grumpy Old Men.
As a girl in suburban New York during the 1970s, participating in their adventures wasn’t an option. Although my grandfather was a diehard sportsman and had a wonderful assortment of shotguns and rifles, I wasn’t allowed near them. They were proudly hung on racks in the dining room, but my sister and I knew they were for eyes only, and putting your hand anywhere in their vicinity would result in a scolding.
Girls didn’t touch guns…and they certainly didn’t shoot them.
Shortly after graduating high school, I dated a guy from “upstate.” He lived on a farm and grew up hunting to provide for the family. I was home with his mother one day when she shouted that there was a big buck in the field across the street. She grabbed one of their many hunting rifles and said I was to come with her so we could try to harvest that deer. Not wanting to look like a prima donna, I complied and ran out of the house after her. After a short stalk with no good shot to take, the deer darted over a stonewall fence and was gone. As we hiked back to the house, I knew she was disappointed. Secretly I was thrilled, because I hadn’t signed up for chasing deer that day, but in all reality, I had just gone hunting.
I jokingly told my grandfather about my big hunting adventure. We both laughed. A few weeks later, he phoned and asked me to stop by because Ed wanted to see me.
When I walked in, there he sat, in my grandfather’s recliner. “Heard you went hunting a few weeks ago!” he said and laughed. Then he stood up from the chair, reached behind it and pulled out a rifle. He handed it to me. “I want you to have this, so you’ll have something good to hunt with,” he said. He also gave me a box of ammo and an envelope. Inside the envelope was my new NRA membership card—Ed had gone and signed me up.
I looked at the rifle. It was a beautiful lever-action hunting rifle—a Savage 99E, chambered in .250/3000. Ed showed me how to work the action, load it, and clean it. Just like that, I became a gun owner.
Life went on, and while I’d often check the rifle and wipe it down, I never shot it. My (now) husband did think it was kind of cool that he was dating a chick who owned a hunting rifle and was a member of the NRA. (I guess it made me look a little badass!)
For almost 22 years my rifle was safely stored in my home. Then, by chance, everything changed and I got into shooting. I had asked a friend’s dad, a gunsmith, if he’d take a look at my Savage. I’d always wanted to shoot it, but wanted to be sure it was safe since I knew absolutely nothing about guns. Not only did he give the rifle a once-over and test fire it for me, he invited my family upstate to his hunting cabin where he taught us firearm safety and how to shoot. I finally got to shoot my first gun—22 years after receiving it. We were hooked, including my daughters who were 10 and 12 at the time.
While I now own several pistols, rifles, and a 12-gauge shotgun, my Savage 99E will always be my sentimental favorite. It’s almost as if Ed saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself. Some say he gave it to me as a joke; but I don’t think so. I think he was a man ahead of his time, one who knew the importance of self-reliance and self-protection. Receiving that rifle set me on the path that I’m on now—even if it did take me 22 years to see that.
Looking back, I wish times had been different when I was growing up. I wish it had been acceptable for my grandfather or Ed to teach me to hunt. But it wasn’t. By the time I was 18, and times were changing, these two great outdoorsmen were slowing down. Despite this I followed my heart and learned to shoot on my own because I wanted to. My husband and I also instilled this mentality to our daughters, who know they can do anything, because they are strong, independent women.
I’ll always treasure that beautiful Savage 99E that Ed entrusted me with. When the time is right, I’ll re-gift it to one of my daughters. Ed would have thought it was the right thing to do. I know that both my grandfather and Ed are proud of me, and they’re right there with me on the range. I just wish one would give me a little divine intervention when I’m shooting clays…clearly they’re laughing their butts off up in Heaven, watching me do that. Those two always did have a great sense of humor, which is probably how I ended up with that shotgun anyway!