It was an old 30 06. The only known written record relating to its existence was stamped on it. A double circle with one wing attached, found twice on the barrel and once on the bolt. A star within a circle, and a 26 over an ?A? could also be found on the barrel. And the last clue to its identity was the number 3106, stamped just forward of the breach. It had an extra four inches of barrel length, a barrel nearly silver, its bluing all but gone. And on the barrel was mounted an aged Buhler scope. Alone, the markings and the rifle were not much of a story. In the hands of the men who used it, a story of war and sadness, of freedom, of peace and friendship.
The rifle came out of the packing crate immersed in grease. The private into whose hands it fell was young a private who put aside his hopes and dreams because he was a believer a believer in his country and in freedom. He had volunteered because he thought he must, that it was the right thing to do. He wanted very much for his children and grand children to enjoy this country as he did to be free. He didn't need to refer to the manual that came with the rifle to get it clean. He'd been watching or doing this from the time he could sit on his father?s knee.
The private set to with the cleaning patches and solvent, and well before most of his troop mates were finished, he had the rifle cleared of grease and ready. Once on the firing line, and under the watchful eye of the sergeant, the private proved his innate capability with bulls-eyes. By the time he found himself in the mud, within sight of Vimy, he was a specialist corporal, and the rifle had a scope.
The rifle, kept dry and clean and oiled by the corporal, became muddy for the first time when it fell from his lifeless fingers. It lay there for a time, and was picked up, cleaned, used, and dropped, by a succession of brave young men. Until the day it crossed the ocean once more, it's job done. Once again it was immersed in grease and placed in a packing crate.
Years later it was unpacked and cleaned once more. It travelled by truck for a while and was then carried into a building where it was placed upon a table, a price tag tied to its trigger guard. A man and his 13-year-old son happened to be at the trade fair that day and as they walked by the table where the rifle was lying, the son?s eyes lit up. He made it known to his father that this was the rifle he wanted. It even had a scope.
It was hard on the father, keeping the secret. Just seeing the disappointment in the eyes when they left that table without the rifle nearly made him confess. His boy had learned the necessary lessons well safety and responsibility. The father knew his time with the boy went far beyond what some call hunting. It was a time to teach on all life?s subjects and gauge the depths within his pupil a time of friendship and sharing. Times that would help both of them prepare for that day when they would have to let go; for that day when the boy would learn that his father was just a man.
It wasn?t until his 14th birthday that the boy learned his father had purchased that rifle for him.
The rifle followed the boy through the years the boy who became a police officer. The rifle went through years of quiet walks with the boy and his father, the boy and his son, and then with just the son.
If the rifle could think, if it had a conscience that could register and contemplate upon the way that it had spent its life, its conscience would be clear. As would the conscience of all the other rifles it had known. For any fault or blame did not rest with them, the rifles. Fault and blame lay at the feet of those who wrongly used them. Punish them.
L.T. Robley is a member of the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers Association in Provost, AB.