I imagine it was about 50 years ago, that I started thinking and day dreaming about my grandfather’s deer rifle. It always sat in the corner of the old farm house, behind the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room. It stood there with his 16ga shotgun and an old 22 rifle. That old hunting rifle, a Marlin Model 1881, in a now unheard of 40-60 caliber, intrigued me and I always wanted to hear the story about the last time it was fired and how that old rifle took a bear Grandpa shot near Atlanta in 1938. The old bear skin rug lay on the floor in one of the upstairs bedrooms. I guess that Grandma had seen enough of it and decided she wanted her parlor back.
Grandpa, Floyd Perry, was a major part of my life. I was born in 1952 in rural Ingham County, east of Leslie, MI. My mother and father had built a small home on property across the road from my grandparents’ farm in Bunkerhill Township.
From my earliest memories, Grandpa was always there. I spent all the time that my mother would allow, across the road with Grandpa. Even as a child, he seemed weathered and old. I guess that was from being outside in the sun all his life.
Grandpa had an easiness about him. Nothing seemed to ever make him angry or upset.
As a child I remember sitting on the old farm porch with him; he in his high back chair with the radio by his side. He tried never to miss a Detroit Tigers’ ball game. That radio always seemed loud to me, but Grandpa needed the volume high in order to be able to hear the broadcast. Those ball games always seemed to delight him. He had smoked a pipe for as long as I could remember and I can still see that weathered old man, setting in his high back chair, listening intently to the ball game and that pipe hanging out of his mouth.
He was never without a necktie, not even on the hottest days of summer. Grandpa always wore a cap. In the summers he’d wear an engineer’s cap. In the winter, when he was outside, he wore an old cap that had ear flaps.. He would pull them down when it was windy. When he went into the house, he’d put that engineer’s cap back on. Only on rare occasions would you see him without his hat.
Grandpa always had that pipe sticking out of his mouth or sitting beside him. Whether it was burning or not, that pipe was always close at hand. Sometimes he’d light it with a match and not put the match out and put it in his shirt pocket. He’d just put it out in his pocket.
He loved flowers and would plant hundreds of feet of zinnias every year next to the garden. One of my fondest memories of my grandfather was when he was sitting inside the old farmhouse in his old wooden high back, platform rocker. The radio was by his side, his pipe hanging out of his mouth and his old fox terrier, Skippy, was curled up behind his neck. Every night you could count on him in that old chair, with his beloved dog behind his neck.
I had never seen my grandfather cry, although I remember one day that he most likely did. I was some about seven or eight, when Skippy, a fox terrier who was Grandpa’s beloved companion for many years, was near her end. Grandpa asked me if I’d do him a very large favor. He asked me it I would go to the vet with him. I remember him being so sad. Old Skip was in pretty bad shape. She could barely get out of her bed. He was gentle, and explained to me that Skippy needed to be put down. He picked up the box that Skippy was in and placed it in the back of his old Chevy. I remember that it was a pretty quiet ride over to the vet’s.
When we arrived at the vet, Grandpa asked me to carry Skippy inside. He said that he wouldn’t be coming in with me and asked if I could take her in so he could wait in the car. I loved that old dog, certainly not as much as Grandpa, but he had asked me to do him a favor and I couldn’t let him down. When the vet was finished, he covered Skippy up with her blanket and sent me outside. Grandpa never said a word, but he already had the back seat door open on the car. I placed the box on the rear seat, climbed in the front seat and we headed back to the farm.
I must have been thinking about it the whole trip back, and I knew that a grave had to be dug. After the engine of that old Chevy had shut down, I asked grandpa if he needed any help. I remember that weathered old man, in a very calm voice, telling me he would be okay and would take care of everything and that I should go into the house and talk to grandma. He was gone a long time and I knew, even as a young child, that he waited until the tears dried before coming into the house.
That old rifle stayed behind that swinging door until one of the saddest days of my life. Grandpa was gone. After the funeral services Grandma told my dad to gather all the guns up and take them home with him.
It was a very sad time for all of us.
Time goes on and I grew up (found out what girls were) and the weeks turned into years, but memories of my grandfather followed me into adulthood, marriage, work, and a family of my own.
My father’s passing brought Grandpa’s old Marlin into my possession.
I retired from GM in 2005. My wife and I moved north to Hubbard Lake I did most of my deer hunting in Ionia County which was “shotguns only”, so Grandpa’s old Marlin lever action remained back home unused.
After the deer season of ‘07 I gave up my lease on the property in Ionia County. Knowing now that all my deer hunting was going to be in rifle country, I immediately thought of the old Marlin. Once I was sure that I could get ammunition for it, I just had to use that rifle.
So since opening day of the 2008 deer season she’s been in my hands. My goal was to hold out for a shooter buck for as long as possible. I’d seen a number of does, but had decided to let them walk. When I went out on the 25th, the snow covered every branch of every tree. I knew that I had one stand here on our 20 acres that would give me the best views. It was one that I’d already taken a very nice buck out of with my bow.
It was a very quiet evening. There was very little wind when I walked out to the ladder stand. I made sure that the old rifle was secured to a rope that I used to haul it up. Then I attached my harness to my climbing rope and went up 22 feet to my seat. After settling in and double checking my safety harness, I hauled up the old rifle. I loaded the Marlin, levered a shell into the chamber and settled in for the hunt and darkness to arrive.
It was beautiful. I remember looking at the snow on all the trees in awe. I couldn’t imagine anyplace more peaceful. I scanned the areas which I could see and day dreamed about a monster buck walking through an opening. As I sat there, I got to thinking about that old rifle and my desire to take a deer with it. I made the decision that if a good doe came through and didn’t have fawns following her, that I’d attempt to take her. Somehow or somewhere, something seemed to be telling me that the old rifle needed to be fired. I’d made my decision.
After sitting in the stand for probably an hour, I saw a large doe that appeared to be heading for one of my openings. I readied the old rifle and steadied myself on the shooting rail. Then I saw the three fawns that were tagging along behind her.
Another doe appeared with two more does and no fawns following. I readied that old Marlin again. She was across the shooting rail and I was rock steady, waiting for the doe to walk into the opening. Seeing her approach through the snow covered trees, I gently pulled back the hammer of Grandpa’s rifle.
The scene, the setting, the very aura of it all was picture perfect. The deer stepped into the opening and stopped. The open sights of the rifle were tight behind her front shoulder and I squeezed the trigger. What followed took place in some sort of surreal slow motion as in a movie or video. I saw the impact of the bullet and the deer made one jump and was gone from sight. There were still deer coming as I levered another cartridge into that old rifle. I was hoping that there may have been a buck following.
I sat there in that stand intently looking for a buck for about fifteen minutes, but none showed. My thoughts reverted back to my Grandpa’s old rifle and the deer that I had just taken with it.
I had done it!
After seventy years to the month, that old rifle had again fired at game. I was so happy to have succeeded in bringing that old rifle full circle again. I remember looking down at that old Marlin in my hands, looking over the steel of the receiver and thinking about Grandpa. While I was starring at that rifle, the tears started to flow. I felt honored, proud and somewhat humbled.
I gathered myself and prepared to safely get down out of the stand and walk to where the deer had been standing. At the spot where she stood , I immediately found hair and blood and followed the trail a short thirty-five yards to where the deer lay. Fifty years later Grandpa’s old Marlin had scored again.