Mike and I have been friends since we worked together at Collins Radio in 1973. Over the last fifty years, our contact with each other has ebbed and flowed — first, as I went away to college, then following my return to Garland, as Mike and his family traded their urban home for a place in the country. We still kept in touch and got together on occasion. Then, a few years ago, Mike moved back into town, and for the last couple of years, we’ve been meeting for breakfast every Saturday morning to discuss the important issues that two old guys discuss.
But I what I really want to talk about is Mike’s shotgun. When Mike was much, much younger, his father owned a Mossberg Model 500 shotgun in .410 bore. Anyone who knows much about shotguns, knows that’s not a common gun. 410 shotguns, being the smallest bore shotguns, are almost always a kid’s first gun because they won’t injure the young shooter’s shoulder when fired. Those guns are commonly either bolt-action or breakdown models which only hold one shell, making them among the safest guns to learn shooting with.
Mike’s dad owned the pump version of that shotgun which rapidly dispensed six shells from its under-barrel magazine. It required some serious attention to always remember if a live shell was in the chamber and to keep one’s finger off the trigger while pumping a new shell into place. That feature differentiated the weapon from simpler, possibly safer models. To say it was a rare gun might be an overstatement but it was surely not a common gun.
Mike is even older and crustier than I am so it should come as no surprise that his father passed away several years back. As often happens when a parent passes, stuff disappears. Whether it was one of Mike’s crafty brothers who spirited the gun away and kept his mouth shut for all these years, or Mike’s dad sold the gun prior to his death, or some left-wing gun hater absconded with the “devil’s tool” — that shotgun never made it into Mike’s hands, a fact he’s regretted.
Over the past year or so, Mike has talked about looking at gun shows and scouring websites for that same shotgun. For some reason that only us old people would understand, he got it in his head that he’d like to own the same gun his father enjoyed. Mike’s wife, Charlotte, apparently took his search to heart and contacted an old friend in East Texas who collects guns. (Leave it to a woman to take the easy way around.) Upon discovering that Mike’s old friend actually owned a Mossberg Model 500 in .410 bore, she brazenly talked him into selling it to her and presented the gun to Mike for Christmas.
Note: Before y’all start lusting over Mike’s wife because she would actually hunt down and purchase a gun for her husband, please refer to last week’s article about old bulls and their protective attitude towards the females in their families.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, Mike finally got the time to go out to the country and practice the skills Uncle Sam instilled in him back during the Vietnam War. He mercilessly stalked, shot, maimed, and even killed a number of enemy coke bottles and soup cans. The only problem was that his excellent new possession showed some of its age by jamming and/or failing to fire at inopportune times (I hate it when that happens!). Luckily, none of the coke bottles were returning fire and none of the wounded soup cans mounted a counterattack.
Mike did the only thing he could. He took the shotgun to a local gunsmith and said, “Whatever it costs, I want it working like new.” (Foolish but understandable instructions) After paying off the gunsmith’s kids’ and grandkids’ college loans, Mike got his gun back. Turns out it had some rust in the chamber and barrel along with at least one badly worn internal part.
So, now you’re scratching your cranium and asking yourself, “What the heck does some old guy’s antique shotgun have to do with me?”
We live in a world where moth and rust destroy everything – even an valuable shotgun owned and maintained by a collector. That principle also pertains to relationships. If they don’t get oiled with laughter and concern on a regular basis, they tend to get rusty. They might even end up like an old firearm, forgotten in the back of a closet until they rust to the point of irreparable damage.
On the other hand, good relationships, even long-distance ones, continue to thrive — right up to the point where an old friend is willing to relinquish a cherished possession because he/she knows you will get more pleasure out of owning it than they do. Good relationships even result in wives going the extra mile to make sure their grumpy old bull is happy, even if that means buying him something they wouldn’t care to own themselves.
Bottom line…who you gonna call? Maybe an old acquaintance who’s baggage you just got tired of dealing with? Maybe a relationship that’s languished in the back of your closet for years, making that initial call more difficult with each passing day or week? Blow off the dust. Pick up the oil can of humor and concern — and dial the damn phone! Notice that I didn’t say, “email them.” Email is for business. Voices are for relationships. Go for it. And happy hunting!
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
― Maya Angelou
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Never Go Back
— Dr. Henry Cloud
This new book from Dr. Henry Cloud is been a great read. He provides a telling description of how we tend to make excuses for what went wrong in our lives (like failing to heed Guy Lawson’s book recommendations) and assume that trying it again will yield different results. You know where that’s going. Cloud also provides some excellent methods for recognizing our potential mistakes and preventing them from recurring.
A meeting of great minds who think alike