The Rifle

By Mike Bedwell

The first years of my aquaintance with Granny’s little gun was mostly a spectator sport.

Many dusky afternoons I watched covetously as she hauled the Remington rolling block home from the cowpasture. Usually, a pair or cottontails dangled from her other hand.

Because I was undoubtedly her favorite grandson (When the others weren’t around.), sometimes she’d let me swab the .22 caliber bore with an oily rag and return the gun to its place inside a kitchen door facing.

Getting to handle the rifle occasionally appeased me….until the summer of my seventh year. By then my desire to fondle and fire it had matured into pure lust.

Convinced I then stood on the threshold of manhood, I decided it was high time Granny let me have my way. So, I formulated a plan sure to melt her heart and gain me adequate favor to afford me my first unescorted hunt.

In long barefoot strides I covered the half mile of gravel road to C.C.Harber’s General Merchantile Store and dashed inside.

Mr. Harber was immediately suspicious, noticing that I hadn’t made my usual beeline to the soft drink cooler.

"Can I help you?" he asked with a puzzled look.

I kept my distance. Mr. Harber was fond of ruffling little boys’ hair and pinching their bare nipples if they dared enter his store shirtless, as I had done.

"I wanna package of those peppermint sticks my granny likes so well and a box of twennytwo shells," I barked in my best businesslike tone, hoping he’d ask no prying questions.

I was flustered when he asked if I wanted "shorts, longs or long rifles". I didn’t know the difference, so I just replied, "Yessir, that’s fine."

He shrugged his shoulders and put a box of "long" cartridges in the sack with the candy, presumably in an effort to strike a compromise. I signed the charge ticket and made a hasty exit.

The chalky pastel candy was all but granulated and the rimfire ammo was gritty from being dropped in the road by the time I reached Granny’s yard again. She was in the watermelon patch hoeing goatheads.

She smiled briefly when I handed her the cellophaned candy then leaned closer, looking me squarely in the eye.

"What’s in that other paw?" she asked, nodding at the hand which held the cartridges, tucked behind my back.

I showed her and my unspoken intentions seemed to echo.

"I see," she said, straightening herself and looking thoughtfully around the melon patch. Then, without a word, she scratched a line around about a dozen square feet of the hard-baked ground. Inside the boundaries were several hundred unwanted weeds.

She unceremoniously handed me the dread scepter of her parched kingdom and said, " If you really want to shoot my little rifle, you’ll have to earn it,"

I hoed.

And hoed.

And, I hoed some more.

At first I hoed with impatient fervor, then with unrestrained contempt, followed by resolute determination. Finally, with earnest, repentant calculation, I managed to banish every evil moisture-sucking weed from my assigned space.

Granny rolled a huge chunk of candy to one side of her toothless mouth and said, "Watch fer snakes!" as I carried the Remington out her back door and into the pasture.

As fate would have it, no renegade savages lurked behind the cattle pens, waiting to be slain. Someone had covered up the trash heap in the gully and not even a Pet milk can remained to be perforated. The resident rabbits and other varmints were evidently hiding from the scorching sun.

A lone prickly pear cactus was my victim. I left the pasture while it yet oozed green blood and wearily returned Granny’s rifle before I headed home.

I would never have guessed that, all these years later, it would look much the same as it did back then. I take it out and wipe it down every now and then.

Someday it will be passed along to my grandkids.

But, as far as I am concerned, it will always be Granny’s little rifle.

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