When I was a boy of about ten I was supposed to be working at cleaning out the pigpen. It was a warm day and my mind wandered as I caught sight of my old cap gun in the separator room. Suddenly I was no longer in my barn but on a dusty street in the old West.
I was Deputy Bury, protecting the town while the Sheriff was out chasing down a dastardly desperado. A nasty hombre came sauntering out of the saloon. “Get ready to meet your Maker, Deputy!” he yelled. With twenty steps between us there was a roar, and the stranger lay still in the street.
I came out of my dream world and back into the real one. My eyes fastened onto that cap gun and the wheels started turning.
I bet I could turn that into a real gun, I thought.
I picked it up and examined it thoroughly. First, I needed to put a steel barrel on it. It was tricky finding something the right size. Finally I came up with a piece of tubing that was a whisker too big, but it would have to do. I drilled out the rivet that held the barrel of the gun together and replaced it with a hose clamp. I soldered it in good and went on to my next problem.
A cap gun is centrefire while a .22 shell is a rimfire, so I had to adjust the cap gun to rimfire. To do this, I drilled a hole a little off-center in the hammer and threaded in a small screw. Then I cut the head of the screw until it had a sharp point to hit the rim of the
shell to set it off.
Now I was ready to test my homemade gun. I figured it should work but to be on the safe side, once I had inserted a .22 bullet, I fastened the gun to a post and attached a long string to the trigger. But when I pulled it, nothing happened but a click.
The spring in the hammer was not heavy enough. What to do?
I got the idea to use one of Mom’s canning rubber rings. That would stretch and give it some sprong. I hooked the rubber to the front sight of my gun and the rear of the hammer. Another yank on the string produced results this time . . . a big noise and smoke!
I was real brave now that it hadn’t blown up, so I took the gun from the post and reloaded it. The shell was a little swelled and a little hard to get out. My manufactured barrel was not quite thick enough and a whisker too big.
But it worked.
After shooting into the barn door several times I decided to check for accuracy. The knot in the barn door I was aiming for was safe by about a foot to one side. The last shot smoked and bit my finger a bit. I couldn’t get the shell out of the gun. I decided maybe its shootin’ days were done.
It only dawned on me then that I could be in big trouble for messing around with things and decided to get rid of the evidence. But what to do with it?
There was an old well out behind the barn but it was frozen over. I couldn’t leave it anywhere in the barn for somebody to find. I could see the headlines now, “Howard Savage apprehended for illegal gun-making and discharging a weapon.”
Then I had it. In the pump house there was an old cabinet that was pushed under the bench which was used to store stuff in. This piece of kitchen cabinet was the remains of one of the few things my Dad was able to save from my parents’ house that burned to the ground many years ago.
It was on a windy March day when Dad was coming home from delivering pigs to a stock truck on the highway that he noticed fire coming from his house.
By the time he got the horses into the yard the place was fully engulfed. He ran in and managed to throw out a little dresser and wash stand, my sister Vera’s highchair and this combination kitchen cupboard and whatever was in it. That was it.
This cabinet had a big drawer that had at one time held a whole sack of flour. I hid the gun at the bottom and very back of that drawer. And totally forgot about it.
Until this past summer when my son was putting steel on the old pump house. As he was digging around the bottom, out from the dirt and rotted wood came a strange looking gun with a shell still lodged inside. When Fraser showed this to my brother Harry, he shook his head and said, “I think you need to ask your Dad about this!”
Be sure your sins will find you out. Even if it takes sixty years and another generation to do the finding!