Larry Dablemont column
About 100 years ago the Stevens Arms Company made four little single-shot .22 caliber rifles, which were fairly similar in design. Named the Crack Shot, Little Scout, Favorite and Marksman, they were sold through mail order catalogs until after World War II. The first two sold for about 5 dollars in the 1927 Trapper’s Supply Catalog I have, and the latter two sold for about 7 dollars.
I wish I had them all, but a few years back I found an old Marksman rifle for sale and bought it, and have had it on my wall to remind me of the time when most all boys hunted squirrels from the time they were 10 or 11 years old, and the best Christmas present they could get was just such a short barreled, lightweight rifle. And in that time, a few dollars was a lot of money. The Marksman weighs 6 pounds, and overall it is 34 inches long with a 20-inch barrel.
There’s not much to it, and I figured if my little 5-year-old grandson, Alex, could shoot anything, it would be that little Stevens rifle. After all the stock-to-trigger length is only about 13 inches. Alex has only been five for about four months, and he is a little guy. Someday he will be a hunter, my little sidekick in pursuit of squirrels and rabbits and wild turkey. Shucks, according to the rules, he will be eligible for the ‘youth deer season’ next year at this time! I don’t want to get started on that... but it is my opinion that any little boy who starts hunting deer and turkey at six has likely got a daddy or grandpa who is doing a great deal of helping... like pulling the trigger and holding the gun!
As it should be with all boys, Alex will hunt first with a .22, then graduate to a light 20-gauge shotgun when he is 11 or 12, and he will have bagged a lot of squirrels and rabbits before he graduates to turkey and deer. First, we have to introduce Alex to a .22 that he can hold, and the little Marksman seemed to be the one.
So Alex and I go out behind the porch and put up a target and I show him how to load it and hold it, and the first thing he does is put both hands over his ears, while grandpa prepared to put a .22 caliber slug into the bulls-eye to show him how it is done. I had fired the little rifle a couple of times before, but that time, it would not fire, and I was a little puzzled because it appeared the firing pin was hitting the shell casing very well. I am standing there looking at the shell, and the firing pin, and Alex senses I am puzzled so he offers his advice.
“Gwampa,” he says, peering out from beneath a shock of unruly red hair, “maybe it’s da batterwies.”
We live in a different time. When I was Alex’s age, the only battery I knew anything about was the big one that ran the trolling motor! All of our hunting and fishing lights ran on carbide. Now don’t get to thinking I am that old, it’s just that my grandpa was way behind the times. Come to think of it, so is Alex’s grandpa. But Alex and I are going to have a good time over the next fifteen years or so, until he gets old enough to start thinking about girls! At least I hope it is that long. I was every bit that old before I agreed to take a girl fishing with me! I am tempted to say I wish I had waited another few years to notice girls, but if I had, then Alex wouldn’t be here!
Old guns fascinate me. I still hunt on occasion with a 70- year-old Model 12 Winchester, and my grandfather’s old double barrel hangs on my wall. I prefer to hunt deer with an old muzzle-loader rifle, partly because most deer hunters have gone back to the city by the time the December muzzle-loader season comes around. By that time the woods are empty and still again, though most deer are nocturnal by then, terrorized by the army of ATVer’s that has come and gone in November. If there was enough space here, I would tell you something about what my favorite shotguns are, and how one of them made me a big-time violator a few years back. I will have to tell that story in a week or so. I will also discuss the restrictions on the size of deer antlers in an upcoming column, citing some studies done on that subject. If you can’t wait, you should see the photos of what happens to a buck’s antlers as he ages. That photo and the study I am talking about can be seen in the November and December issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor magazine which is now out. Despite the fact that we have produced 25 issues of the magazine, many of the readers of this column have never seen it. If you want to see a free sample copy of the magazine, I will send you one. Just send three dollars to cover the postage and handling, to Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65613. This new issue has 72 pages, and some great stories, and a beautiful cover painting of a nice buck. Jim Spencer and Keith Sutton, two of our regular writers, each won first place awards in magazine feature writing, from the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association with stories they wrote for our magazine last year. Both are full time professional outdoor writers, and the deer-hunting story Jim Spencer has in our November-December issue is the best I have read in ages. Spencer is the best outdoor writer I have ever read, and Sutton isn’t far behind.
The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal is a magazine I started just intending to do a half dozen of them for the fun of it, and it ballooned into something special with ever-increasing subscription numbers. It is a bigger project now than I can handle, and I can’t work on it and write books too. I want to find someone to take it over and continue to produce it, so if there is someone out there who can lay out and produce a magazine, edit manuscripts, work with advertisers and do all kinds of whiz-bang computer work, you should contact me. I need to retire and teach Alex to hunt and fish, and to do so, I need some full time and part time help up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. If I find anyone, I can fire my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, and I have looked forward to that for a long time.
You can see all my outdoor books and the latest issue of the magazine on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. There was a meeting in Mt. Grove last week of landowners wanting to help the folks I wrote about who are about to lose their land to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The MDC was asked to attend, but they wouldn’t come. Since then, a Schell City, Mo. landowner has notified me that the MDC is claiming 30 acres of his land which he has owned and fenced since 1976. I will write more about this when I find out more facts. If you didn’t see the story, read it on that same website.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail letters to Box 22, Bolivar,MO. 65613