In the late 1930s, this .22-cal. Winchester Model 62A rifle was owned by my paternal grandfather, Richard Shoemake. During the Great Depression, he was hired as a master pumper for the Sun Oil Co. His job was to manage 14 active oil wells on the Cuellor Oil Lease, near the town of Freer in South Texas. At the time, getting the job was a miracle and a story in itself. He and my grandmother would raise five sons on the lease, living in a small company-owned house set on blocks, with screen doors and a tin roof.
From ages 4 to 6, I lived with my grandparents. The land was flat and full of prickly pear cactus and mesquite—harsh by most standards, however, I was too young to know the difference. Every day was an adventure for me. In addition to the horses, cattle and working cowboys on the neighboring ranches, there were deer, javelina, cougars, bobcats, rabbits, dove and quail. It was the land my grandfather actually lived off of—the oil for salary and the game for food. By the age of 5, I was introduced to this .22-cal. pump—that was 65 years ago.
The Model 62A is still in perfect condition. I had the firing pin reset, though it lacks a nut on the pump handle. I take it out of the closet every now and then and set it across my lap. I then pick it up and aim it at the ceiling. Since I know it’s empty and not on safe, I click the hammer back to safe, then wait a second and thumb the hammer on back to the second click. Those two clicks are music to my ears. I’ll do this over and over, until I feel the past come all the way forward. Such is the meaning of a favorite firearm.