My Grandpa wasn’t a complicated or frivolous man. He was the oldest of four brothers who grew up on a farm on the Rock Prairie in southern Wisconsin. He went off to World War II, came back, married my grandma, and settled down on his 80 acres of farmland.
When I was young, I’d walk the quarter mile from my house to his. Grandpa would be standing outside the house, ready to hunt woodchucks. He hated woodchucks in his yard, especially when they started tunneling under the barn or the machine shed. I remember one summer afternoon in particular; Grandpa and I sat in the barn, looking out a window, waiting for the latest pesky woodchuck to pop out of his burrow. Grandpa had his old, single shot 410 shotgun with him. The gun was nothing special, and after so many years on the farm, it looked a bit weathered. But, regardless of age, it still did the trick — by that evening, Grandpa had one less woodchuck in his yard.
When I was a bit older, about twelve years old, Grandpa invited me to go goose hunting with him and his buddies. It wasn’t hard to find any geese, since the freshly picked cornfield created an ample food supply for the birds. I distinctly remember my grandpa teasing his friends about their new shot guns, fancy waders, and the latest camouflage jackets, and how that gear wouldn’t improve their ability to hunt geese. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Grandpa, carrying his weathered, pump-action 12 gauge shotgun, his pants tucked into his work boots, wearing an old flannel jacket. That’s about as fancy as he’d get. At the end of the day, Grandpa arrived home with a goose in each hand, which made Grandma happy; they’d be having fresh goose for dinner that night.
After Grandpa died, Grandma gave me a lot of his hunting gear. I still have the single shot 410 shotgun and the old pump-action 12 gauge. The single shot 410 is the only gun I take when I go rabbit hunting; I figure if I’m not good enough to kill a rabbit with one shot then they don’t deserve to die. When I go goose hunting, and I see my buddies using new semi-auto shotguns, decked out in the latest apparel, I laugh a little inside since I’m using my grandpa’s pump-action shotgun and an old barn coat. And, like Grandpa, I always come back home with geese in hand, too.
-As told to Gerber by Pete, Wisconsin