Mine was a childhood filled with western movies, cowboys and Indians, quick draw heroes and villains and images of Richard Widmark galloping across the plains firing his trusty lever-action Winchester 73. At other times it was Randolph Scott facing down a bunch of marauding Comanches, his rifle firing off a blaze of 30-30 bullets. I grew up wishing for one of those battered old lever-action rifles.
Despite the early dreams of cowboys and rifles, unlike many boys growing up in the sportsman’s paradise of south Louisiana, I never did get a rifle. My father had a shotgun that I was allowed to use on hunting trips a few times and my best friend and I sometimes spent an afternoon shooting his two .22 rifles out in the woods, where we figured birds in the tall trees were fair game. From around the time of high school the idea of shooting or wanting to own a gun receded, never to be revived. Until last month.
When I got the idea to move and began looking at a house in the country, in our walk around the property the realtor pointed at some rustling leaves on the ground and hinted that it was the kind of place that might call for having a gun around the house. Later, telling friends about this place I was considering moving to, I got the same suggestion from more than one advising me to at least think about it. The immediate reaction on my part was an “I don’t know about that” kind of hedging, not ready at all to run out to a gun shop. First thought was that there are enough people with guns already, that I don’t feel any threat, and for the time being see no need for adding my name to the gun register.
Still, the idea had been planted and I found myself thinking more about whether it would be a good idea to buy a gun. And for that matter, what kind of gun? Turning it over in my thoughts for several days, somewhere from out of the past rose up those old childhood images of cowboys and their lever-action rifles knocking hostiles off the ridge and rattlesnakes off the doorstep. A little bit of research told me that the same style of lever-action rifle was available in a smaller caliber and I began to think that a .22 might be just the thing to fit my still undefined needs out there in the ‘wilderness’ of south Oak Hill. So, I typed ‘lever-action .22’ into the Google search box and came up with 1,260,000 hits. At the top of the list was: ‘the Henry lever-action, a classic western-style rifle and one of the most popular .22s on the market today.’ I looked at the picture for no more than half a minute and my interest in owning a gun flared. Suddenly I saw myself decked out in raunchy cowboy regalia, a rumpled black Stetson shading my eyes as I sat atop a roan mare squinting into the sun and levering a cartridge into my rifle.
A week later, now $392 poorer, I am the owner of a Henry Lever-Action .22LR rifle. What exactly I’m going to shoot at with this handsome piece of American workmanship I’m not sure, but I’ve already spent too much time striking dangerous gun-wielding poses in my bedroom mirror, closer than ever to feeling like Richard Widmark or Randolph Scott. “Take that you red-skinned varmint!” BAM!
A little unsure just where this .22 rifle is going to fit into my soon-to-be country lifestyle, I must admit to a little bit of excitement in having a rifle that fulfills at least a tiny portion of those long ago childhood dreams of fighting off outlaws and protecting the homestead from rattlers and rapists.