I grew up with a gun in the house. My father inherited it from his father who inherited it from his father. All three Walker men carried the Winchester 25-20 in scabbards attached to their saddles. This particular lever action rifle was first manufactured in 1892 and could hold six bullets. I inherited the gun from my father. I have never carried it in a scabbard attached to my saddle and I have never fired it. Nevertheless it is among my most treasured possessions along with the memories associated with that gun. The gun was, when not in its scabbard, leaning in a corner of the living room. Out of its scabbard it was never loaded. In fact, I'm not sure I ever knew where my father kept the bullets. I was often given the honor of cleaning the rifle. My brother and I played with it. The rules, however, were strict. Before picking up the rifle we had to first check to make sure it was empty. And then, even confident there were no bullets, we could never point it at any living being. My brother followed that rule even when a stranger wandered up to the door of our screen porch and began asking when our parents would get back home. The man was disheveled and wide eyed and scary. Our doors had no locks and we had only an old rifle with no bullets for protection. Luckily we had been playing with that rifle and it was leaning against the wall near my brother. Just as the stranger reached to open the door my brother stood, picked up the rifle, and pretended to chamber a bullet with the lever. As he did this he quietly said, "Sir, you need to turn around and leave and never come back here." The man looked from my brother to the rifle, turned around and walked back down the road into the desert. My brother followed the rules and never pointed the gun at the man. Besides learning and adhering to strict gun rules, the rifle and my father taught me a deep respect for life. During my childhood wild horses still ran on our ranch. On rare occasions a very old near death horse would find its way to our barn. A practical man, my father chose to euthanize the horse using the by then old 25-20. On one such occasion I asked my father if I could shoot the horse. He said I could but before even lifting the rifle into firing position I must first take a moment to look into the horse's eyes. I did as instructed and in that moment I saw the pain and sorrow of a life lived freely coming to an end. I gave the rifle to my father whose only comment was that taking a life should never be easy.
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