A Woodsman and Water Rattlers
Duffy was one such family member. He was a craggly faced old man with bright blue eyes peering from underneath his weathered ball cap. I had been working to heal a decubitus on his wife's hip for over a year. Duffy lavished the most gentle care on his wife as he learned to change her dressings. Finally, a year later, I could pronounce the ulcer closed with nothing but skin across the top. Duffy still had his hands full with her Alzhiemer's disease, but at least he no longer had to worry about that wound. As we talked about her continued care, and the strain Duff was under, he turned the conversation to shooting. Then he said "I've got something for you." Duffy went rummaging across a closet shelf, and withdrew a Colt Woodsman. He locked the bolt back with expert skill and handed me the weapon grip first.
The pistol was hardly original. The upper rounds had been blasted, and the pistol had been reblued at least once. The barrel was a Colt replacement barrel. Someone had drilled and tapped a hole behind the trigger to accept a set screw, which served as a trigger stop. The grips were some swirled plastic panels. The pistol had been stored in a floral carved holster.
Duffy went on to tell me how he had literally shot the previous barrel out of this pistol. He had replaced the springs at least twice. He told me it was his wager gun, that he would bet his friends that he could hit something far away, and then bring home gambling money as well as a rabbit or squirrel. The old man had purchased this Woodsman new "right before the war" and had used it to put food on the table and money in the bank. He chuckled and said he would have used it on "them damned Japs" too, if he had the chance.
I asked Duff when the last time he shot the pistol was. He said he did not know, it had been a while. His eyes lit up and twinkled when I told him I had some .22 ammo in the car. We did not have any suitable targets so Duff rounded up a few shell casings and instructed me to line them up on an old Farm-All tractor rusting in the Louisiana sun behind his house. After I walked back to Duff, he loaded five rounds in the magazine. He stated "I don't reckon I'll need no more'n this." Duff fired the little Woodsman five times, sending the shell casings flying. I spent almost a half hour looking for the punctured brass among the weeds.
When I had our improvised targets collected, I went back to where Duff was snoozing in a lawn chair, the pistol in his lap. When he woke, he smiled and handed me the Woodsman. I hesitated and the old man said "Go on boy, it's yours now. My son doesn't want it, and I don't need it anymore. It's not a gift to a nurse. It's a gift to a friend." I could not refuse a gift such as this. To do so would be an insult.
I do not know which I will cherish most, the brass Duff shot that day, or the pistol he gave me. On my way back into town, I stopped by the drug store and paid off the balance Duffy owed on his bill. I hope he never finds out who did that.