My Father’s Rifles
The first thing I remember when I pick up my old rifle was its kick.
And then I remember its smell, a mixture of my father’s gun oil and the gun powder used in the bullets and the old leather from the sling. Even though there shouldn’t be a distinction, there is. My gun smells different than other rifles.
Even though I’m in front of my computer now, my right shoulder feels the ghost of its butt and I can still smell it.
When I picked up my father’s rifles I could tell they hadn’t been shot, not in at least 5 years. Once he got sick, he must’ve just stopped shooting right then and there. Not on purpose, of course, but he stopped to get better, but the healing was slow and as weeks rolled out into months, he’d forgotten about that aspect of his life. Something else became his life: staying alive. It was something he needed to do.
So this weekend I took some of them to a gun shop to make sure they were safe to shoot. I thought maybe if I could shoot his rifles, I’d get a little piece of him back. If I could fire my gun again, it’d echo just like it used to all over the mountains of Utah and Idaho and it’d be like I was shouting out to dad again. I’d put his memory back into his rifles.
The inside of the barrel of my .243 Winchester was all rusted out. The guy said it would literally blow up if I fired it.
Figuratively, it did.
When I stopped writing, I stopped so I could focus on falling in love, on learning who I was in a relationship, on solidifying my marriage. And it was something I needed to do. Some things become more important in our lives.
And now that I’m returning to the page, I find I too am rusty and the writer I used to be is not the writer I need to be now.
I must keep my tools clean and well-oiled. I must take better care of them.
As for my rifle, I can sell it for parts and I can’t do that on my own. I also don’t know if I can do that. This rifle has sentimental value.
I think my dad would want me to get rid of it though. I think he would want me to get my own rifle, one that I can shoot.
About Nathan Deeter
Nathan Deeter received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Anchorage in 1999 and has been teaching English Composition at the same university since 2002. He also works as the Training Specialist for the Arc of Anchorage. His favorite poets are Stephen Dunn and Rumi. He travels by the light of those he loves and no light is brighter than the one coming from his wife, April. She makes him write things like that all the time, but he doesn’t mind—it’s in the job description of being a husband. He has a bionic pancreas and a spoiled dog named Daisy.