My Aunt (Grandmother's sister) had a pump action 22 that sat ready behind the kitchen door of their old farm house. The old Winchester's primary duty was pest control in her garden. There is also no doubt that a most of, if not all of the wild and domestic meat that we ate there was produced using that rifle.
For decades her children, dozens of grandchildren, multitudes of great grandchildren plus a bunch of neighborhood kids, nephews and nieces put the rifle to use... No telling how many rounds we all put through it. There was always plenty of enthusiastic volunteers to use it and shooting was always the highlight of my visits. It was the first firearm many of us fired. Nearly everyone has a story or two about some amazing feat they managed with it. Many happy memories using the rifle connect us across several generations.
It was a symbol too. Getting permision to roam the farm with the rifle meant you had demonstrated a level of maturity and could be trusted to act responsibly - an affirmation of being one of the "big kids."
Now almost a half century later I am reminded of that rifle when I walk my own property with my 22. Though mine is a levergun and Marlin, my hair is now gray and the eyes are challenged by the front sight the grin on my face feels the same. The same sense of empowerment, freedom, responsibility and of course the fun, all come flooding back.
She died in the late 1980's, the rifle remains behind the door of what is now her son's home to what has become a family tradition. More generations have added fingerprints and dents to the stock and I hope many more will too.
"Men trained in arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy conquest." -- From the Declaration of the Continental Congress, July 1775.