Each Christmas season, a made-for-TV movie entitled “A Christmas Story” is aired many times. It’s a neat movie about a little kid who wants only one thing, a BB gun, for Christmas. The movie has special appeal for me, as I have a similar story of my own. Here, back by popular demand, is The Mauser Story.
It was the Christmas season of 1960. John Kennedy had just been elected President. The country stood poised on the edge of the New Frontier. Camelot had arrived.
For me, however, there was one issue that stood head and shoulders above everything else that was going on in the world. I was twelve years old, and had just finished my first-ever deer season. I had been forced to use my 20 gauge shotgun, loaded with rifled slugs, or “punkin’ balls,” as we called them back then. Given the limitations of the slugs, the crude sights on the shotgun and my inexperience, I knew that my chances of bagging a deer were slim to none. I needed a rifle. It was the only thing I asked for that Christmas.
Times were hard for my family back then. My father was working construction, business was slow, and the holiday season found him in the unemployment line. When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I didn’t really expect to get a rifle, but figured it would be a clothes Christmas.
Unbeknownst to me, huge quantities of military surplus Model 1891 Argentine Mausers had been imported into the country, and were being sold at bargain prices. My parents purchased one at Montgomery Ward in Kittanning. Each day, while I was at school, they worked on it. My dad took the gun apart and cleaned out all the packing grease and other crud, while my mother sanded the stock. They then put a new finish on the wood, and my dad reassembled the gun.
When I came downstairs on Christmas morning, there, among the clothes, it was. A rifle! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instantly my young mind filled with fantasies of the game I would bag and the adventures I would have. I was so excited that, before the day was over, I removed the metal butt plate, carved my initials in the stock and replaced the butt plate.
When the next hunting season rolled around, however, some of the rifle’s shortcomings became apparent. For one thing, since it was in full military wood, it was heavy. The bolt handle was straight, and the cock-on closing feature made it a bit tough for a 13-year-old to operate and military surplus ammo was less than reliable.
Nevertheless, I hunted with the old warhorse for the next three seasons. When I turned sixteen, I got a job trimming Christmas trees, and bought a new 30.06. Eventually, I sold the old Mauser for next to nothing when I was in college.
As the years went by, I began to regret the sale. My mother had passed away, and my dad was getting older, yet I no longer had the only centerfire rifle they had ever bought for me. Of course, I entertained little hope of getting it back.
Then, one day, a buddy told me that he had gotten a 7.65 Argentine Mauser in a trade, and he wondered if I would be interested in it. I went to his house to have a look. On this gun, the military stock had been cut down, and someone had made a crude attempt at bending the bolt. Nevertheless, I bought it on the spot.
On the way home, an idea literally burst into my head. What if...? Could it possibly be my old Mauser? When I got home, I grabbed a screwdriver. I began to remove the buttplate, then hesitated, fearful of the disappointment I felt certain would follow. At last, with my hands a little shaky I removed the plate. There they were, my initials, carved there by an excited twelve-year-old all those years ago.
My parents are long gone, but that gun still reminds me of that magical Christmas so long ago.