|Firearms - Muzzleloader|
The high mountain range of the Bitter Root, a majestic eagle circling over head, a steady Strawberry Roan strapped under you, the trail in front of you is never ending and you know there is no one on your back trail. Sounds like the making of a great Western straight from the desk of Louis L'amour or Ralph Compton. I have to admit I hated reading until my Father begged me to read a western years ago. He told me I would enjoy the book because it was all short stories by Louis L'amour. Needless to say it worked and now I get so into the stories that I get saddle sore, see the muzzle blast and can smell the gunpowder burning.
Jim, my husband, had been on me for years to muzzleloader hunt with him. Now don't get me wrong, I'm the first in line for a bow or rifle hunt. Everyone tells me that I must be half squirrel because I can stay perched up a tree for days and never come down just to be able to hunt. But there was just something about muzzleloading that just did not appeal to me.
Let me see... pour it, powder it, poke it, pack it and pray it don't rain. Oh yeah, only one shot. Hope the first shot is on the money or you will make that bruiser of a bruin furious and you will be the bait. Don't get me wrong I think muzzleloading is a great way to hunt and it does extend your hunting season a week. Jim kept saying, "Just think, you won't have to sit home that week, you'll be able to hunt all season." Well, he did have a point; I do hate missing a week of hunting because I don't carry a smoke pole on our outdoor hunting adventures.
Needless to say he is very persistent and crafty. The next time he saw me riding the rim rock in one of my westerns, he asked me what was happening in the story. At the time one of the Mountain Men in the book was staring down the barrel of his 50 caliber Hawken and he could feel someone stalking him on his back-trail. I informed him I would let him know what happened. "Just think what all those Mountain Men accomplished with that old muzzleloader," Jim replied. I just laughed. " Tell you what, I'll go muzzleloading with you if I can hunt with a 50 caliber Hawken, but it has to have an octagon barrel and brass works; a Hawken that Jim Bridger would be proud of carrying."
We all know that every Mountain Man worthy of riding the river with had a Hawken and I know that they are nearly impossible to find as Peco's Pete getting a shot at the Mountain Man that I was intently helping to watch his back trail in my book. I had told Jim time and time again that my Indian heritage caused me to want a bow in my hand when I went hunting. My Grandmother's grandfather was full-blooded Indian and we have all searched to find out what tribe he was from but we have had no luck. All we can find out is that he was from a French Canadian tribe. Grandma refused to talk to any of us about her heritage because she was ashamed of it. I, on the other hand, am very proud of it and it explains why I think and feel the way I do about the outdoors and hunting.
A few months later on one of our daily lunchtime phone calls Jim said, " I have you a goodie." He says this quiet often. He is always up to something. I really didn't think anything of it until he got home. "Oh Lynne, I have a surprise for you," he said with that all too familiar grin on his face. " Now close your eyes and hold out your hands." Of course I played along. This is one of the things I really love about Jim; he is very creative when it comes to gift giving." Now slowly open you eyes and tell me what you see." It was a soft cloth gun case, nothing out of the ordinary. "Now, open it slowly," he said. So I untied the end and reached in with anticipation. The butt of the stock was cold but the wood was smooth as I pulled it cautiously out of the case. I looked at Jim and he just smiled. "Pull it out real slow, I think you'll like it."
As I started seeing what was in the case I'm not sure which was larger, my eyes or my mouth. There it was "THE HAWKEN" 50 caliber, antique brass works, octagon barrel, brass trigger guard and a beautiful walnut stock. Oh it felt good as I raised it to my shoulder! It was magnificent from the tip of the octagon barrel down to the brass butt plate and patch box. "Is it mine?" I asked. "Of course it's yours, we'll go shoot it Saturday." His slow grin had turned into a full sparkling smile by now." Where did you find it! I can't believe it! Is it really mine?" My mind was running at full speed. I looked like Ralphie on Christmas morning with his Red Rider 2000 shot B.B. gun.
I burned a lot of powder that day and it swirled around my head like the low settling clouds on the mesa and of course I was hooked. It's a Thompson Center Arms replica Hawken and you can bet Jim Bridger would have been as proud to carry it in his scabbard as I am. Saddle up the roan and let's head for the high country. I'm ready for what ever comes up on my back trail. So what if your have to pour it, powder it, poke it and pack it? With an extra week in the woods during deer season, just me and the Hawken, who needs more than one shot anyway, right?