Winchester Model of 1894 38-55 by Wayne Hayes
The store opened at 7:00 a.m. just like every morning. Chickasha Oklahoma was not a very busy place in 1952. The old man who ran the hardware store didn't really expect any customers to speak of this early, just the usual coffee drinking crowd of locals. When the young man walked in a few minutes after that it was a surprise.
Lean youngster that he was, he had the look of an oilfield hand. Levi's were pressed and his shirt was ironed from what he could see under his winter coat. The owner had never seen him around before. "Can I help you?" He said from the back of the store, where he was pouring a cup of coffee from the old pot on the stove. "I could sure use a cup of that if you had an extra?" The old man grinned, the Oklahoma winter was biting. "Cups are right there, help yourself." The old man indicated a shelf holding ceramic mugs. The old man being mischievous then said "I am afraid I don't serve a full breakfast." The young man smiled and laughed a bit at the comment, "This coffee will do fine thank you. I am really just passing through and meeting a guy in town about a job, saw you were open and thought I might kill a few minutes. The coffee is good and the company seems friendly enough." The old man nodded his head with a smile and stuck out his hand. "Charlie Spencer." The young man took the offered hand and answered "Deany Hayes." "Well help yourself to the coffee young feller, I got to finish my opening chores. Feel free to look around." With a nod Mr. Spencer went back to his routine.
Deany always loved hardware stores. Tools, knives, guns, and everything else you might need. He looked along the wall as Mr. Spencer was unlocking the long bar that went across the gun rack to hold them in place. He noticed one in particular, a long barreled lever gun, straight out of a John Wayne movie. He sat his cup down on the wooden plank table and moved toward the rack. He gave a "do you mind" look to the old man and it was returned with a nod acknowledging it was alright to pick it up.
Winchester model 1894 Made in New Haven Connecticut caliber 38-55 Winchester. Full length octagonal rifle barrel, metal butt plate, and full buck-horn sight. It felt like holding an old friend, pointed natural and the lever action was smooth as glass. The small paper tag hanging on the lever had $175.00 scribbled on it in grease pencil. Considerable sum of money in 1952.
"Lady traded me that for a potbelly stove. Husband died and they didn't have any sons, said she didn't need it anymore. I don't think she needed the stove either just wanted to get rid of the gun." The young man continued to look it over after looking up when he was spoken too. The stock was tight, the bluing was in good shape and all the screws were pristine (scarred up screws meant an amateur gunsmith had possibly been tinkering with it). He carefully placed the gun back down. He didn't really need to spend that much and besides you couldn't even hunt deer in Oklahoma with a rifle if you could find one.
Soon enough he thanked to the old man and went out the door. Mr. Spencer, however had a suspicion he would see the lean Mr. Deany Hayes again.
It took about two weeks. Again when the store was opening the young man walked in. "My coffee isn't that good son, you should try down the street at the cafe and you can even eat." Deany laughed and spoke, "Well it is a pretty good cup Mr. Spencer but that ain't why I came back." Mr. Spencer grinned and pointed to the gun rack that was already open "Yeah she is still up there." "How'd you know?" Mr. Spencer put down the rag he was dusting with. "Young feller' I have been in business for over 25 years, I can tell when a man has a case of the wants, but he also has a case of the why's. My guess is you went out and made enough extra money to buy that rifle. Now am I right or am I full of beans?" Deany gave a sheepish looked and said "Guilty as charged, took on some extra welding at the job site and made the extra money. Do you have bullets for it?" The old man looked below the gun rack and laid out five twenty round boxes. "100 rounds ought to give you enough to play with and have some left over to actually use." He then walked over to the gun rack and brought the old beauty over and laid it on the counter next to the ammunition.
"What's the damage?" was all the young man said. Mr. Spencer had him cold, that was exactly what he was going to buy right down to the bullets. "Well, lets' see here. 1894 Winchester 38-55 of no use in this state to shoot anything but coyotes, 100 rounds that will probably be wasted on beer cans. $175.00 price tag on the gun...." his voice trailed off as he was making out the receipt. "Young man that will be $165.00 cash please."
Mr. Spencer liked the look of the young man and obviously any man who could make that kind of money in a two week span was a hard worker. He was in the business to make money, but he had less than $100.00 in the rifle. It had been on his shelf for over two years and not so much as a nibble. It was illegal to hunt deer even if you could find one in Oklahoma with a rifle. The ammunition was too expensive to shoot at coyotes and jackrabbits. The young man had romantic notions of the rifle he could tell.
Deany was caught off guard, "How did you figure that?" "With a pencil young feller', you watched me do it, now is that too low?" Deany, realizing he had almost offended the gentleman counted out the $165.00. Truth be told he hadn't offended anything, the old man also liked to see the look of surprise on the faces of people. He reached under the counter and brought up an old canvas gun scabbard. They shook hands and the young man left the store.
Winchester Model of 1894. Full length rifle. Caliber 38-55 Winchester. 38 caliber bullet with 55 grains of powder pushing a 255 grain bullet to a speed of almost 1600 f.p.s. (feet per second), pretty hot stuff in the late 1800's. A closer investigation of this particular rifle if the young man would have had any inkling would have revealed it was manufactured in New Haven Connecticut in the year 1896. It would not be until many years later when the young man was no longer a young man when this information would come to the surface.
The man had a great nephew and he had heard stories growing up of this famed rifle. How they had hunted deer with it. How good it shot, but he had never laid eyes on it. The man lived far away and only came back home during the summer or holiday's. In 2008 however, the man was speaking of this rifle again. The nephew who at this time had been a police officer for over a decade, along with being a police sharpshooter finally had the nerve to say "I have heard about this rifle all my life, I would love to lay my hands on it one time." The old man looked up at his nephew possibly with the same look Mr. Spencer gave him over sixty years ago. "Do you want that gun?" came the question. The nephew being cut from the same cloth as the old man and sharing the same last name stated without hesitation "You know Uncle I do, and I got the kinda' manners that don't mind me saying so." The old man laughed, "When I come up next summer it is yours."
The nephew forgot about it, kind of. When Uncle Deany made the next pilgrimage to the lake the following summer he wondered if he remembered. While his manners would allow him to say he wanted the gun, they would not allow him to beg and be a bother. As a Ranger at the campground where they stayed he got out to say hello and greet his family. He didn't ask about the rifle.
He hadn't been there long when the old man came up behind him and said "I bet you thought I forgot huh?" The nephew turned around and observed an old canvas gun scabbard and once removed a Winchester lever action model of 1894 caliber 38-55 Winchester. The uncle handed it over to the nephew. "Now this comes with some conditions, she is old. She is also a family gun. You better never ever sell it."
The nephew wrapped his hand around the fore stock and took the considerable weight of the rifle, immediately realizing he was holding a piece of not only family history but also history in general. "I promise it will never leave me as long as I am alive."
Loads were promptly made from a good re-loader and it was taken out and test fired. Well benched and braced the young man fired a three shot group into a bulls eye target at 100 yards. Being too far away to see the group, he expected to hit the 12 inch target at that distance maybe. As he approached he observed only one hole. "I figured it was wore out." was his thought he expressed out loud. The hole was off center just a bit from what he could tell. He got closer and noticed the hole was bigger than it should be. When he got up to the target he found while it was just off center about three inches low and to the left, what he thought at distance was one hole turned out to be three holes in a ragged circle. Taking the target up he looked again to make sure. "Man!" There was no need to shoot any more. That was plenty enough to kill anything he would hunt with it at 100 yards.
It still shoots today and will at some point put meat on the table at least once so he can say it has. The nephew will also pass it along to his sons with the same instructions. The part of the story about the conversation between the old shopkeeper and the uncle is only partly true. The nephew knows the rifle was bought in Chickasha, Oklahoma in the 50's. The conversation and transaction were made up of artistic license. The exchange between the uncle and nephew and the age of the rifle is completely true. I know for a fact it is because I am the nephew.
Wayne Hayes is a State Park Ranger from the great state of Oklahoma