Jim Zumbo - Everything Outdoors

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The Case of the Un-Stolen Rifle

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The rifle was lying in the middle of a parking area in a trailhead by my house. That area is used mostly by hunters who park their vehicles or horse trailers, and then walk or ride up into the mountains. Chris Ellis and his brother, Craig, both from West Virginia and good pals of mine, had just driven into the parking lot and couldn't believe their eyes when they saw the rifle. No one was around; the parking lot was empty. They picked up the gun and brought it back to my house. It was an old Enfield in .30/06 caliber with a beautiful cherry wood stock, topped with a scope.

I immediately made up a sign and took it down to hang on the wall of a local gas station, which is known as the information center of the world. Most mornings, a half dozen or so locals, most of them retired, convene at the gas station to solve the planet's woes. Surely, if anyone could find the owner of the gun, these gentlemen could. That was around October 27. Then I called outfitters who may have had clients park in that spot before getting on horses and riding in to the high country. No one knew of anyone missing a gun.

My next option was to put an ad in the lost and found section of the local newspaper. Then I called the local game warden and asked if he'd heard of anyone who had lost a rifle. My last and final effort was to call the police department. Bingo. A deputy sheriff called me back and said that someone had reported a rifle stolen from his vehicle at the trailhead. The man was local but worked out of town. The deputy told me he was upset because the gun had been passed down to him from family members. For the next couple days, the deputy called the man but couldn't reach him.

Then I received a phone call from a man who said to me, "my mom saw your ad in the paper, and I sure hope you have my gun." I asked him to identify it. He did, and it was indeed his rifle. Evidently he had leaned the rifle on his vehicle and simply drove away, where it fell to the ground. The stolen gun wasn't stolen after all, and when he showed up at my door a couple days ago to get the rifle, I could see that he was profoundly delighted to see it again. I like stories with happy endings.

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