Bucket Lists

Full or empty, they guide a magical journey
11

The bottom levergun is the elusive .35 Remington straight-gripped Marlin John captured at a
Labor Day weekend sale; the two pistol-gripped versions were added later.

I would’ve been all of 10 years old when Tex Ritter sang the mournful lyrics: “Oh my buckets got a hole in it; Yes my buckets got a hole in it; Oh my buckets got a hole in it …” And who can forget when Jimmy Durante literally kicked the bucket in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World?

Then there was the more modern bucket scene when Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley made an unbelievably long shot on a bucket way out yonder with his Sharps. Long before any of these buckets happened I was making lists. I didn’t realize at the time these would be called bucket lists.

“I never did get the Jeep and I was still a teenager when a young girl — the future Diamond Dot — changed my plans for living a solitary life.”

Hard Times

Money did not come easy in the late 1940s, at least not in my family and I often collected old newspapers and pop bottles to make a few pennies. Once I got 25 pennies, I would buy one of the outdoor magazines and read about exotic hunts all over the world. My bucket list consisted of a diagram of my future game room as I planned where each trophy would be hung. This changed virtually every day as my dreams expanded. I made so many lists it was a rare animal I could not recognize and plan where it was to be displayed.

From the beginning, mapping of all my dreamt-about trophies, I expanded to all kinds of lists — future guns I would have, the future places I would live and future adventures I would experience. All of these were bucket lists even though I did not know it at the time. Shortly thereafter we moved from the housing project for returning veterans to a real house where I could have my own bedroom. “This is a great place to hang maps of all the places I would soon hunt around the world,” I thought.

I planned to live by myself in some forest area and I remember drawings of myself, levergun in hand, a loyal malamute by my side and a Jeep parked in the background. I never did get the Jeep and I was still a teenager when a young girl — the future Diamond Dot — changed my plans for living a solitary life.

John’s latest items to be crossed off the bucket list are these SIG SAUER
semi automatic pistols chambered in .357 SIG.

On The List

One searched-after firearm on my bucket list was a Marlin levergun — not just any Marlin but a straight-gripped .35 Remington. In my youth, Marlin issued a special Texan lever action with examples in both .30-30 and .35 Remington but I never saw either one except in pictures. In the early 1980s I started looking for a straight-gripped .35 Remington Marlin levergun with a 20" barrel and had people around the country looking for me. None were to be found.

At the time we owned acreage in the mountains 100 miles north of town we used for camping with the kids. Eventually, we moved a 70-foot mobile home onto the property and covered it with a snow roof. We had electricity and even a well. It was a great place to just rest and recuperate.

We would often pass a small gun shop on the main highway about 15 miles south of our mountain hideaway. Every weekend when we would go up there, the shop would be closed — at least until one Labor Day weekend. As I drove by I noticed it was not only open but had a large sign saying: “20% off everything this weekend only.” I turned around and quickly went back, feeling I would probably never find anything I really wanted.

I walked into the shop, looked at the rifle racks behind the counter and spotted a straight gripped Marlin levergun. I asked the owner about it and his immediate response was: “Oh, you don’t want that thing. It’s not a .30-30, it is one of those .35 Remingtons.”

I tried not to get too excited as he handed me what he thought was a second class Marlin. I continued to remain very calm as I wrote the check. Finally, the straight-gripped .35 Remington, which had been on my bucket list for decades, could now be crossed off.

Another important bucket list item for John was this Custom King Gunsight Company Colt Single Action.

A King Custom

Another gun I have dreamed about for even longer was a custom sixgun by King Gunsight Co. D.W. King was a rifle marksman who was not satisfied with the sights available, so he decided to make his own. This was in the late 1920s and he formed the King Gun Sight Co. He not only provided rifle sights but did a brisk business applying custom sights to sixguns, especially for target shooters. The King Gun Sight Co. could not survive after the death of the founder and disappeared in the early 1950s.

Looking at pictures of his custom work will show his ideas were later incorporated into factory guns. King also did custom work such as cockeyed hammers and wide triggers both set up for a short action. Elmer Keith had his 7-1/2" .44 Special Colt Single Action worked over by King and this classic sixgun was one I lusted after as a beginning shooter. In addition to ivory stocks Keith had his fitted with a barrel band front sight, a fully adjustable rear sight, and a King short action.

One of my best friends works in the local Cabela’s Gun Library and I have come up with some very cool sixguns over the years by stopping in occasionally. This trip he had a Colt to show me. Checking the serial number I found it was a Colt Single Action manufactured in 1921. It was chambered in .357 Magnum, which did not arrive until 1935, meaning sometime between 1935 and the beginning of WWII it was sent back to Colt to be converted to the then-relatively-new .357 Magnum with a 5-1/2" barrel — but this was only the beginning!

The gun had also been turned over to the King Gun Sight Company for extensive custom work. Just as with Elmer Keith’s .44 Special, this one had the short action, cockeyed hammer, wide trigger, and a full-length rib which contained the King mirrored front sight and adjustable rear sight. Another bucket list firearm had been found!

Our bucket list, as well as life, can often be like the bucket Tex Ritter sang about. Sometimes our bucket is full and overflowing, sometimes it’s half-full, and sometimes it just has holes in it. My bucket list definitely has holes in it and I will never complete the whole list, however, I have been blessed beyond all measure and when I pass, the bucket list will still not be complete — but I have certainly enjoyed the trip.

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