As you may recall, I recently purchased a Stevens Model 66-B rifle, at an auction I attended in upstate NY, and that when cleaning it I found a piece of paper, between the stock and the metal, with another person's name, town of residence and what I assume was an old phone number on it. The story about that is here. I had some small concerns that the rifle may actually still belong to that other person but, as I say, only small concerns. I sort of figured, he probably had forgotten he put that little identity label in there for someone to find should his rifle ever become lost or be stolen. The paper was yellowed and obviously very old, the phone number only had 4 or 5 digits (must be very old too) and I was about to forget about it all too when I had a twinge of conscience. I knew that had I lost a gun or had one stolen from me, I would want it back - no matter how many years ago it had disappeared from my life. So, I did what I thought was the right thing, I tried to look-up the man on the Internet and actually found someone by his name in the same village the name of which was written on that small slip of parchment like paper. Amazingly, the information shown for him said his age was in the 70's or 80s (80s I think), gave a different address than the one I had on the paper for him but in the same village, and had a current phone number.
So, I called the number. I got a generic message saying to leave a message. It did not say anything like: "Hi, this is Art F., leave a message" there was no identifying data on the phone greeting. I left a message. No one called me back. I may have called again but do not remember for sure. Today, after a wait of about a couple of weeks, I called the auction house where I purchased the rifle. The lady who answered the phone seemed a little hesitant to want to help me, had me explain the story a couple of times, then apparently did some checking. She said that the rifle had been bought from someone in R---, NY, the same village that was shown on the remnant of paper. She assured me that the person from whom the rifle was bought, by the auction house, was an honest reputable person in her experience. I guess that is going to have to be good enough for me. I was hoping that she would be able to tell me that: "Yes, Arthur F---- sold it to the auction house" or that: Mr. F----'s estate sold it to us (I would have preferred the former). I guess I will never know who sold it to them and that I will have to presume it was a legal sale and all.
As I said right from the start, I was not all that concerned that it was a stolen gun, just had a question or two about it to satisfy me that it had not been stolen from or lost by Art F---- and that it was not still rightfully his. An employee, of a reputable auction house, telling me that they got it from a person known to them as honest and reputable, from the same village shown on the little scrap of paper along with Art F----'s name on it, is good enough for me. I am now of he belief, much as I was when this little mystery began, that Art F---- just forgot all about putting his name on that slip of paper and disposed of the rifle with the paper still hidden under the wood of the stock or that Art F---- may no longer be with us and that his family sold the rifle when liquidating his estate.
I will leave it at that and I will enjoy this fine little shooter for as long as I own it. Then my son will enjoy it after me - well, he will get to shoot it now whenever he wants too and I hope he keeps it after I am gone and then passes it on to his son when he has one. It certainly is a fine shooter, there is no exaggeration in me saying that. I had it shooting pretty good groups, granted only at 50 feet but then I was shooting at NRA 50 foot smallbore targets. The range report on the Stevens 66-B can be seen here.
I have to say, I am very happy that I made the effort to assure it was not stolen or lost and that it is now rightfully and legally mine. That way there will be no nagging little questions popping up, in my mind, about it now and again. Even if I had to have given it up, that would have been okay. I know, without a doubt, that if someone were to return a long lost firearm to me, I would be quite happy about it. I also know, without a doubt, that if I was the one doing the returning to someone else, while maybe out a few bucks and a bit saddened by having to give up the gun, it would also have made me quite happy to have done the right thing and to see the other guy reunited with his rifle. So it was worth the effort either way. As it turned out, I get to keep it.
All the best,
First Flight Lesson AFR
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