The westward expansion after the Civil War was fueled by vets carrying their army rifles with them. My great grandfather was wounded at the battle of Atlanta in 1864, and my grandfather learned to hunt using a .58 caliber war surplus musket. After the Spanish-American War, President Teddy Roosevelt ordered a new rifle for our troops, and the 1903 Springfield was carried into battle by G.I.’s in World Wars I and II. In 1936 the M1 Garand and its little brother, the M1 Carbine were introduced, which eventually replaced the Springfield by the war’s end in 1945. Millions of G.I.’s carried M1’s in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, and even in Viet Nam. Ask a veteran about an injury known as M1 thumb, which you got if you weren’t careful with your M1.
Much like my grandfather in the 1800s, returning veterans from Wars I, II, and Korea used military surplus rifles to hunt with when they returned home. A few months ago, my brother-in-law Wes Huffman was showing me an M1 Garand he inherited from his dad. The old military guns were readily affordable for veterans who wanted to put meat in their freezer each fall. Not only were millions of vets familiar with the Springfield & M1, but they made great hunting rifles as well. If you got a deer or elk in the fall with your rifle, you could feed your family with 100 pounds or more of healthy, additive-free meat to supplement their diets.
Often times, the returning vets took care of their wounded comrades by taking them hunting as a way to try to repay them for the sacrifices they made. I recall special community-wide hunts for disabled veterans. Each fall, disabled vets were assisted by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign War members as they went in search of pheasants in the nearby fields. Afterwards, there was a big banquet and it seemed like the entire community turned out to say “Thank You” to our vets. I’m certain it was those disabled veteran hunts each fall that drove my brother to become a Marine. Soon, he too joined the ranks of the disabled war vets. For as long as he lived, Chris was not only a Marine, but a hunter as well.
Each fall, as we celebrate Veterans Day, I think of the millions of guys who put their lives on hold to defend our country. I’ll also be smiling as I think of those same guys as they went in search of deer, or pheasants, or elk each fall. Thank you, guys!
Until Next Week.
Don Moyer began writing his outdoor column, Tight Lines, at the Tracy Press in 1979. Don’s first book Tight Lines, Observations of an Outdoor Philosopher is on the Amazon.com best seller list.