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What Goes Around | Fall 2007 Out Here Magazine

5 decades later, cherished rifle lands back in the hands of loving grandson

By David Frey
Photography by Barry Kough

Good deeds have a way of coming back around. Sometimes, it just takes a little while.

For Terry Jackson, 59, it was nearly a half-century before the prized rifle, which he pawned as a young boy to buy his grandmother a washing machine, would find its way into his hands again.

Those hands are a little bigger now. The .22-caliber Winchester short barrel looks like a toy in the hands of Jackson, who towers at 6 feet, 8 inches.

"It's on my mantle," says Jackson, of Syringa, Idaho. "I look at it every morning when I get up."

The little Winchester was Jackson's first rifle, the one he bought with the money he earned mowing lawns and doing odd jobs. Jackson loved the gun. But he also felt bad for his grandmother, Edna Jackson, who sometimes washed clothes the old-fashioned way, with a washtub and a corrugated washboard.

That rifle, he realized, could pay for a new washer for her.

So Jackson took his treasured Winchester to the pawnshop and swapped it for a washing machine.

"I hated like the dickens to give it up," he says. "But when I made the choice to give it up, there was no other thought."

No other thought for 49 years, at least. But the gun didn't go far. Pawnshop owner Bill Jackson never sold it. He held on to it, then handed it off to James Grow, an attorney and family friend, telling him the story that went along with it.

When Terry Jackson needed some legal work last year, he turned to the phone book and happened to choose Grow. When the two were at lunch with Becky Brotnov, Jackson's "other half," Brotnov brought up the story of the old Winchester that Jackson, as a young boy, had traded for a washer.

Grow was shocked. "He looked at me and said, 'I got that gun,'" Jackson says.

Sure enough, he did. Grow brought the gun back to Jackson, nearly half a century after he left it at a pawnshop and didn't look back.

"He walked in with that gun and I almost fell over," Jackson says. As a boy, he had memorized every detail of the little rifle. As a grandfather himself now, the burly Jackson still remembered it.

"Yeah, Jim," he said in astonishment. "That is the gun. That's amazing."

Jackson's grandchildren know the story, too, and when they're old enough, he says, they'll be allowed to shoot that prized rifle that ricocheted back to him nearly 50 years after a good deed took it out of his hands.

But more importantly, they know the lesson the long-lost rifle represents.

"Good things only come back to good things," Jackson says. "Things you do for good, it comes back to you some day."

David Frey writes in Carbondale, CO.