My first dedicated hunting rifle was a sporterized 1917 Enfield .30-06 with a club of a stock. It must've weighed at least 10 pounds, but I was young and strong and carried it up and down the Idaho mountains.
But even as young as I was, it still got awfully heavy. So I switched to hunting with a Smith & Wesson 6-1/2-inch .44 Magnum or a Ruger 7-1/2-inch Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk--all in Mexican loop holsters of my own design on a wide cartridge belt. For the past 50 years my life has been spent mostly with handmins, however, there have also been a lot of rifles--especially leverguns. I've shot a lot of heavy loads, especially in .45-70 leverguns, as well as such bolt-action favorites as the .338 Winchester and .375 H&H. Now I've come full circle and I'm back to a heavy bolt action--the Ruger M77 Hawkeye Varmint Target. How did this come to pass?
On September 23, 2010, everything changed dramatically. The day dawned beautifully and I awoke at 6 a.m. to get everything ready for a day of shooting. But first I had to deliver Diamond Dot and her friend to the bus depot at 7:30 so they could catch the bus to Portland and spend the weekend at a quilt show. Once I got them on the bus I would head for the desert south of town to meet my friend Denis for some shooting, followed by lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Friday would be more of the same and Saturday the kids and grandkids would come over to watch football. It all added up to great plans for an enjoyable weekend.
I got dressed and prepared to load the pickup. As I walked out of the bathroom I experienced the most excruciating pain of my life. It's often hard to pinpoint where real pain is coming from, but this seemed to be coming from my back and throat. At first I thought I'd pulled a muscle and could just tough it out. Then the dizziness came and I knew something was drastically wrong. I worked my way to the other end of the house and told Dot she better call 911.1 went into the front room to sit down and wait for the paramedics. They were there in what seemed like minutes and I remember them putting me into the ambulance and starting to drive. However, I do not remember arriving at the hospital. The rest of the day--plus some of next--is just a blur.
Turns out if Dot had not called 911 immediately I would've died within a few hours. What had happened was a tear in the artery to the aorta of my heart. I was on my way to bleeding out. The emergency operation took almost 6 hours. They had to open my sternum from top to bottom and then spread it apart to get to the artery and repair it. Afterward I was informed my chances of survival were less...