The Berkshire
by Don Hayman

 

I was made in the early 1900’s by Crescent Arms and distributed by Folsom Arms to the Shapleigh Hardware Company in St. Louis, Missouri. I was a “hardware store gun” with a modern hammerless action, two side-by-side 32 inch damascus barrels, and 12 gauge chambers that fired black powder shotshells. I caught the fancy of a Riverboat Captain named Hiram Sharpnack who was shopping at Shapleigh’s on one of his many trips up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on a paddle wheel steamboat. He gave me a good home in the little town of Apple Grove, Ohio.

At the end of World War II, he sold me to his nephew, Gerald Hayman, who lived in East Letart on the Harold Hayman homestead. By then I had a broken firing pin in one barrel, which was no challenge to Gerald as it gave him a chance to show his son Don how to repair things. He selected a fine piece of steel from his workshop and with a hand file fashioned a new pin just like the unbroken one in the other barrel. He and Don then took me over past the barn for a live test. I worked just fine on a little sapling, but the toad on the ground behind it did not fare so well.

That was the beginning of over 40 years of service in the Hayman household. My main use was as a rabbit gun, working behind Spot, an excellent beagle who would jump a rabbit every day just to stay in shape. Many times I also got to hunt with Lulabelle and Scotty, Uncle Wally Stover’s fine beagle dogs. Uncle Wally sure suffered a lot of teasing since he always hunted with a smaller 20 gauge gun, but he still got just as many rabbits as the hunters who used a bigger 12 gauge like me. I also remember the first time Gerald took Don squirrel hunting near Pete Shield’s fishing pond. They watched a squirrel working the acorns in a nearby oak for a long time, and then Gerald pointed me at a spot near the squirrel and fired just to scare him. Gerald was one who just enjoyed being out in the woods, and “hunting” was a good excuse. When Don was in his early teens living in what is known as the “big house” in Apple Grove, many an evening he would get off the school bus, go in the front door, pick me up, and head out the back door looking for game. One of our more memorable outings was in Grandpa George Hayman’s hay field when I downed a Marsh Hawk that was soaring aloft in search of field mice. We looked for that hawk a lot that evening, but didn’t find it until a couple of days later.

When Gerald moved to the present homestead in East Letart, Don & Ted left home and Keith took up hunting with his own little single shot .410 shotgun, which he used to kill his first rabbit. Spot was long gone by then, but an excellent black and tan beagle named Bullet lived there and he was a rabbit hunter’s dream come true. When they all got together around Thanksgiving time for their big rabbit hunts, Gerald would always take me along but was always happy to let others bag the rabbits. I remember one day when Uncle Wally joined us for a big hunt. As evening approached, Gerald and Uncle Wally placed me and that favorite 20 gauge against a fence, pulled out their hunting licenses, and were arguing about the precise quitting time. Needless to say, a rabbit jumped from the fence row beneath their feet. “Well, looka there goin” was a never to be forgotten quote that was born that day, left everyone else roaring with laughter, and always came up in later rabbit hunting tales.

My barrels were made by twisting steel wires around a mandrel and hammer welding them together. I used black powder shotshells, but when smokeless powder was introduced for newer solid steel barrels the pressures were too great and I became unsafe. Luckily, I held together with light loads, but with my advancing age I should never be fired again. I am an antique with many memories, but should be relegated to a place of distinction above the fireplace mantel as a conversation piece. Don inherited me when Gerald departed this life, and I expect to stay in the Hayman family. But, who knows, I possibly could make a full circle from one Riverboat Captain to another.