Trigger Happy

Not complaining, just one of those weeks, I guess. Yes, one of those stretches when weird stuff requiring immediate attention comes at you like bugs at a hot muggy windshield.

It all started with irritating gun woes late last week. First, while pursuing a wild flush — it a long-tailed, vociferous ring-neck rooster whose landing I had marked — I was astonished to come up empty in a dense thicket and decided to expand the search over an old, tree-bordered fence line into a shin-high hayfield. I whistled for the dogs and Lily appeared first, poking out into the hayfield maybe 50 yards away and following the outer tree line at me. Maybe 20 yards away, she stopped, picked up her nose above her shoulders into a north wind and spun 90 degrees right. I knew she smelled that rooster, which I could not see, and — Bingo! — a low, loud flush burst from the short cover. The bird flew straightaway for a wet brown field t’other side of the brook. I shouldered my gun, found the bird, swung on it, squeezed the back trigger as it approaching 40 yards out and was greeted by an empty misfire click. Hmmmmm? Maybe I hadn’t pushed the safe all the way through. Although I didn’t get a chance to test my theory that day there, I did oil the safety at home, manipulating it back and forth until it was gliding smoothly.

Next day, I figured I’d give it a shot hunting with old pal Cooker in a twisted, tangled Hadley covert I had avoided because in consecutive years my dogs had been caught in traps there — first Chubby in a dry-set leg-hold, then Lily an evil wire-cable snare that lassoed her tightly around the waist. I still wear a scar where her panicked canine tooth brushed my forearm that day, and have since learned that the kind neighbor who helped me release her now carries heavy-duty clippers in case his dog ever finds such a devil’s loop.

Anyway, not long into the hunt, with Lily and Chubby jacked up by scent through young, thorn-laced alders and poplars, I heard the tell-tale “cuck, cuck, cuck, cuck, cuck” and soon saw a rooster clearing the young tree tops. I mounted, pointed, swung and squeezed the front trigger and again just a click, then silence as the bird escaped. Hmmmmm? I knew it wasn’t the safe, but something wasn’t right and I suspected the triggers. The wise old gunsmith who repaired the stock just before the season had warned me not to over-oil the triggers. With the stock removed, he found the hidden walnut tongue saturated with oil and cleaned it up before wrapping it in fiberglass tape and resetting it snuggly into the receiver.

“Try not to over-oil it,” he cautioned, and since that bit of fatherly advice I hadn’t placed so much as a drop into the trigger mechanism, not even after hunting in the rain and drying out the disassembled side-by-side on a table near the wood stove. I had a feeling it needed oil, though, and my suspicion was soon supported, if not confirmed, by another field test, perhaps a half-hour later, when Chubby flushed a hen from a small patch of woods. The bird burst out over the covert and flew right at me like a wind-aided missile. I calmly turned my back to it momentarily and waited for it to show up on the back side. Then, just as I found it going away, mounted and swung, it hooked a sharp left toward a high, deep swamp across the way. I adjusted to the sudden change of direction, caught up with it, swung and squeezed the front trigger, a sucker shot, but again just a clicking annoyance. Cooker, not 40 yards away, witnessed the whole thing and sounded amused.

“Again?” he smirked.

“Yup, again. I’ll deal with it when I get home. I don’t care what that guy told me. It needs oil.”

I went home, took the gun apart, cleaned and oiled the barrels, and went to town on the triggers, which required more pressure than I like. I pulled them forward, one at a time, put a couple of drops of my best clock and gun oil in the gaps and wiggled the triggers back and forth to work in the lubricant until they were moving free and easy. When we hunted the next day, I predicted to Cooker that my problem was solved and soon got ample opportunity to prove it. I don’t question that wise old gunsmith’s assessment of the interior mess he found. I’m sure that stock needed a good, thorough cleaning, and I will indeed always limit the oil my triggers receive. But remember, I’ve only owned that gun for about 25 years. Nearly 100 years old, it was cared for by others before me, so what the gun doctor found had accumulated over many years.

Enough of that, though. Chalk it up as a temporary issue, one that will not again happen. But, before I go, allow me to touch on two more problems that reared their ugly heads after the trigger trouble and are now behind me. First, Monday afternoon, I went to my 10-year-old desktop computer, tried to fire it up, and it responded by gurgling briefly and blinking silently at me. It’s dead. Now, if I can just recover the important data I didn’t back up and would hate to lose, I’m comfortable with late-son Rynie’s hand-me-down laptop. It took some getting used to, writing a column away from my desk, even though it was in the warm comfort of my favorite reading chair. I believe I can get used to La-Z-Boy column-writing in rapid fashion. So maybe I’ve purchased my last desktop. But let’s not get carried away. Call me undecided. Remember, you’re dealing with a man who doesn’t carry a cell phone, has never texted or tweeted, and fled from Facebook long, long ago for a variety of reasons. So, I’ll reserve judgment on the laptop/desktop question.

Finally, the last disruptive force to pass through the home front like a mischievous tavern ghost this week appeared right on the heels of that vexing computer problem. With temperatures plummeting below freezing, I tested my thermostat and discovered something was amiss with the furnace. I fiddled with the burner momentarily before calling serviceman Ed MacGray Tuesday morning and greeting him at my door three hours later. After replacing a nozzle and igniter, he was gone with a check and all is well.

So, with that, off I go, nourished dogs sitting patiently in the backyard kennel, standing and wagging enthusiastically every time they hear a sound out front.

They know my triggers are again igniting thunderous roars and are anxious to experience a few.

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