1. If I Can’t Have You, Nobody Can
My father bought a Ruger Single-Six revolver and begin to contemplate suicide shortly after I was born. I don’t remember much about the gun growing up, but I do remember that just after my parent’s divorce, my younger brother found the gun, along with nude photographs of our mother hidden in our father’s black trunk. The pictures, we’d later learn, had been taken by our mother’s new flame. We never did figure out how our father got ahold of the photos, but when he’d discovered the affair, he loaded his Ruger Single-Six and threatened to kill our mother and her new flame with two bullets and turn the third on himself. Luckily for us our father never followed through with his plans and our mother married her new flame and he became our stepfather and taught us the art of trout fishing and deer hunting and more importantly introduced me to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Ernest Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories.
2. Clint Eastwood Style
I sometimes liked to imagine my father putting on his favorite cowboy hat, taking out his beloved Ruger Single-Six and twirling it on his finger like Clint Eastwood did in those old spaghetti Westerns. My father didn’t smoke cigarillos like Clint, but he did enjoy a good pipe. So there he was, my father, beautiful, mystical, and broken in his beige cowboy hat, smoking a pipe and spinning his Ruger Single-Six Clint Eastwood style, only this time, instead of threatening to kill himself, he’d let out a big laugh and drop the gun back into its holster.
3. Rusk Gun Shop
My brother was at Rusk Gun Shop buying ammunition for his deer hunting rifle and spied our father trying to secure a 9 mm pistol and a .357 Magnum revolver. Our father was unshaven and dirty and didn’t recognize my brother until my brother said, “Do you really need another gun, Dad?” “I’m sorry you feel so bad about yourself, big boy,” was all our father said and that was just before he handed his Ruger Single-Six over to my brother and skipped town following a long-standing dream of returning to Portland, Maine, the place of his birth, the Promised Land.
4. Under the Bridge at Wabasha
My father died in a nursing home near Portland’s Back Cove, not from suicide finally but from complications of pneumonia. Shortly after, my brother called to say he was going to bury the Ruger Single-Six. “Why?” I said. “Because it’s haunted, that’s why,” my brother said, and then he said something about family legacy and passing down stories. So my mother and I traveled north from Madison, Wisconsin, to Wabasha, Minnesota, to meet my brother. There, we found my father’s gun interred in a five-gallon bucket a quarter full of cement. We cheered as my brother hefted the bucket into the Mississippi River. The cement hardened down the gun barrel, packing the trigger and covering all of the places my father’s beautiful hands had once been.