By: Randy Tucker
It’s the kind of activity that could get you into trouble, maybe even shot today, but situations were different in 1980s Wyoming. In some parts of the rural west, they remain that way today.
I’d just purchased a 12 gauge 870 Wingmaster shotgun in September 1980 – in my opinion the best shotgun Remington has ever produced.
It cost just $200, but on my paltry annual salary of $13,000 before taxes as a teacher and coach, it was a huge outlay. The pheasant season at the nearby Springer Game Reserve 60 miles south at Torrington, Wyoming was opening on Saturday and I needed a little cash for the trip.
There were two banks in tiny Lusk, Wyoming (population 1,500), but neither had a drive-through window or an ATM. My 1972 GMC pickup had a passenger door that would not lock, and I was not about to leave my brand-new gun lying in the seat while I went inside the bank to cash a check.
So I took the shotgun under my right arm, walked to the door, opened it for an older lady to enter first, then walked inside. I leaned the shotgun up against a center customer service shelf and wrote my check. I left the gun leaning there as I walked up to the teller to get it cashed.
She gave me a strange smile as I approached, something I had not expected. A vice-president came out of his glassed office, walked up to the teller bay and said, “Randy, did you know you just brought a gun into a bank?”
Well, sure I did. But then it dawned on me: I had brought a gun into a bank.
Embarrassed, I quickly explained why I had not left it in the truck. Chuck was the bank officer’s name, and one of his boys played football for the Tigers, where I was an assistant coach. I knew him from the sidelines and from parent-teacher conferences.
“I wouldn’t make it a habit of taking a shotgun into a bank,” Chuck laughed. “Is it loaded?”
Of course it wasn’t loaded, but it was still a 12 gauge pump action beauty, capable of creating a lot of havoc in a very short time, and it was gleaming there in all its dark walnut and metal glory against a wall in bank.
None of the other customers paid it any mind, just the teller and the vice-president.
As my career progressed, I’ve been able to afford hunting vehicles with doors that lock, quite a step up from those early days.
The 870 was an improvement over my original shotgun, a single shot Iver-Johnson 12 gauge with an exposed hammer.
I have never shot as well with the 870 or several of the other shotguns I now own as I did with the gun my dad’s cousin Dick Holt gave me when I was 12 years old. The Iver-Johnson bore a production date of 1905, and as my dad often said in reference to how hard it kicked, “It killed on both ends.” There is something about a single shot gun that focuses your aim. Getting just one chance clearly improves concentration.
The recoil was tremendous, but I could hit geese, pheasants, and ducks at very long range with it and rarely missed a shot.
But then again, I never took it inside a bank to make a withdrawal.
Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.