Sorry for the long post but I need to get this out while it's fresh.
So, since I was a youngster I've always wanted a Savage 99 lever action.
Those of you who know what one is understand, if you don't-Google it.
I just never seemed to find the right one( .308 w/ rotary mag and tang safety was my preference.)
A few years ago I had about given up as I watched the prices for a good serviceable 99 continue to climb.
My mom was on the phone to an old lady she knew years ago when she mentioned she was going to sell her late husband's Savage 99.
My mom told me about it, so I got the woman's phone # so I could ask about the rifle.
I could vaguely remember meeting this lady when I was very young, but when I introduced myself she knew who I was right away.
Yep it was a 99. And a .308! Cool..... How much?
She said I should come and check it out and make her an offer. She lived about 8hrs away so I took a Friday off work and decided to make a road trip of it.
She lived in a one room efficiency apartment. Decent place. Lots of pics on the wall. You know how old women are.
Before bringing out the rifle we had some coffee and made some small talk.
I noticed some nice hunting pics and asked if they were of her husband.
That's nothing! she said and brought out a big photo album of hunting pics(mostly black and white.)
Lots of whitetails and some nice mulies. Even a couple of elk and a sizable bull-moose.
I noticed a 99 in several of the pictures. "Is that the rifle?" I asked. It was.
"My husband had several rifles that he used over the years, but the Savage was his favorite. The others all went to our boys when he died but I kept the Savage cause I knew how to shoot it and a woman alone needs to be able to protect herself." No argument here.
She then told me about the rifle.
She bought it for her husband as a Christmas present in 1968 for $180 ( I was born in 1968 so that was kinda cool.)
It was a .243 Win. when she got it and her husband had used it for several years to take whitetails for the freezer.
Later though, when he wanted to go to Colorado elk hunting, he found out that .243 wasn't legal for elk in that state.
Rather than buy a different model, he sent the rifle in to the Savage custom shop and had it re-barreled as a.308.
A custom un-sighted barrel was added( since he used a scope exclusively)
They also reblued the entire gun.Did a trigger job and, because his stock was getting fairly beat up from field use, replaced the wood with a beautiful set of walnut presentation quality Monte Carlo stocks.
She claimed he spent as much on the work as she paid for the gun originally, and in 1979 dollars that's quite a bit when you think about it, but the result was a beautiful custom .308 that looked like a brand new rifle.
He used it to take a couple of Elk and a few mulies before he bought a .300 Win Mag model 70 to take to Canada moose hunting.
After that the 99 saw less use but was still his favorite rifle.
When she brought out the rifle I was amazed at what great shape it was in! The blueing still looked new.
The jeweled bolt was spotless and the action was slick as glass.
The wood was still glossy with a few small scratches and dings, but then this was no wall hanger but a serious game getter albeit a nice looking one!
Right away I knew I wanted it badly but I also knew that a custom 99 in this kind of shape would sell for a lot more than I could afford to spend.
She asked what I thought it was worth and I said " $1000 easy." She nodded as if she knew already, so I was glad I had been honest.(This gal was a sharp customer even at +90 yrs old)
I then told her that I couldn't afford that much.
"How's $500 sound?" she asked
"Like a steal" I told her, " but I really can't do that. It's worth a lot more."
I'll never forget what she said next...
" I'm fair certain it's worth more to ME than it'll ever be to you or anyone else,but it's not about the money. At my age, when every morning you wake up is a little miracle, you start getting your affairs in order and you realize that THINGS aren't as important as the memories they give you. My sons are both dead and none of their kids are hunters. This gun would be wasted on them,but I see you can appreciate it for what it is and will give it the home it deserves."
I gave her 5-$100 bills and went home with the rifle.
I've shot this rifle often and it's one of my very favorite guns. Even killed a Texas hog with it. I plan on killing more when I can but Iowa is a slug-only state so no deer yet.
I even called the old woman and told her of the hog I shot and sent some pictures.
Last week my mom called to tell me the old woman had died.
My wife and I took my mom on the 8hr road trip to the funeral.
I got to meet several of the woman's family. After introducing myself, her youngest daughter( who's probably 60)
smiled and said she had something for me.
An envelope with my name on it and 5-$100 bills in it.
I'll admit it, I cried a bit then...