Sunday, January 20, 2013

Visting the Flathead Valley

Just before the Christmas holidays I drove north into the Flathead Valley of Montana to spend some time visiting old friends and attending to some business. I spent 3 of those days as a guest of Jerry & Celeste Fisher. Jerry as usual was kind enough to pull out all the stops and allowed me to handle every project he was currently working on. An almost completed Hagn was in the old Parker vise and a pattern stock for a Winchester Low Wall was being modified to suit. Needless to say I left a lot of fingerprints.  We spent many hours discussing the past, current and the future state of our profession. At 80 years of age he has some opinions and insights that deserve contemplation. I have known Jerry since the late 70's when I worked under his roof as an apprentice and casually sitting again with this master of the trade brought back a flood of memories.

One of the more interesting conversations was of his early days working with Monty Kennedy another grand talent from the past. Using machine turned stocks he was expected to fully inlet 3 FN Mauser on Monday and have all finish on all 3 by the end of the week. I have handled a number of these early rifles from this period and the craftsmanship is as precise as most rifles assembled today. I have a very good friend that has carried a Fisher Stocked 7-mm Durham Magnum every season for over 40 years and has never felt the need for any other big game rifle.

When I arrived Jerry and Celeste were getting ready to travel to the Dallas SCI Convention and he was putting the final  touches to a 505 Gibbs based on a GMA action. The rifle was typical of every Fisher rifle I have handled, it was simply beautiful. Jerry had just finished regulating the iron sights and was awaiting an engraver to cut the yardage lettering into the sight blades so he could blue the sights and complete the assembly.

Jerry's shop is well lit, well laid out, impeccably clean and very comfortable. At some point we dug through his inventory of stock blanks discussing the merits of each and remembering other blanks we wish we could replace with similar attributes.  I found one in particular that he was kind enough to part with for a special project of my own.

 I can only hope I am able to remember who I am when I approach Jerry's age much less be able to execute one project after another with the same unfailing degree of quality. The days spent in Jerry's company was priceless as always.

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