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The lady of the gun.

She looks like she could have been my mother, or perhaps yours, if your parents were of "The Greatest Generation." In one sepia photo, she drapes a dark coat across her arm. In the other she's wearing it. She stands by the side of a house, or perhaps a garage, looking off in one picture, toward the camera in another, appearing first, serious, and then--is that a smile?

She was young. She was pretty. Who was she? Somebody's sweetheart? Somebody's wife? Is she still alive? Did she end up having children, grandchildren ...?

And whose gun were the Plexiglas-covered photos on the grip of the 1911 Army .45 affixed to?

Sheriff Larry Fowler wanted to find out--both for professional reasons and because he was intrigued.

"Parker County deputies executed a search warrant at a house in search of a suspect," reporter Chris Vaughn wrote in The Dallas Star-Telegram. "He wasn't there, but they found the gun under a mattress. The homeowner told them he thought it was stolen."

Unable to find who it belonged to, the gun went into evidence. Fowler noticed it in the property room during renovations. A story appeared shortly afterward in The Weatherford Democrat, where readers were urged to contact the sheriff if they could identify "the rightful owner."

Then, right after the Star-Telegram story ran, the mystery was solved.

Jim Morris, 62, of Stephenville, could "hardly believe that he ... saw his father's service weapon and his mother's picture, in the hands of the Parker County sheriff. He had all but given up hope he would see it again," Vaughn wrote in a follow-up.

The gun had been stolen from Morris' home the previous October. He had not written down its serial number, so it did not show up in the police database.

His father, James L. Morris married his mother, Verna Cashatt, before shipping off to Europe with the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion.

"The custom, plexiglass [sic] hand grips came from the windshield of a crashed German bomber," Vaughn reported.

For his part, the younger Morris, who lost his mother in 2005 and his father in 2007, says he was in tears when he read Vaughn's story.

"Nothing in this world that I owned had more sentimental value to me," he told the Star-Telegram, pledging that his son would inherit the gun when he passed away.

And interestingly, the practice of embedding photos in stocks was not unheard of at the time, although the endings didn't always bring bittersweet closure, as Ernie Pyle documented in his classic Brave Men.

"The boys said the most heartbreaking rifle they'd found was one belonging to a soldier who had carved a hole about silver-dollar size and put his wife or girl's picture in it, and sealed it over with a crystal of Plexiglas. They didn't know who he was or what had happened to him. They only knew the rifle was repaired and somebody else was carrying it, picture and all."

Heartbreaking indeed. And humbling, to ponder on the sacrifices and loss that allow us to sit here today and read of such things.

Visit David Codrea's online journal The War on Guns at waronguns.blogspot.com
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Title Annotation:RIGHTS WATCH
Author:Codrea, David
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:528
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