Family heirloom gun has famous origin
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 3:23 AM
Jordan Meskill's 12-gauge shotgun, handed down through generations, has quite an extensive family history, but it wasn't until the Kingsland senior needed to repair it that he discovered the famous first owner.
Jordan Meskill's vintage gun is an heirloom that originally belonged to Sports Afield magazine publisher Walt Taylor. GRETCHEN LOVEJOY MENSINK/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
"There was a note in the butt stock of it," said Meskill, speaking of the 12-gauge shotgun he inherited from his father, Terry, who in turn had inherited it from his father, Jack Meskill, who'd gotten it from his father-in-law, Leo "Buck" Sellers, but the original owner was someone quite unusual - Walt Taylor, an early publisher of the men's sports magazine, Sports Afield.
The Kingsland trap shooting team member shared, "It was given to him (Buck) by my great-grandpa's brother-in-law when he got married. It went from my great-grandpa to my grandpa to my dad, and finally to me. For my grandpa, it was a wedding gift because my great-grandpa Buck was my grandma Gayle's dad. When Walt Taylor gave it to my great-grandpa, he presented it to him with the note that said, 'To my dearest brother-in-law, this gun is yours to do with as you wish for as long as you live. With love, Walt Taylor.'"
According to a history of Sports Afield, the magazine was founded in 1887 by Claude King and is the oldest continuously published magazine in North America. The first issue was eight pages long, was printed on newsprint in Denver, Colo., in 1888, and as "The Journal for Gentlemen," promised "to be devoted to hunting, fishing, rifle and trap shooting, the breeding of thorough-bred dogs, cycling, and kindred sports..."
Taylor, who published the magazine after it survived the Great Depression, was in command when Hearst Publications purchased it in 1953. Jordan added that his grandmother speculated that Taylor was also a partial owner of the Lakers basketball team when the team belonged in Minnesota.
Jordan related that he hadn't even seen the gun, with its connections to the magazine publisher and basketball team owner, until he joined the trap shooting team this spring, and nobody knew about the note sealed in the gun's stock until the shotgun required some repairs.
"My dad had kept it for 20 years. I didn't think the gun would shoot as well or last this long, but it started coming apart, and that's when (trap team coach) Neal Hinners and I found the note in the butt stock...I had to take the butt plate off to fix it," he said.
That Jordan is even using the gun to compete in state high school shooting sports tournaments is unique, because, as his mother, Jana, pointed out, "it's almost unheard of, with all the fancy technology other shooters are using...so the history of the gun is pretty interesting."
She added that she's proud of her son's accomplishments, as he's first in the state individual category and 34th in the team competition (see story on the state trap shooting meet next week). Jordan has plans for the vintage gun now that he's done at the state tournament, having taken a backup in case his wouldn't handle the day's activities well due to its age.
"I might shoot it a little bit here and there, clean it up and keep it in the family," he said.