All men have a yearning for greatness, for significance. We want to know we came from a noble heritage or lineage. My great-grandfather, Olaf Landsverk, immigrated to this country from Norway in 1916 as a teenager. Because we come from a Scandinavian bloodline, my son likes to think he is descended from Vikings. He likes the thrill of believing that our ancestors were once mighty warriors.
But it’s not just boys who revel in these kinds of dreams. My dad told of seeing photos of Olaf in a US Army uniform with a sword as a veteran of the Spanish-American War. I experienced a rush of excitement when my dad said that it was rumored that Olaf was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I seemed to walk a little taller and prouder believing that one of my ancestors was linked to greatness in some way.
Symbols also seem to be important to men. We value medals awarded for deeds of great courage and valor. We treasure trophies for competitive accomplishments. Scars are a boy’s medals—his sign of toughness worthy of bragging rights. Symbols say, “You were here—you meant something.”
One day my father gave me a magnificent gift and symbol. He formally handed over my great-grandfather Olaf’s hunting rifle. Olaf had used this rifle to hunt deer and perhaps protect his family in the backwoods of northernWisconsin. It had been passed down by my grandfather Frank and after him my uncle Bob. After Uncle Bob passed away, my father inherited this treasured heirloom.
The rifle is a model 1894 Marlin .25/.36, with an octagonal barrel. It weighs about 10 pounds, and has no safety. After I received it, I had it professionally cleaned and the firing pin replaced. I’ve been offered upwards of $1500 for it, but I wouldn’t sell it for any price.
It’s probably not powerful enough to drop one of the big “muleys” (mule deer) that we hunt in eastern Oregon, but I always take it when I go hunting and carry it at least one day of the hunt. Even though it’s impractical, heavy, and a little dangerous, my dream is to at least once use it to put food on my table like the men of my lineage have for generations.
This rifle is a mighty, valorous, battle-scarred weapon passed down from father to son for generations, and I treasure it deeply. Someday I will pass it on to be entrusted to the care of my son for future generations in our legacy.
And so too a man’s life can be passed down like a valorous symbol from one generation to the next. How will your grandsons and great-grandsons remember your legacy? Will you be a forgotten man—or will your legacy be one of significance? One passed down from father to son that makes the male receiving it feel proud and excited to have that bloodline coursing through his veins. One that says you made the world a better place because you were here.
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