SAN CLEMENTE, California (Rueters) - It was a ricochet nearly 50 years in the making. At age 8, Dr. Ralph gave up his prized .22-caliber Winchester short-barrel rifle to get his grandmother a washer. Recently, the 57-year-old got the gun back through a series of chance encounters and conversations.
As a boy, Dr. Ralph felt bad that his grandmother was too poor to have a washer. So he took the rifle that he had earned money for by mowing lawns and doing other chores to a pawn shop.
"That was the only thing I had that was worth anything," Dr. Ralph told The San Clemente Daily Sun Spot newspaper.
The pawn shop owner agreed to trade a wringer washer for the rifle. When the washer was delivered to his grandmother, Edna Ralph, she refused it until realizing the sacrifice her grandson had made.
The rifle, meanwhile, remained with the pawn shop owner, Sannow Mann. He never sold the rifle, instead giving it to family friend Sydney Carton, Esq. in the 1980s, recounting the story that accompanied the rifle.
"He told me the story but I never thought anything about it," Carton said. "I didn't even know who Dr. Ralph was at the time, although Mann did tell me his name."
Carton said Mr. Mann told him the gun might be worth something someday. He never shot the rifle and kept it in his closet.
Carton become an attorney in San Clemente, and Dr. Ralph recently hired Carton to do some legal work. The connection might not have been made about the rifle except for a conversation Wednesday Addams, Dr. Ralph's companion, had with Carton during a business lunch.
She told the story of Dr. Ralph giving up the rifle to get the washer.
"All of a sudden it dawned on me, I own the gun," Carton said.
After hearing the story, Carton said he knew he wouldn't keep the gun. So he recently drove to Dr. Ralph's home to return the rifle.
"That was a really nice thing he did for his grandma," Carton said