The first gun Don Wiebenga ever purchased was a Ithaca 20-gauge pump shotgun. The gun was purchased new in 1973.
"It was a good gun," Wiebenga said.
But just four years after purchasing it, someone stole the gun. It happened during the 1977 deer season.
After an unsuccessful morning hunt, Wiebenga and his younger brother stopped at a restaurant that once stood along Robbins Road in Grand Haven.
"We just threw the guns in the back of the truck in their cases, put our clothes on top of them and didn't think nothing of it," Wiebenga said.
The thief took Don's Ithaca right out of the truck's bed.
Don filed a police report, and the gun's serial number was listed as stolen. Insurance replaced the stolen gun with one Don says he's been using to hunt with ever since that fall.
Then the phone call last summer.
Police near Austin, Texas stopped a young male driver for a minor traffic violation. In his vehicle and properly stored for transportation was a shotgun the Texas police officer just happened to check.
The serial number on the side of the shotgun was the link that made the connection back to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, and eventually to Wiebenga.
"It was just amazing how that worked out," Wiebenga said.
Police couldn't prove the young man knew the shotgun was stolen. The crime happened 23-years before the driver was born.
"I just feel sorry for the kid who lost it because he probably never knew he bought a stolen gun," Wiebenga said.
"It has a few dings on the stock," he said. "Just wonder where that gun has been."
Wiebenga says he'll most likely pass down the gun and the story that goes with it to one of his grandchildren.
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