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Recent gun “buy backs” hugest waste of money and time

Leave it to people who are so consumed with hate that they can’t think straight to make a solid public policy, and so they expend public time and funds on really stupid things.

We are talking here about the hate that so many elected officials (99.5% of whom are registered Democrat Party) have for firearms. Firearms that otherwise secure our police forces, secure our armed forces, secure food for the table, and secure our private homes and personal bodies from violence. Firearms by themselves never did anything to anybody, but if you are an ineffective elected fool, and you are looking to make some kind of statement about how effective you are to people who are easily impressed, you do a “gun buy back.”

Such foolishness recently happened here in Northampton County, Pennsylvania and in Utica, New York.

Never mind that there is no “back” in the gun buy-back, because the guns being purchased never belonged to the official buyer. But hey, fools are gonna fool, especially with foolish sounding policy names, and so we get these mis-named public gun purchases in mostly Democrat-run towns and counties. *I grew up in a rural area where the Democrat Party was heavily represented. Today, not one person out there is a registered Democrat, because this political party has gone off the rails.

Public funds are expended to buy guns, with great fanfare and yet very little or no gain in public safety. Usually the public message goes something like this: “If our purchase of guns here today stops just one mistaken shooting, just one crime, just one accident, why then this is all worth it.”

Which is of course more foolish nonsense. The same communities are often wracked with violence and epidemic official failure, causing hundreds of local citizens to die unnecessarily and prematurely every year. But the “just one life” thing always sounds so serious.

Never does anyone ask What if these guns were used instead to defend our borders by state militia in Arizona, or New Mexico, or California, or Texas? Think about how many lives THAT would save, given how many drug and drug violence deaths are being walked across America’s open southern border right now. These guns in the hands of private citizens defending the American border could probably save hundreds of thousands of lives!

Or, what if the local police put on a gun safety program and taught these same private gun owners with little firearms experience how to safely shoot and store their guns? They would probably make their homes so much more safe and crime-resistant!

When all of the potentially saved lives are compared to the one or two potentially, theoretically, possibly saved by the “gun buy-back,” then we see these gun buy-backs a) don’t save lives and b) are a waste of public money.

What really strikes the eye in these publicized public firearm purchases are the purchased firearms’ low quality, the large number of antique black powder guns that have not hurt anyone since the 1860s, the valuable historic and collectible guns that should be sold to raise money for public agencies, and the simple hunting-grade weapons that leftists tell us they never ever want to take away from us. And all of the hunting ammunition! Destroying this stuff is the crime!

Why don’t the police use the ammunition for police officer training? Why destroy something so valuable as ammunition?!

And since when does the government rip off private citizens, paying them literally pennies on the dollar for high value guns, and then instead of monetizing that public money investment, the government employees then destroy the high value property?

Why doesn’t the government have an appraiser on site who can advise private citizens about the actual high value of the old gun the local government is offering them $75.00 for? Why is ripping off local people a good policy?

In Utica, New York, roughly $30,000.00 of public money was spent on purchasing… “ghost guns,” which is a political term, a loaded term, and a fake term to describe guns that are manufactured off the grid. And you know what? Those “ghost guns” that sound so dangerous and scary to the New York Attorney General… they were printed on a 3-D printer! In other words, they probably cost a few bucks each to make, and then the public mis-paid the owners hundreds of dollars each.

How does any of this make sense?

And yet all of these guns and the ammo are destined to be destroyed. So say the unquestioning mainstream media fools, who stand up in front of the cameras and parrot the talking points they are handed. Hint to the paid media people: You got a degree in “journalism,” I think because you were supposed to be…journalists? What kind of a journalist doesn’t ask questions, especially of those in positions of political and official power? (Answer is: Mainstream media people are not journalists and they do not ask questions. Instead they parrot narratives given to them by leftist government employees).

So we here are doing the job of the “journalists” who appeared in writing and on TV with the articles and reports about the gun purchases in Northampton County, PA, and Utica, NY. We are asking the simple questions, and making the simple points that these are not intelligent uses of official time or money. But then again, we do not begin at the assumption that destroying any and all firearms is the right and intelligent thing for government to do, because we are not filled up with mindless hate for inanimate objects.

[Question to the pro 2A activists in Northampton County: Why not sue this nincompoop of a DA, Terry Houck, and demand that he at least assess the market value of these guns before having them destroyed? In no other area of government do people get rewarded for destroying valuable public property]

Terry Houck is Northampton County’s idiot DA, who takes great pride in knowing zero about the collectible, valuable guns he is destroying

Flintlocks, black powder percussion guns, hunting shotguns, single shots, highly collectible and valuable Veteran bring-back guns from Europe, all said by DA Terry Houck to be dangerous. And yet…none of these are associated with crime. And therefore they are not dangerous.

These are not the kinds of guns used in crime. Simple single shot shotguns and one really valuable over-under hunting shotgun, all destined to be destroyed. For no public benefit at all. Just to make fools feel good about themselves

If you stand in front of a camera and talk like a parrot, are you a journalist? Priscilla Liguori asked no questions, committed no acts of journalism in the making of her report about Northampton County’s gun purchases. One more big mainstream media failure

The green-colored gun is a Remington 20-gauge pump shotgun used for hunting birds and rabbits. The rifle at the far right bottom with the rounded pistol grip is a high value Veteran bring-back gun from Europe that never hurt anyone. The gun at the very top of the heap is a single shot black powder FLINTLOCK muzzleloader used to hunt deer; with 1790s technology, it has zero potential use in crime. Only hatred-filled firearm prohibitionists cheer on the destruction of these useful and safe recreational and collectible guns.

Primitive hunting techniques are more important than ever

In this day and age of popular stainless steel and plastic hunting rifles and Hubble telescope-sized rifle scopes, primitive hunting techniques and weapons are more important than ever. Something in the bad age of video games and instant gratification happened to the American character in the past thirty years or so, and so many young Americans have become lazy and even a bit heartless, as a result. Hunting culture has suffered from this, too. Really badly. Today’s focus seems to be predominantly on the kill, and much less on the process of the hunt.

Those curious about the distinction here should look up some neat videos from real hunters in the big woods of Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Adirondacks.

Hunting should never be just about, or mostly about, killing an animal. Especially if the hunter wants to call it a trophy and put it up on his or her wall as a representation of his skill.

People trying to justify 300, 400 yard long range shots (or farther) on unsuspecting animals are not hunting, they are assassinating. Their wood craft often sucks, their field craft is limited to wearing camouflage, and their knowledge of the game animal is negligible. They are not really hunters, but rather shooters. Their high-tech guns, ammo, and rifle scopes are a crutch diminishing their need for good woodcraft, and it also results in a lack of appreciation for an actual hunt, and a lower value placed on the animal.

Culling oversized wild animal populations for the benefit of the environment is one thing, but hunting wild animals for pleasure and clean meat should be accomplished with skill. Age-old skills that everyone can respect. Hard-won wild animals taken with real skill under fair chase conditions are all trophies.

An unsuspecting big game animal assassinated at long range (or worse, inside a high fence, or over bait) requires very little hunting skill, and can never be said to be a trophy that is reflective of the hunter’s skill set. And yet isn’t this why so many hunters want big antlers and broad hides? They see these big animals as a reflection of their hunting prowess, of their manhood, their chest-thumping status within the outdoors community. As a result, America has developed a hunting culture driven by bigger-is-better trophies, at any cost, all too often achieved through long-range assassinations of unsuspecting wildlife, or over bait. Fair chase, which has always been at the heart of hunting, has been tossed away in favor of quick gratification and unfounded ego bragging rights.

The primary reason why primitive hunting weapons are so important today, is that someone has to keep the culture of hunting alive. What is a primitive hunting weapon? Pretty much any legal implement that requires the hunter to work hard to develop unique field craft/ wood craft skills, including the ability to penetrate within a fairly close range of the prey animal’s eyes, ears, and nose: Any bow (compound bow, stick bow, self bow, longbow, or other hand-held vertically limbed bow), spear, atl-atl, open-sighted black powder or centerfire rifle, any large bore handgun with or without a scope, should qualify. Flintlocks, percussion cap black powder muzzleloaders, and traditional bows are especially challenging to master and to harvest wild game with.

All of these primitive weapons require the hunter to actually hunt, to rely upon his woodcraft to carry him quietly and unseen across the landscape, and into a fair and close range of his prey animal. Animals taken with primitive weapons and techniques are earned in every way, and therefore they are fully appreciated.

Few experiences bother me more than watching some internet video of a fourteen year-old hunter running his hands over the antlers of a recently deceased buck, and listening to this inexperienced mere child discuss the finer aspects of this rack, its inches, its points, its relative size, and its (barf on my feet) trail camera name. Usually the child has shot the deer from an elevated box blind that conceals all of the hunter’s scent, sound, and movement. Whoever has taught these kids to hunt this way exclusively, and to then look at deer harvested this way as so many bragging rights, has done a huge disservice to these kids. These kids are going to grow up into poachers and baiters, always trying to prove how great of a “hunter” they are, and how studly and manly they are, at any cost. They will end up doing anything to score the next “record book” animal. These young kids who are being warped right now with this trophy nonsense are the future of America’s hunting culture, and what a crappy culture it will be if it is dominated by big egos and even bigger mouths armed with sniper rifles and no actual hunting skill.

Moms, dads, grandpas and uncles who are beginning to teach kids to hunt right now can do two simple things that will ensure their little student grows up into an ethical, responsible, high quality, law-abiding hunter: Make them use open sights on single-shot firearms and bows.

The skills that young hunters develop from having to rely on open sights and single shots (primitive weapons) will force them to achieve a high level of field craft, wood craft, and fair chase values. Developing skill requires a person to overcome challenges and adversity, often making mistakes along the way. And that results in better character.

Forcing kids to get close to their prey animal, and to take only carefully aimed shots with just open sights, will result in people who become really  excellent hunters. Adults can always opt to add a scope to their rifle as their eyes age, but the lessons learned early on in concealment, controlling movement, playing wind direction, and instinctive shooting will keep the respectable art of hunting alive and well.

This Fall, get your little one started on a flintlock or old Fred Bear recurve bow from the get-go, for squirrels and deer, and watch as a true hunter is born.

Elk, glorious elk

I have been on extended time and distance travel, the report of which will be posted here soon. Fascinating experiences.

In the mean time, an elk tag was procured, and the hunt is in the planning stages. The camp site is an old log landing, with a big tent to house the gang. If the weather is nice, a single shot muzzleloader will be used. If the weather is damp and unfriendly to black powder muzzleloader arms, then a centerfire black powder rifle will be used. And if it’s raining, well then, an open-sight modern cartridge rifle will be used. More on this as it approaches.

Bidenflation just killed a national publication gem

“Soaring prices of paper, shipping, ink, and printing have put us into the red, and we can no longer function,” reads the personal note I received on a fabulous custom Double Gun Journal card from DGJ proprietors Daniel and Joanna.

What a message: Disastrous loss, beautifully wrapped and delivered on a silver platter.

My first encounter with the DGJ was spring 1991, in Rockville, Maryland, on a Tower Records bookstore shelf, along with Grey’s Sporting Journal and other fancier field sports publications. But the DGJ was different than any other publication I had ever seen, and, therefore, every quarter thereafter I purchased the latest edition and learned about reloading for black powder firearms long believed to be “obsolete” or “dangerous!” or un-sexy enough to compete with modern mass produced plastic and stainless steel firearms lacking a soul, a heart, or even personal appeal.

Distinguished gun and outdoor writers like Ross Seyfried and Sherman Bell introduced modern shooters, antique gun enthusiasts, and financially or historically oriented gun collectors to actually making those beautiful historic firearms shoot once again. Seyfried and Bell, in particular, removed the mystique and veil from antique rifles, double rifles, and double barreled shotguns with Damascus or twist barrels.

It turns out that the beautifully hand crafted double barreled black powder rifles and shotguns of the 1800s, and the early nitro express rifles of the 1900-1930 period, did not just look good. They also shot with incredible precision.

Since the late 1990s I have been an annual subscriber to the DGJ, eagerly awaiting each quarterly installment. In 2017, 2018, and 2022 I published a number of technical articles about Charles Lancaster double rifles. Of particular focus has been the development of Lancaster’s most valuable trademark technology, their singular oval bore rifling. For those with any curiosity, the Lancaster oval bore rifling looks like a smooth shotgun barrel. But if you squint your eyes and look hard enough, you will eventually discern an egg-shaped bore that rotates on a central axis. Lancaster’s proprietary oval bore rifling was long ago, and remains today, one of the great mysteries of sporting arms ballistics, because it absolutely defies physics. And yet, it works incredibly well.

An 1888 Charles Lancaster black powder double rifle that I shoot regularly is capable of placing paper patched bullets from BOTH its barrels into a 1.5″ hole at 100 yards. Now THAT is the very definition of firearm accuracy.

Charles Lancaster oval bore double rifles were The Thing for wealthy sportsmen around the world from the 1850s into the 1920s. That I eventually became the probable “expert” on Charles Lancaster oval bore rifles is due to a simple mistake, or a weird act of Godly intervention, or Fate. Because when now deceased Maine forester extraordinaire Tim Scott asked me to buy his Charles Lancaster .450 BPE double rifle, I bit. And then Ross Seyfried walked me through the steps of making it shoot safely. After that I was hooked, and the rest is history (see also lancasterovalbore.com).

And so here we are, saying goodbye to one of the last, if not THE last artisanal publication in America. A family owned business for decades, a byword and watchword and often the final word on antique firearms technology and reloading, the DGJ is irreplaceable. And yet it too is now fallen victim to Joe Biden’s hyperinflation. Everything is so expensive now, so much more expensive than it was just a year ago.

I recognize that Biden’s purposefully destructive economic policies are aimed at re-setting America into a more communist China-type place. While most Americans oppose this needless, illegal, forced, and destructive change, I think the loss of the DGJ is like the proverbial canary in a coal mine: Its early demise warns of us of coming dangers that can be fatal to us, too.

If you are interested in contacting the DGJ to acquire back issues, binders, beautiful note cards and artwork, etc., they can be reached at 231-536-7439 in central Michigan.

Maybe some day younger Americans will encounter these treasures, and discover an appreciation for fine firearms

My final article in the Double Gun Journal, thanks to Joe Biden’s purposefully destructive economic policies

 

True spirit of an American president

What follows below is the real spirit of the true American president and every true American citizen. Not a corrupt Marxist thief who stole the would-be elected position through vote fraud and now seeks to coerce free American citizens to become feudal serfs under the thumb of tyrannical government bureaucrats, but a freedom-loving, citizen-loving, Constitution-loving American through-and-through.

An order of April 6, 1779, issued in Boston and now preserved in the Emmet Collection of the New York Public Library (also on display in Morristown, New Jersey), describes in detail the required arms and accouterments of that day (1779) for America citizens. Its spelling is of that time:

To Shrimpton Hutchinson Esq.
SIR,

You are hereby ordered and directed, to compleat yourself with ARMS and Accoutrements, by the 12th Instant, upon failure thereof, you are liable to a FINE of THREE POUNDS; and for every Sixty Days after, a FINE OF SIX POUNDS, agreable to Law.

Articles of Equipment,

A good Fire-Arm, with a Steel or Iron Ram-Rod, and a Spring to retain the same, a Worm, Priming wire and Brash, and a Bayonet fitted to your GUN, a Scabbard and Belt therefor, and a Cutting Sword, or a Tomahawk or Hatchet, a Poach containing a Cartridge Box, that will hold fifteen Rounds of Cartridges at least, a hundred Buck Shot, a Jack-Knife and Tow for Wadding, six Flints, one pound powder, forty Leaden Balls fitted to your GUN, a Knapsack and Blanket a Canteen or Wooden Bottle sufficient to hold one Quart.

In other words, our American citizen, Shrimpton Hutchinson [fabulous name!], Esq., was commanded by his government to prepare for war against enemies both foreign (British Redcoats) and domestic (anti-freedom, anti-America Tories/Royalists/Loyalists), by assembling his own personal war-making weapons and equipment. Notably a military-grade firearm and all of its necessities, plus what we would today call hiking and camping gear for Mister Hutchinson’s time afield as a citizen soldier.

This fierce founding spirit, strong among those who first created America, in its general sense and in its particular military-grade gear requirement, is still alive among those Americans who do not take our freedoms or founding principles for granted. We who embody this spirit today know that tyranny is always just one generation away, because unfortunately, a proportion of humans are always power-crazed control freaks, who will not rest until they have every person under their thumb and absolute control. It is just the nature of some people to be bad this way, and it is therefore the duty of freedom-loving people to reject and sometimes legally or even physically repel those bad people.

In this vein, several months ago, Pennsylvania attorney Josh Prince won a significant lawsuit about the ownership and use of private firearms here in Harrisburg, with implications for holding over-reaching, anti-freedom government bureaucrats accountable across the entire Commonwealth. In a nutshell, the Court held that Pennsylvania’s firearm pre-emption law means exactly what it says, which is that local municipalities cannot create a 2,500-municipality crazy patchwork of firearm regulations here, any more than local municipalities can create such a patchwork of abortion regulations or approved books regulations etc.

I am the Harrisburg City plaintiff in this lawsuit, brought and paid for by Firearm Owners Against Crime, a group of which I am a life member. Although I am not presently bearing arms against tyrants like our patriot friend Shrimpton Hutchinson in 1779, I am part of the ongoing legal contest to preserve the basic rights of free American citizens to own and bear military-grade firearms for our own self-preservation.

The irony of this is that I actually do not like or enjoy military-grade firearms. My greatest personal enjoyment and use of firearms is the old muzzle loaders and black powder cartridge sporting firearms of the 1770s through about 1910. It is that spirit of free choice you have between one firearm and another that I defend and promote.

Hopefully soon, America will have a person in the Oval Office worthy of being called President (and not President* or pResident), a person in and on whom the spirit of our founding principles sits deeply. A person who not only trusts his fellow citizens with military grade firearms, and who sees America as a government Of, By and For The People, but as in 1779 he demands that they personally keep and own such firearms at home and on their person, to be prepared always to use them in defense of America.

The spirit of America – a worker leaving his office while preparing to repel lawless tyrants. This is where your freedom comes from

A well-deserved Thank You to some stalwarts in the shooting sports

Since early childhood and Wyeth paintings of Captain Kidd and pirates bearing cutlasses and flintlock pistols, old timey guns and edged weapons have gripped my imagination.

No, there is no oddity here in that. There is no eccentric or weirdo behavior resulting from this affliction.  In a sporting world increasingly enamored of stainless steel and plastic firearms, bearing Hubble Telescope-like magnifying scopes capable of coldly assassinating animals at half a mile or longer, being a nut for simple guns of old steel, open sights, and darkened walnut sets one apart more on the side of sanity.

When these old guns last hurt someone, the War of 1812 was a recent memory; maybe some time in the 1890s a kid playing with one hanging above the mantle managed to unintentionally bag his grandma in the living room.

In 1994, a pile of them were dumped into the trash by one of my neighbors in suburban Maryland, because they were “guns,” and therefore bad, apparently, despite each one being representative of one artistic school or another, each a canvas of steel and wood, not fabric. Together worth a new luxury car at that time, and today each worth a single car.

Dumping them in the trash was that recent widow’s own self-inflicted wound.

In general, these quality antique firearms and their “modern” descendants, including the black powder express rifles, double barrel shotguns, nitro double barreled rifles, and single-shot stalking rifles, pose no risk to humans and are a threat to four-legged animals only when used with hard-won, developed skill and hard-earned, focused woodcraft. After all, these weapons require their user to approach wary wild game within at least 150 yards, and well within 100 yards is preferred, where noses, ears and eyes easily tell the quarry “RUN! NOW! FAST!”

No assassinations here.  Hunting skill is the key.

Many of these guns were made at a pivotal time in human and technological history when steels were dramatically improving in hardness and durability, explosives were well on their way to matching our best fireworks today, electricity-powered machinery was becoming more available and more precise, human labor was still abundant and relatively cheap, and standards of craftsmanship were still exceptionally high so that each item a worker produced carried his or her pride of best abilities applied.

Finally, remote stands of ancient walnut trees and other tree species, long neglected for their timber and enjoyed by the natives for their fruits and nuts, became known and available by steam locomotive, pack mule, and steam ship. Wood from these trees captured a time when few factors reared their hands against the relatively soft material, and so they grew slowly in peace and quiet in far-off lands and places, each decade adding a narrow band of dense and highly figured curl and figure to what would eventually become a stunning, valuable gunstock in London, Suhl, Ferlach, and Belgium.

Today, such firearms, and even reproductions of them, are highly sought after by harmless romantics seeking to hunt but not necessarily to kill, to capture the essence of bringing an aesthetically pleasing hand-craft to the necessary bloodletting in harvesting wild game; basically, to class-up and improve the joint a bit with style and understated elegance.

Certainly there are representations of this time period among our most favorite buildings around the planet, so if “guns” elude you, your emotions, or your tastes, think of beautiful, carefully constructed, famous buildings that inspire people (or furniture, or cars, or or or…). Then you should understand that those nerdy, harmless romantics actually carry such high art around in the woods, and that being a nut for such specimens of humankind’s best mechanical and artistic abilities is not such a strange preoccupation, after all.

It is an aesthetic pursuit, with a bang.

As this right here is not a book, and as it is merely my own small, off-hand, and brief attempt to say Thank You to people who have distantly but materially added to my quality and enjoyment of life, just three institutions are receiving mention today, though many many many more deserve kudos, too (Steve Bodio comes to mind, or Ironmen Antiques, and and and…).

First, a big thank you to the Cote Family, the hard working founding publishers of the Double Gun & Single Shot Journal (DGJ), 1989 to present. Without the DGJ, aficionados of old but not the oldest or most popular firearms would have but occasional and fleeting mentions in Grey’s Sporting Journal, American Rifleman, and hard-to-find tomes filled with errata and alchemy.  DGJ captures both the spirit of old hunting tools and methods, and the details required to make the whole endeavor successfully fall into place now.

Without the DGJ, Capstick and Pondoro and similar oldies-but-goodies would be most of the reading available to us.  Yes, yes, Roosevelt’s African Game Trails and his other hunting books are phenomenal, but how many times over can a person read them?

So a huge Thank You to the Cote family for keeping the DGJ going.

Second, DGJ hosts such gifted analysts as Sherman Bell, whose decades-long “Finding Out for Myself” series of articles has put to rest silly notions about using black powder and nitro-for-black substitutes (yes, you can kill a beautiful buck with style, elegance, and woodcraft, you do not have to be an assassin to be successful), the safety of Damascus barrels (yes, they are safe with modern shells), and other interesting myths and facts surrounding Grandpa’s old gun on the mantle.  Thank You to Sherman Bell, for enriching my life in small but directly meaningful ways with these beloved and useful artifacts.

Finally, a huge Thank You to noted gun writer Ross Seyfried, whose introspective writings and wanderings in DGJ and elsewhere have inspired many others to pick up the double rifle or single shot, and shelve the plastic contraption, once again capturing the spirit, at least, of fair chase. And Thank You, Ross, for your own steady, incredibly patient guidance and knowledge as I walk my own path.

Yes, I know, you too had your mentors, and they too held your hand and guided you along your path. We have walked those paths with you in the Matabeleland of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and the hills of Elk Song in Oregon. But in a culture of increasingly shallow or fragile relationships, expectations of immediate gratification, point-and-click ‘knowledge’, plastic contraption guns, brief patience, half-mile assassinations of unstalked animals, and so on, being a junior apprentice to someone like you is a pleasurable rarity, and an honor.

Ross, I pledge I will do my best to follow in your footsteps and do as you have done with me: Passing along all of my knowledge of the old things, the old ways, the class and the grace — what little I possess!, to those who want them. I will withhold nothing from that next generation.

 

Remembering neat people, Part 1

A lot of neat, interesting people have died in the past year or two, or ten, if I think about it, but time flies faster than we can catch it or even snatch special moments from it. People I either knew or admired from afar who changed me in some way.

There are two men who influenced me in small but substantial ways who I have been thinking about in recent days. One of them died exactly ten years ago, and the other died just last year. Funny how I keep thinking about them.

It is time to honor them as best I can, in words.

First one was Charlie Haffner, a grizzled mountain man from central Tennessee. Charlie and I first crossed paths in 1989, when I joined the Owl Hollow Shooting Club about 45 minutes south of Nashville, where I was a graduate student at the time.

Charlie owned that shooting club.

Back before GPS, internet, or cell phones, the world was a different place than today. Dinosaurs were probably wandering around among us then, mmm hmmmmm. Heck, maybe I am a dinosaur. Anyhow, in order to find my way to the Owl Hollow club, first and foremost I had to get the club’s phone number, which I obtained from a fly fishing shop on West End Avenue. Then I had to call Charlie for directions, using a l-a-n-d l-i-n-e, and actually speaking to a person at the other end. You’d think it was Morse Code by today’s standards.

After getting Charlie on the phone, and assiduously writing down his directions from our phone conversation, I had to use the best map I could get and then drive way out in the Tennessee countryside on gravel and dirt roads. Trusting my directional instincts, which are good, and trusting the maps, which were pretty bad, and using Charlie’s directions, which were exactingly precise, I made my way through an alien landscape of small tobacco farms and Confederate flags waving from flagpoles. Yes, southcentral Tennessee back then, and maybe even today, was still living in 1865. Not an American flag to be seen out there by itself. If one appeared, it was either directly above, or, more commonly, directly below the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag shared equal or nearly equal footing with the American flag throughout that region.

Needless to say, when I had finally arrived at the big, quiet, lonesome gun range in the middle of the Tennessee back country, the fact that I played the banjo and was as redneck as redneck gets back home didn’t mean a thing right then. Buddy, I was feelin’…. Yankee, like…well, like black people once probably felt entering into a room full of Caucasians. I felt all alone out there and downright uncomfortable. And to boot, I was looking for a mountain man with a deeeeep Southern drawl, so it was bound to get better. Right?

Sure enough, I saw Charlie’s historic square-cut log cabin up the hill, and I walked up to it. Problem was, it had a door on every outside wall, so that when I knocked on one, and heard voices inside, and then heard “Over here!” coming from outside, I’d walk around to the next door, which was closed, and I would knock again, and go through the process again, and again. Yes, I knocked on three or four of those mystery doors before Charlie Haffner finally stepped out of yet one more doorway, into the sunshine, and greeted me in the most friendly and welcoming manner.

Bib overalls were meant to be worn by men like Charlie, and Charlie was meant to wear bib overalls, and I think that’s all he had on. His long, white Father Time beard flowed down and across his chest, and his long, flowing white hair was thick and distinguished like a Southern gentleman’s hair would have to be. And sure as shootin’, a flintlock pistol was tucked into the top of those bib overalls. I am not normally a shy person, and I normally enjoy trying to get the first words in on any conversation, with some humor if I can think of it fast enough. But the truth is, I was dumbfounded and just stood there in awe of the sight before me.

Being a Damned Yankee, I half expected to be shot dead on sight. But what followed is a legendary story re-told many times in my own family, as Charlie (and his kindly wife, who also had a twinkle in her eye) welcomed me into his home in the most gracious, witty, and insightful way possible.

Over the following two years, I shot as much as a full-time graduate student could shoot out there at Owl Hollow Gun Club, which is to say not as much as I wanted and probably more than I should have. Although my first interest in guns as a kid had been black powder muzzleloaders, and I had received a percussion cap .45 caliber Philadelphia derringer as a gift when I was ten, I had not really spent much time around flintlocks. Charlie rekindled that flame in me there, and it has burned ever since, as it has for tens of thousands of other people who were similarly shaped by Charlie’s re-introduction of flintlock shooting matches back in the early 1970s, there at Owl Hollow Gun Club.

Charlie died ten years ago, on July 10th, I think, and I have thought about him often ever since: His incredible warmth and humor, his amazing insights for a mountain man with little evident exposure to the outside world (now don’t go getting prejudiced about mountain folk; he and many others are plenty worldly, even if they don’t APPEAR to be so), his tolerance of differences and willingness to break with orthodoxy to make someone feel most welcome. Hollywood has done a bad number on the Southern Man image, and maybe some of that negative stereotype is deserved, but Charlie Haffner was a true Southern gentleman in every way, and I was proud to know him, to be shaped by him.

The other man who has been on my mind is Russell Means, a Pine Ridge Sioux, award-winning actor, and Indian rights activist who caught my attention in the early 1970s, and most especially as a spokesman for tribal members holed up out there after shooting it out with FBI gunslingers.

American Indians always have a respected place in the heart of true Americans, and anyone who grew up playing cowboys and Indians knows that sometimes there were bad cowboys who got their due from some righteous red men. Among little kids fifty years ago, the Indians were always tough, and sometimes they were tougher and better than the white guys. From my generation, a lot of guys carry around a little bit of wahoo Indian inside our hearts; we’d still like to think we are part Indian; it would make us better, more real Americans…

Russell Means was a good looking man, very manly and tough, and he was outspoken about the unfair depredations his people had experienced. While Means was called a radical forty years ago, I think any proud Irishman or Scottish Highlander could easily relate to his complaints, if they or their descendants stop to think about how Britain had (and still does) dispossessed and displaced them.

Russell Means played a key role in an important movie, The Last of the Mohicans. His stoic, rugged demeanor wasn’t faked, and he was so authentic in appearance and action that he easily lent palpable credibility to that artistic portrayal of 1750s frontier America by simply showing up and being there on the set. Means could have easily been the guy on the original buffalo nickel; that is how authentic he was.

Russell Means was representative of an older, better way of life that is disappearing on the Indian reservations, if that makes any sense to those who think of the Indian lifestyle that passed away as involving horses and headdresses. He was truly one of the last of the Mohicans, for all the native tribes. Although I never met you, I still miss you, and your voice, Mr. Means.

[Written 7/23/14]