Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nostalgic Reading Begets Questions

As I age I find myself a bit more nostalgic every year. Before Mom lost her wit but after Alzheimer's took her inhibitions she once called me a simpy fool. I guess that is true to at least some degree. I find that I like to accumulate those things I remember from my early years. Along with firearms I accumulate books.

Books are something that was a constant for me as a kid. We moved. A lot. We lived in New York in Syracuse and Fly Creek. We lived in West Virginia in Durbin, Bartow, Richwood, Huntersville, Elkins (twice), Beckley (for 2-3 weeks), and Huntersville. We lived in Kentucky in Winchester and at Frenchburg Job Corps Camp in Menifee County. We lived in Virginia in Bridgewater. All before I turned 11. I was almost always the new kid. In consequence I was pretty adaptable but even adaptable people need some constant in their lives.

That constant for me was books. Lots of them and early on. The first "big" book I ever read on my own was The Navy Boys with Grant at Vicksburg by James Otis. That was at the age of 6. After The Navy Boys, no book intimidated me.

Somewhere along the way I ran into this series of magazines or books that brought me to write this post, "The American Gun". This was a large format "magazine" bound like a book with detailed articles about historical firearms and related subjects without advertising.

The stories contained therein must have had a lasting effect on me. Some 40+ years later I instantly recognized them as a "must have" when I accidentally spied them on Ebay. With the books purchased separately and back in my clutches, I opened them to read of all the things that had helped to excite me about firearms and history.

In volume 1 number 1 we find:
- "Cold Harbor: Crossroads of Warfare" by Clifford Dowdey
- "Artillery on Land and Sea" by Robert Bruce
- "Bareback Gunfighters" by Paul I. Wellman
- "The Repeater Lincoln Tested" by Harold L. Peterson
- "A Personal Reminiscence" by Vesta Spencer Taylor
- "Swords from Ploughshares" by Foster Harris
- "The Collection of William O. Sweet"
- "The Passion for Pocket Pistols" by James E. Serven
- "Badman Harry Tracy" by Alan Hynd
- "Some Made It Hot" by Ken Purdy
- "Safari in the Rockies" by Larry Koller (who edited the series)
- "The Commotion on Balsam Ridge" by Wallace Grange
- "Great Guns of the Sixties"
- "The Winchester Model 100" by Ken Janson
- "Waterfowl of the Outer Banks" by Raymond Camp
- "The Final Protective Line" by Marshall Andrews

No wonder this was intended as a quarterly! In volume 1 number 2 we find:
- "Fred Kimble and the Chokebore Shotgun" by Charles B. Roth
- "Target: The Distant Buck" by Larry Koller
- "The Rugged Grouse" by Harold F. Blaisdell
- "The Day of the Marksmen" by Clifford Dowdey
- "Berdan's Sharpshooters" by Marshall Andrews
- "Fuzes, Flints, and Pyrites" by Robert Held
- "The Target Guns of Bill Ruger"
- "The Long, Long Rifle" by Herb Glass
- "Backwoods Shooting Match" by Norman B Wiltsey
- "The Death of Gentlemen" by Aaron Norman
- "They Never Miss" by Janet Graves
- "Frank Hamer - Texas Ranger" by Harrison Kinney

By now you're wondering how they maintained the pace of producing a quarterly with this many quality and lengthy articles. They didn't. Volume 1 number 3 was the last issue and contained:
- "Why I Like Real Meat" by J. Frank Dobie
- "A Page from Larry Koller's Cookbook"
- "The Deadliest Weapon" by Joseph E. Doctor
- "Deception at Bushy Run" by Paul I. Wellman
- "The Antique Gun as a Work of Art"
- "Brant: Harvest on the Marsh" by Van Campen Heilner
- "Ducks: A System of Identification" by Clayton Seagears
- "Woodcock: Shooter's Challenge" by Larry Koller
- "Shooting for Science in Nepal" by Edward Migdalski
- "On to Canada" by George Tilden Orick
- "Book Bonus: A Rare Document from the Pen of the Man Who Prosecuted Bill Ryan and Frank James"
- "Live Pigeons and Clay Birds" by James Rikhoff
- "Goshawk: Killer in the Forest" by Pieter Fosburgh
- "Ernst's Bayonet Guard"

Among the many authors are some still recognizable today and some you might have never heard of before. All were pretty good writers though. They held my attention, even after 40 years. I know because the first thing I did after the books arrived was read them, cover to cover. I think Mr. Koller was a good editor, he certainly chose some good articles! By the way I discovered this about Larry Koller:
During his career, Larry Koller was Outdoor Editor of Argosy, Editor in chief of American Gun, and, at the time of his death, editor and columnist for Guns and Hunting.
He also wrote several books. Unfortunately Larry Koller died in 1967.

I think Mr. Koller's effort on "American Gun" made a big impression on my life. I appreciate that and now that I once again have the three issues available I will be able to share this with my grandchildren. Maybe someday their mother will call them a simpy fool.

So what happened to the rest of the authors? I think Herb Glass is still working in the field. Clifford Dowdey died in 1979 and is appropriately buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. Paul Iselin Wellman died in 1966. Harold L. Peterson was Chief Curator of the National Park Service 1963-64 until his death January 1, 1978. Vesta Spencer Taylor was the daughter of Christopher Miner Spencer and died in 1971. Who do you know?

Where are the guns mentioned? I've been told that Bill Ruger's collection went to the National Firearms Museum.

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