Monday, August 13, 2018

How a STETSON Hat is Made

Several of you have asked me to follow up on my post John B. Stetson -- "Father Of The Cowboy Hat" with a post about how a Stetson is made.

Well, I worked on that for a while. Yes, I really did. Frankly, it felt a lot like writing a tech manual. Since writing such manuals is something that I did in fact do to supplement my income for years, something that I figured I had paid my dues doing, something I promised myself that I would never start writing again, I stopped trying to write about how to make a Stetson.

Instead, I found this video for you from YouTube. I think it's very well done. And of course, I hope you enjoy it.

Tom Correa

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Knowing How To Use A Gun Brings Peace Of Mind

More than once in my life have I found out that a friend or his wife, or their children, has felt a sense of confidence after learning how to shoot. Whether it's  someone learning to used his or her grandfather's shotgun, or someone getting acquainted with the use of their dad's pistol, I'm always happy to hear people say how they now feel confident and competent with using a gun safely. 

For some, shooting any sort of gun can feel a little scary at first. But with the proper training, fear is reduced and a sense of confidence takes over. Soon, a shooter realizes that they control the gun. They learn that a gun is just a mechanical object, a tool, a machine. They learn fairly quickly that a gun does not control you, you control it. After all, it is just an it.

What I mean by that is that it cannot get up off a shooting bench, walk itself out from a desk drawer, or jump out of a gunsafe. If it's loaded, empty, pointed away from others, used safely as it should, then that's up to its handler, the shooter, the person using it.

There are all sorts of uses for firearms of all sorts these days. From competitions shooting semi-auto rifles and semi-automatic pistols, to matches using only lever-action rifles and Single Action pistols, to shooting events that only require shotguns, there are all sorts of recreational match shooting out there.

While it's absolutely wonderful to see firearms shooting matches today, people shouldn't think this is something new to America. One type of match shooting is called "Schuetzen" shooting. And while some may not have ever heard of it, it's been a part of American sport shooting since the early 1800s.

The word "Schuetzen" comes from the word "Schützenverein" which is German for "marksmen's club". In Germany, "Schuetzen" shooting clubs originated as  town militias which were primarily created to defend a town. Today there are no military aspects to them, but they do have a following because of the social and sporting aspects of "Schuetzen" shooting.

In Germany, it's said there's over 15,000 Schützenvereine in towns and cities all over the country. Yes, that's 15,000 marksmen's shooting clubs. Most are affiliated with the "Deutscher Schützenbund" which is the German Marksmen's Federation, also known as the DSB. The DSB was founded in 1861, disbanded in the 1930s when German citizens were disarmed by the Nazis and revived in 1951 following World War II. Nazi's didn't want an armed public because it's hard to make slaves of a people that are, and the Nazi knew that.

With over 1.5 million members in the DSB, it's the third largest sports organization in Germany. The amazing part of all of this is that the DSB is not the only sport shooting organization in that country. Believe it or not, Germans have trap and skeet shooting, as well as all sorts of other rifle and pistol competition shooting.   

As for Schuetzen shooting, its Germany's oldest shooting sport. In fact, each Schützenverein, marksmen's club, organizes shooting events called Schuetzenfests. These events are a combination of shooting matches combined with a festive atmosphere. Besides the "Schuetzen" shooting, annual Schützenfests usually include food, family and fun. They also include matches with air rifles, air pistols, small bore shooting, and even crossbows. 

Here in America, things were not much different in the beginning. Schuetzen shooting clubs were founded by German-Americans, those new arrivals who were still learning English in most cases, and their clubs acted as social clubs in their communities. As for shooting, they only shot Schuetzen rifles. 

Schuetzen shooting clubs today are really no different than back when. They have a range for target shooting up to 200 yards. Back in the 1800s, besides shooting, those clubs would have beer on hand. As most know, beer and German immigrants went hand in hand. And since Schuetzen shooting clubs were seen as social clubs, it's said that larger clubs had extensive facilities such as an Inn, where dances, music, picnic grounds, and other entertainment were available to the entire family. It was very common back in the mid-1800s for thousands of people to attend a major event at a local Schuetzen club.

1902 postcard of a Shuetzen shooter
So what so different about Schuetzen shooting? Well, after seeing the "Schuetzen Rifle," I can tell you that it is not your ordinary shooting rifle or sport for a few reasons. They're just in a class of their own.

As I said, the tradition and history of Schuetzen shooting goes back over 200 years in our nation. Schuetzen itself is both a specialized rifle and a unique style of shooting. To me, Schuetzen shooting is the definition of a challenging shooting long-range competition. Matches are usually shot in the standing position at 200 yards. A special Schuetzen target with a "Bullseye" scored at the 25 ring is used. While the original Schuetzen rifles were muzzle loaders, breech loading Schuetzens have been around since the 1880s.

Charles H. Ballard's self-cocking tilting-block action was produced by Marlin Firearms in 1875. This type of shooting is only shot from the standing position and the rifle itself is design in a way that it's almost impossible to shot it from the sitting, kneeling, or prone positions. Among Schuetzen shooter, it's considered a pure shooting sport and has earned an outstanding reputation among long-range "Creedmoor" target shooters. 

While I admire that sort of shooting for its skill level, in general the act of learning to shoot is a great way to build self-confidence. Besides it helping folks by spilling over into other areas of one's life, someone learning to shot also gains a sense of peace of mind when it comes to defending one's self. 

Most families heading West during the 1800s knew how to use a firearm to provide for their family and protect themselves whether it was their land or their person. Households would have a gun there, and while not always crack shots, they were proficient with the guns available.

Though there were only 45 deaths on record in the Kansas cowtowns of Wichita, Abilene and Dodge City, from 1870 to 1885, and the worst year in Tombstone being 1881 with five deaths total, violence was not tolerated in the Old West and people remained armed to care for themselves.  

As writer Louis L’amour put it, "Gunplay did not enter the life of every citizen, although a time might come when a man might be called upon to defend himself, The law, if present, was often beyond call, even as now. Nor was the western man inclined to call for help. He who settled his own difficulties was most respected."

It wasn't a matter of strutting around with low slung holsters, shooting at a silver dollar thrown into the air, or shooting the flames off a candle. It was a matter of hitting a deer, or taking down an attacker. It some cases, it was just knowing that you were able to protect yourself during an attack from desperadoes or a band of Indians.

On November 18, 1868, the U.S. Army established a post as a "Camp of Supply" in what was back then the Cherokee Outlet. It was located just East of what is today Fort Supply, Oklahoma. It was known as Camp Supply at the time and was set up to support General Philip Sheridan's Winter campaign of 1868 against the Southern Plains Indians. It was also used to support George Custer's Seventh Cavalry when they went south to attack the Cheyenne Indians led by chief Black Kettle. That battle became known as the Battle of the Washita. Later on the camp was used to protect the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservations from incursions by Whites.

Camp Suppy

During an Indian attack on Camp Supply, Frances Marie Antoinette Mack Roe, who was an officer’s wife, described what took place in a letter she sent after the attack. In her letter which she wrote in October of 1872, she stated:

"Night before last the post was actually attacked by Indians! It was about one o'clock when the entire garrison was awakened by rifle shots and cries of 'Indians! Indians!' There was pandemonium at once. The 'long roll' was beaten on the infantry drums, and 'Boots and Saddles' sounded by the cavalry bugles, and these are calls that startle all who hear them, and strike terror to the heart of every army woman. I had firm hold of a revolver, and felt exceedingly grateful all the time that I had been taught so carefully how to use it ..."

As with today, the most important aspect of having a firearm on hand for protecting yourself is your feeling comfortable with the one you have. As in the case of Mrs. Roe in 1872, while the situation was scary, she appreciated the time she spend being taught how to use her revolver. 

It gave her a sense of peace of mind, a sense of confidence, in knowing that she knew how to shoot properly and could use her revolver. If the attackers passed the defenders and made their way to her and the others taking shelter at there at that moment, she could defend herself. While her ability to fend off an onslaught was limited with just a single revolver, at least she was confident that she could defend yourself with a gun if that became her last resort. 

Over the centuries, many have demonstrated the fact that guns save lives. Mrs. Roe is just the person who I'm using here as an example to make the point that with training and practice, knowing how to use a gun brings peace of mind. After all, it worked in the Old West were guns made for a more secure society. 

Tom Correa

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Padre's Shoe & The Outhouse Pistol

Dear Friends,

My American Legion Post, Calaveras Post 376, here in tiny Glencoe bought my wife and I a night's stay with dinner and even a bottle of champagne sent to our room at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, Nevada. We left on Monday morning and returned Tuesday night. Since the Carson Valley is only about two hours from our home here in the Sierra foothills, it was great to get away and take a run over the Sierras and into Nevada.

While the smoke from all of the forest fires was horrible, it was great to get away. My wife is a great sport and she doesn't mind hitting the Old West museums and historical sites to help me find more stories for my blog. My Deanna is a wonderful gal. She's way too good for me. She treats me wonderful and I've been blessed to have her in my life.

Once out there, we decided to run over to Virginia City to check out that old town. I've been there many times over the years, and these days I find the town even more interesting to visit with my wife. While there, I went on a search for a very small museum that I absolutely loved many years ago. It had all sorts of interesting artifacts on display. And since I couldn't find it the last few times out there, I was really hoping that the owners may have reopened it. They didn't. It's no longer around and I found out that the owner auctioned off everything in there.

Among the fascinating things in that museum was a horseshoe with a story attached to it. It was called the Padre's shoe because it was a horseshoe with a Christian cross as its heartbar. The story behind it is that the horseshoe was specially made for Catholic priests and padres in the days of the Spanish Missions. The idea behind it was that bandits would see that they tracks it left had a cross in them. That would indicate that the rider was a priest or a padre. It's said that because of the cross, bandits would leave the padre alone and not rob him.   

The Outhouse Pistol

As with anything we read in a museum, we can believe this or not while hoping  that the information is factual. There are a lot of great stories out there sitting in tiny museums. It's sort of like the story of the "Outhouse Pistol" that I also saw in that same little museum in Virginia City. It was there in a glass case that I saw a small pocket pistol as pitted and rusted solid as can be. Frankly, it looked as if it has been unearthed yesterday from some swamp that had dried up.

The story goes that a young man shot and killed someone important in Virginia City. The young man ran for his life because close behind him was a mob with a rope. The mob at one point lost him, but then found him.

The young shooter hid out in an outhouse. He didn't know what to do with his pistol so he threw the pistol down the hole. After they got him out of the outhouse, they could find a weapon on him. Some figured that he threw it in the hole but no one wanted to go after it, even though it was the murder weapon.

No, no one would go after the pistol. And because they couldn't produce the gun, at least that's what the story said, the people decided that they couldn't prove that he was the shooter. They theorized that they too would start running if any of them saw a lynch mob with a rope coming after them. So no, just his running away didn't make him a killer.

Besides, the young man is said to have started confessing to all sorts of petty crimes that he thought they had found out. That was supposedly why he ran when he saw them coming after him. So instead of hanging him, as the story goes, they banished him from the town.

It's said there were those who questioned if he did it or not? There were those who wondered if they had banished someone who really should have been hanged? Of course, no one knew the answers to those questions because there were no witnesses and they didn't have the gun. Some didn't believe that there ever was a gun thrown down that hole in that outhouse. Those folks believed that they could have lynched the wrong man.

Years later, long after that old outhouse had been moved, the ground had dried up. Many who were there during the murder were still around, though old and gray. While digging in the area for some reason, workers found the pistol. Of course, immediately many of the old timers swore up and down that they knew it was there all along. 

I saw the outhouse pistol in that small museum that's no longer there. And while I can't remember if the small pocket pistol was an Inver Johnson or not, it did look like the one below which is. Except, it looked as though it had been recently dug up, rusted, corroded, completely useless after years in the "ground." 

As for the "Padre's shoe," after posting a picture of what I remember it looking like, a reader said she couldn't find it when she used Goggle to search for such a heartbar horseshoe. She wanted to know my source. As with many of the stories that I've written about, my interest has been sparked after seeing something in a museum, seeing something at some historical site, reading about something in an old newspaper. Some things get me thinking about the rest of the story, the story behind what I've found. Other things make me wonder if the person writing about this or that was in reality a fiction writer, and I start researching to find out what I can about what really took place.

My source for the Padre's shoe, a horseshoe with a Christian cross as a heartbar, came from that small museum in Virginia City. While it is no longer there, that's where I saw that heartbar horseshoe and read about it so many years ago.

Frankly, I can't remember if the shoe was for a horse or a donkey, or meant for already traveled roads. I went looking for it so that I could take a picture of it so that you could see it for yourself. It's a shame that the museum is no longer there. Like you, I've seen a lot of horseshoes with bars and heartbars, but I've never seen one like the one that I saw in that museum. 

And maybe that's the point, like the story of the outhouse pistol, maybe it's because I'd never heard of such a story that it sticks with me.  

Tom Correa