Today I started into
the chore of cleaning out my corner of the basement. It’s a nice
basement, divided into 4 sections, the half that opens onto our sloping
lot has been remodeled into a combination office, spare bedroom /den, a
nice tiled bath with a shower allows it to be a guest apartment as well.
Her lady-ships section behind it contains walls of shelves and a sizable
walk-in closet for out of season clothing. My section is the other back
half. My tools and my other treasures are there!
My fly rods and spinning rods and the surf fishing rods of several years
ago are on a hanging shelf suspended from the ceiling and are along-side
the first set of golf clubs I ever owned, Grayson Housbys cast-offs!
There are also the several other sets I have bought and replaced with
clubs that were going to make me a real golfer instead of the duffer
I’ve remained. I really should do more fishing!
There also is my Dads Snake Stick, a slender six foot branch with a fork
in the end, my Dad never went for a walk without it, I can’t recall that
he ever pinned a snake with it, but it was with him if needed! A few
years ago I repaired a partial break with a copper plaque with my dad’s
name engraved on it.
The wall of shelves contain my collection of “The American Rifleman”,
from 1938 to the present, which also includes the collection of the late
L.H. Basham, Alderson’s fine gunsmith of years gone by. Also on the
shelves are copies of “The Gun Digest” and Stoeger’s and Herter’s and
other catalogs from scores of years past. There are boxes labeled “Old
Car Books”, “Photo Equipment“, and the mysterious ones entitled “Misc”.
There in the corner is a large metal cabinet that contains the powders
and primers and empty cartridge cases and reloading dies for a dozen
calibers of rifles and pistols I’ve owned and a few I still have. The
four-gun pistol box I made and carried to many pistol matches in the
past sits on top of the cabinet alongside a cartridge case tumbler and a
stack of loading blocks. I’m going to start reloading and doing a lot of
shooting again real soon.
Standing in the middle of the floor is the vintage Shop-Smith I’ve had
for over 40 years. It’s one of the earliest models, Warren Hack, a
friend of long ago, bought it off the show-room floor of Montgomery
Wards in San Francisco. When he transferred from Alcatraz to the FRW in
Alderson it came with him. When he transferred back to the west, I
bought it for $150.00 that I didn’t have. Her ladyship found the money
somewhere. It had been worth its weight in gold as we restored our house
on the hill.
On the wall over my workbench is a cartoon cut from Esquire magazine.
Jim White and John Hurley were trying to drink the world dry one night
and they labeled the cartoon characters with the names of their fellow
workers at the prison. I saved it and framed it.
The photographs of the pistol teams of the 50’s thru the 70’s are there;
Melvin Croy and Boone Cochran and Clete Shawver from the FRW. Hartley
Perego, John Hash, Ed Williams and Sandy Latimer and others from one of
the West Virginia teams at the National Pistol matches at Camp Perry. A
photo of Bunk Rowe and I out shooting in the Indiana country side on a
hot summer day long ago warms me now even as it did then. Pistol targets
from the past remind me of occasional victories once in a while in the
long ago. Ancient score-cards hang on tacks and nails and a few dusty
and tarnished trophies I can’t bear to throw away quite yet, keep them
Tools, well worn, not just by me, but by my Dad and Uncles and friends,
hang above my always messy workbench. The wear on their handles, and the
nicks and dings on them attest that they have been used, not always
well, as some of the scars show, but that they were used. The drawers
nearby, supposedly for efficient organization, offer hours of
fascinating conjecture as to what in the world I saved that particular
thing for? Broken cap pistols that our sons brought to me for repair,
the mixer Pearl used until it just simply refused to be fixed again,
they wait for me to try, once more.
I decided my space was just fine as it was and did not need cleaning, I
sat awhile and thought of all the years and all of the shooting, hunting
and fishing and golfing and the friends that I had lost and the ones I
still have and that I still treasure, I wept a little, and then I blew
my nose and went up the stairs to harass Her Ladyship who was bound to
be lonesome for my company.