1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



 The Things That a Man’s Life is Made Of
John Mc Curdy

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 company.

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.