An American Character
Cyril Adams and I have been friends for over 20 years, and it was gratifying to read Vic Venters’ piece about him (“The Legend That Is Cyril Adams”) in the November/December issue. Mr. Venters captured the spirit and character of Cyril. That is not an easy thing to do and demonstrates once again why we are fortunate to have Vic writing about the things we love.
Cyril is not only talented but also generous in sharing those talents. I attribute all I know about guns and most of what I know about shooting to him. He knows more than I am capable of learning.
Please tell Vic thanks for taking the time to get it right about this no-BS American character.
I enjoyed Steven Dodd Hughes’s column on the Manufrance Robust (Nov/Dec), a double that does not receive the ink it deserves.
I’ve owned several Robusts, all 16s as best I can recall. The “stepped” barrels are a common feature, although Manufrance went to a more typical monoblock construction—no visible “step”—on later Robusts, from about the 1970s. In a 1965 article, late British shotgun guru Gough Thomas praised the French “fretted” barrels and suggested that the British gun trade might consider adopting the practice as a cost-saving measure.
The retractable sling is an interesting feature, but I’ve seen more Robusts without it—just with standard sling swivels, fore and aft—than with it.
The rifled dispersion barrel sometimes found on Robusts and other French doubles is a feature that seems to find favor with European woodcock hunters. A recent Verney-Carron catalog shows a model (an over/under in this particular case) with short barrels, one of which has the dispersion rifling. The name of the model is the Grand Becassier, probably best translated as Woodcock Special.
To learn about the Manufrance Simplex and Ideal models, see Fine Gunmaking, page 34.
Entertainment & Advice
Like many readers, I wondered about a replacement for Galen Winter and The Major as the finis to SSM. No longer. Tom Huggler did a superb job with the article on the Armistice Day storm of 1940 (To the Point, Nov/Dec). My grandfather had planned to hunt Rice Lake, in northern Wisconsin, with his usual partners, but their plans were changed and they escaped the perils of that harrowing weekend. Our native-son outdoor writer the late Gordon McQuarrie was a master at duck hunting stories, and so is Huggler. And Chris Batha and Tom Roster offered timely advice in that issue, as well.
Like many devout waterfowlers, I had assumed that late-season birds had heavier layers of feathers and fat, but Roster clarified that with his flair for making the technical aspects of shotgunning easy to grasp. Kudos also to Phil Bourjaily on his article on using double guns for waterfowling. I concur—at least 80 percent; I still use a well-worn A-5 12 on really harsh-weather days but prefer a 1952-era Model 21 Heavy Duck with Briley tubes for the greater percentage of my duck hunting.
I “discovered” Shooting Sportsman in 2000 thanks to a business friend. I’ve kept every issue since then. I never cease to be amazed by the incredible artistry of the photography, the fascinating articles and even the ads.
I even have a sequence in which I read each issue. First, I skim every page and look at the photographs and the ads. Next, I read the Major (alas, gone now). Then the editorials. Finally, I read each article in turn. It’s like making an ice cream cone last as long as possible.
When I’m too old to chase quail, pheasants and chukar, I’ll pull out my collection and reread each issue. Hopefully, that will be a number of years away.
Please keep up the great work.
More Major Condolences
Although he’s been gone for months, the letters of condolence for the dearly departed Major have continued to roll in. Here is a final sampling.
Those favored few who have been privileged to truly “understand” the Major’s misadventures will miss Galen Winter’s ability to create gentle humorous irony with a paucity of carefully chosen descriptive phrases and philosophic viewpoints. As an admirer of those who have the talent to entertain with the written word, I thank you for the long-standing opportunity to flip first to the back page of your magazine—always a brief, enjoyable interlude that concludes with a wry smile.
I also extend my appreciation to the author. As one of the “few” who has also been privileged to enjoy his friendship for several decades, I have sometimes pondered whether this has been a “labor of love” or, perhaps, a “love of labor.” Inconsequential, I say. Rather, I believe, even “what’s her name” would agree the Major is the result of a Love of Life!
Palm Harbor, Florida
I am writing to register my great disappointment in the Major’s demise. I can’t tell you how stupefied I was to read the column and be led down the path. I absolutely thought it would take a turn and show the major cheating death or convincing the attorney to provide funds early. I can only tell you that I viewed the Major as a treat in every issue, and he is now gone. I hope the passing was driven by the author’s desire to stop writing versus a poor editorial decision. After almost 20 years of readership, things won’t be the same.
I, like many of your readers could not believe as I read the last chapter on the life of Major Nathaniel Peabody (USA, ret.) that he actually would no longer share his life with so many of us. I shared many of his favorite pastimes, like bird hunting and single-malt whisky. I certainly plan to purchase Galen Winter’s book.
After I read the last chapter I had my 9-year-old grandson read it to me. When he was finished, I ask him if he understood why I wanted to be cremated, and we discussed where he thought my ashes should be spread. He had a few ideas—on a green field or in a duck hole or on an oxbow lake he likes to fish. I told him to take the issue home and have his father read it, so he would understand too. I have been blessed by being able to hunt and fish with my son and grandson. Now both of them thumb through my old issues of SSM. I hope to live and enjoy hunting as long as the Major did and die as peacefully. I am now 74, so I still have some good years ahead of me.