The Idylls of March

In Pursuit of the Valley Grail

Early March, and the shootin’ ain’t easy. Birds aren’t flying, and the seasons are closed. Your daddy may be rich, and your mama – she may be good lookin’. But shucks, pretty baby, never mind all that! Where ya gonna go to burn some powder?

March, according to Robert Ruark, is the month when the rain falls, the dogs become listless, the ground is brown and muddy, and the shooting season – while it may technically be still open – is practically closed because everything is against you. As a result, the biggest single obstacle to shooting in March is purely mental: I, for one, never think of it as a shooting month, nor do most of my wingshooting friends.

Of course, we are talking about wild birds here. Birds in their natural habitat that breed according to the seasons and flush fine and far out. Birds that are canny and cunning. Game preserves are open all year, somewhere, and if that is your taste you can shoot something feathered-flying virtually any time you can get away. But wild birds? That’s another story.

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Love in the Time of Creedmoor

And a complete absence of common sense
Right side vertical view

In the time of Creedmoor: Barreled action by Dan Pedersen, stocked by Robert Szweda with walnut from Bill Dowtin. Sam Welch engraved the period scroll and Doug Turnbull rust blued the barrel and case hardened the action. The rifle may have no earthly use, but it sure is pretty.

Lucian Cary is almost forgotten today – an elegant writer from the heyday of magazines in the 1930s whose work graced the old Saturday Evening Post. Cary was among the last of the generation of writers (Robert Ruark was maybe the last) who appeared routinely in both mainstream magazines and the outdoor press.

In the 1930s, shooting was still acceptable in Manhattan, and Cary’s pet subjects were Harry M. Pope, the single-shot target rifle, and the arcane art of cut-rifling a barrel. This may not seem a likely subject for a series of short stories to lay before the non-shooting public, but Lucian Cary was such a good writer he made it work. The fictional barrel maker was J.M. Pyne, closely modeled on Cary’s friend Pope, and he made regular appearances in the fiction pages of the Post.

Of course, at the time, there were still many alive whose memories lingered on the grand days when long-range rifle matches were a staple of the sports pages. Huge crowds turned out at ranges named Creedmoor and Walnut Hill to watch the proceedings, and the names of great riflemen like Farrow and Hudson were as familiar as Ruth and DiMaggio.

But times change. Shooting and literary tastes change. The great ranges became housing developments and the general-interest magazines drowned in a sea of television. Lucian Cary died, an alcoholic, in a seedy hotel on the lower east side.

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