The Wildfowler’s Quest: Forty Years of Wandering with America’s Foremost Wildfowler. — George Reiger

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The Wildfowler’s Quest, by George Reiger, published by Nick Lyons Books in 1989 is his memoir of gunning for wildfowl in the latter half of the 20th century. I remember when I was growing up my father had amassed a pile of hunting magazines, copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream to name a few. I spent many hours poring over these magazines looking for articles on waterfowling. I learned a great deal about wildfowling across the United States and to a limited extent in Canada. At the time it never occurred to me that people across the world enjoyed wildfowling too. What makes this such a good read is that Reiger recounts his experiences gunning for wildfowl both in North America and in different parts of the world including chapters on wildfowling in Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the UK and the USSR.

Among the more interesting accounts Reiger includes is that of gunning for wild geese in the Netherlands over live decoys. He described this wild goose hunting strategy noting the following:

The greatest excitement for me was that we were using flying decoys. My host had raised the decoys (all white-fronts) from eggs, and he had four family groups. As you know, geese maintain very close family bonds. The male decoys are tethered in the field in front of the blind at a range where the shooting is to occur–20 to 25 yards–, no more! The females and young are taken into the hide (alias, blind), and this is the stimulus for every bird to set up the most unbelievable clamor to try to locate one another. This certainly gets the attention of the wild birds which look, but usually continue on their way. That is, continue until the young birds in the hide are thrown into the air whereupon they fly about in search of their parents. Meanwhile the adult females are allowed to wander outside of the hide. With all this activity, the wild birds come in as if on elastics! (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

This goose hunting strategy worked very well as Reiger recounts “every time my host lofted a bird, we had a little bunch come to us. We shot (two guns: a double and an o/u) ten birds in half an hour and decided that was quite enough–but we could have had 25 geese by 10 o’clock!” (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

The book includes chapters on various species of wildfowl, including rails, geese, sea ducks and woodcock and is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joseph Fornelli. In the concluding chapters Reiger discusses clubs, conservation and the appeal of wildfowling for those who take part in the sport. In my opinion, this book is well worth reading for anyone who relishes wildfowling and wants an understanding of the history of the sport in North America and across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey

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Outlaw marriages: the hidden histories of fifteen extraordinary same-sex couples. — Rodger Streitmatter

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Here is the latest addition to our library collection, a collection of biographies of fifteen men and women in American society prominent in art, music, journalism, literature, film and social reform who lived and loved in long term same-sex relationships long before same-sex marriage was recognized in law in the United States. It was published in 2012 by Beacon Press. The author, Rodger Streitmatter, serves on the faculty of the School of Communication at American University. He resides in Washington, D.C. with his husband, Tom Grooms. Mika found this recently on one of his book hunting expeditions.

The book offers the reader a view into the lives of the fifteen same-sex couples, gay and lesbian people who embraced the conventions of marriage and marital privacy at a time when it was neither accepted nor tolerated by the wider society. It comes as no surprise that married life for the same-sex couples documented in this book were not always happy and successful. Just as married life between heterosexual couples can be the best of times and the worst of times, so it is for same-sex couples. As Streitmatter observes in the prologue:

That the couples were willing to bend the marital rules doesn’t mean they all succeeded in creating relationships that were made in heaven–far from it. A regrettable scenario that plays out in several chapters begins with the lesser-known partner being absolutely essential to the better-known partner’s rise to success, but then … the high-achieving partner getting what might be called the “twenty-year itch.”

The publication of this book was timely in that it shows that gay and lesbian people were embracing the conventions of marriage and marital privacy long before same-sex marriage became the heated and divisive issue it is in American society in the present. In addition, it shows that same-sex marriages are subject to the very same joys and sorrows that confront heterosexual married couples. On that basis, it is an interesting read for those who enjoy biographies and are interested in the history of the movement for same-sex marriage rights in American society.

Posted by Geoffrey

Christian Wives: women behind the Evangelists reveal their faith in modern marriage. — James Schaffer and Colleen Todd

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Modern marriage is a hot button topic in the United States as the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to hand down its latest ruling concerning the legality of same-sex marriage any day now. The redefinition of modern marriage in American society to allow for same-sex couples is a contentious issue, notably for conservative Christians who are steadfast in their belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman who go on to have a family. Browsing through our library collection I came across this gem, published in 1987 by Doubleday & Company.  The 1980s was the heyday for the Evangelists, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller and Jimmy Swaggart, each of whom had thriving television ministries. The wives of these Evangelists, Tammy Fae Bakker, Macel Falwell, Ruth Graham, Maude Aimee Humbard, Evelyn Roberts, Arvella Schuller and Frances Swaggart, discuss their childhoods, how they met their respective husbands and their role in supporting their husbands in their careers as Evangelists. Their testimonies are offered as an example for Christian women to follow. Ruth Graham commented on the place of women in modern marriage for the Christian women observing:

I am a strong believer in women’s lib, to this extent: I think women should be liberated from civic responsibility, from having to work for a living, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, from all extracurricular affairs. They need to be liberated from them so they can devote themselves to their homes. (Christian Wives, p. 63)

The tone of each chapter is like that you find in any celebrity gossip magazine. You get a sugar coated view of the married life of these Christian wives who were celebrities in their own right at the time. This comes as no surprise as the authors, James Schaffer and Colleen Todd, came from the same religious background. James Schaffer is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and Colleen Todd worked as a copy editor and writer on prime time television specials for Oral Roberts. Unfortunately for the authors, however, the same time their book was published, the marriage of Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker was rocked by scandal when it was revealed in 1987 that $279,000 was paid to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary with whom Jim Bakker had an affair. This led to the dismissal of Jim Bakker as a minister from the Assemblies of God and the dissolution of their marriage. Similarly, scandal struck in the marriage of Jimmy and Frances Swaggart when in 1988 and in 1991, Jimmy was caught in the company of prostitutes. Jimmy Swaggart was dismissed from the Assemblies of God, but he and Frances remain husband and wife.

I like this book as it offers a view into the cult of celebrity in American culture as it was in the 1980s from a different and interesting point of view.

Posted by Geoffrey

Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms with the Suicide of her Gay Son. — Leroy Aarons

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This book tells the tragic story of the Griffith family, of Walnut Creek, California, whose gay son, Bobby, committed suicide in 1983. He was 20 years old. The suicide of a young person, gay or heterosexual, is tragic in its own right, of course, but in this case his mother, Mary, a staunch Presbyterian refused to accept him as gay. She put him through psychiatric treatment and prayer with church groups to “cure” him of his homosexuality, threatening to disown him otherwise. His struggle to understand his same sex attraction and the pressure from his family to overcome these feelings drove him to suicide. Her son Bobby was an aspiring writer and kept a diary, documenting his experiences and feelings. The book incorporates Mary Griffith’s experience before and after her son’s suicide and entries from his diary. Their story was made into a movie for television in 2009, Prayers for Bobby, in 2009, featuring Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith and Ryan Kelley as her son Bobby. The movie is well worth watching, though it really tugs at the heart strings.

Their story is compelling and stresses the importance of suicide prevention for gay youth. Suicide among young gay people is a reality that this book brings home to the reader. In fact, gay youth are at greater risk of suicide according to a number of surveys. Mary Griffith cannot bring back her son Bobby, but in sharing the story of her family’s tragedy and in campaigning for acceptance of gay youth, through her involvement with PFLAG, he lives on. PFLAG, which was founded in 1972, reaches out to families with young gay people, like her son Bobby, who are struggling with their identity to help them through the experience and keep them from harming themselves.

Mary Griffith learned the hard way it was her ignorance of what her son Bobby was experiencing and her inability to question her Church’s intransigent doctrine concerning homosexuality that proved fatal to him. She realized too late that while it is important in her Christian faith to care for her son’s soul; it was equally important to care for him in accepting him for who he was in the here and now. To her credit, she came to understand she was mistaken in what she believed and sought to atone for this. In examining her conscience and her understanding of Christianity, she become an ardent supporter of gay rights and working with the organization Parents Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG). Mary Griffith cannot bring back her son Bobby, but in sharing the story of her family’s tragedy and in campaigning for acceptance of gay youth, through her involvement with PFLAG, he lives on. PFLAG, which was founded in 1972, reaches out to families with young gay people, like her son Bobby, who are struggling with their identity to help them through the experience and keep them from harming themselves.

Posted by Geoffrey

Gunner’s Guide. — George Baekeland

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Here is an item I found this afternoon in a local used bookshop. Gunner’s Guide was published in  New York in 1948 by the Macmillan Company. That I found a first edition copy with its dust jacket pleases me no end. Gunner’s Guide is a neat little book that will appeal to the shotgunner who fancies side-by-side double barrelled guns. The book consists of seven chapters in 101 pages. It includes 8 tables and 12 illustrations (line drawings) and a bibliography and index. While the author discusses the different repeating actions in shotguns of the time (semi-automatic and pump action) he makes his preference plain in noting “observation leads me to conclude that double-barrelled guns are more reliable, better proportioned, and better balanced than repeaters of similar bore. They are usually lighter than repeating guns, notwithstanding the added weight of their second barrel. Recently, however, some light pump guns have been produced which compare favorably, weight by weight, with double-barrelled guns. But the finest examples of gun beauty and precision are to be found only in double-barrelled guns.”

While I am inclined to concur with the author on the elegance and some of the features he attributes to the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun, I cannot discount the utility of semi-automatic and pump action shotguns. While I have no semi-automatic shotguns in my collection, as I am a left-handed gunner and semi-autos are typically manufactured with right-handed gunners in mind, I swear by my Browning BPS pump action shotgun for waterfowling. I have used my Lanber Model 95 over and under effectively as a waterfowl gun, but find I prefer the pump action as it has the advantage of a third shot. In the uplands, I swear by my Winchester side-by-side in 20 gauge with 26 inch barrels and choked improved cylinder and modified. It is very light to carry in the thickets where I gun for woodcock and grouse and practically points itself when I walk up my dog Hera’s points and flush a bird.

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For those shotgunners who appreciate the look and feel of the side-by-side, Gunner’s Guide is a good read as Baekeland discusses topics familiar to shotgunners, bores, chokes, patterns, shells, fit, form, lead and safety, from the perspective of his preference for the side-by-side double barrelled shotgun.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

 

The Art of Shooting. — Charles Edward Chapel

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This is the latest acquisition to our library collection, something Mika found while browsing in  the Ottawa Public Library used book shop. The Art of Shooting was published in New York by A. S. Barnes and Company and in London by Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. in 1960. The author, Charles Edward Chapel, published a number of books on firearms including Field, Skeet and Trap Shooting, Forensic Ballistics, Gun Care and Repair–A Manual of Gunsmithing, Gun Collecting, The Gun Collector’s Handbook of Values and Guns of the Old West. In The Art of Shooting Chapel takes on the subject of rifle and pistol shooting. The book is well illustrated with line drawing by Sanford Strother. Chapel covers the history of the development of the rifle and the pistol in two parts: part one opens with the history of the rifle, touching on the early hand cannons of the fifteenth century, moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock (muskets), then to the modern rifle (the M1 Garand rifle in this case). In part two he details the development of the pistol in the same manner, starting with the hand cannons of the fifteenth century and moving on to the match lock, wheellock and flintlock to the modern revolver and semi-automatic pistols.

The Art of Shooting goes into great detail in every aspect of owning and using a rifle and pistol, with detailed instructions on how to load, aim and fire properly, how the rifle and pistol operates, how to properly clean and maintain rifles and pistols and crucially, how to use them safely.The book includes a chapter entitled What the N.R.A. can do for you. Yes, the debate between gun owners and prohibitionists was raging as far back as the 1950s. Regarding the NRA, Chapel notes “it is not affiliated with organizations of arms and ammunition manufacturers, receives no subsidies from the arms trade, and serves as the governing body for the shooting activities in much the same capacity as the Amateur Athletic Union and the National Amateur Athletic Federation serve other sportsmen. All rifle and pistol shooters who engage in official competitions, and several thousand local shooting clubs, support the  N.R.A.” This may have been the case in the 1950s, but currently, the NRA accepts donations from fun manufacturers. See the Ruger 1 Million Gun Challenge, for example, and frankly, why not.

He concludes The Art of Shooting with a chapter entitled The truth about firearms registration laws. Interestingly, and hardly coincidentally, here are the assertions put forward by prohibitionists in the 1950s in favour of gun registration:

(1) registration of weapons reduces crime by making it more difficult for undesirable persons to obtain weapons, (2) solving crimes would be easier because the weapons used in the commission of crime could be traced through the registration records, (3) it would be possible to arrest all persons found possessing possessing unregistered weapons, thereby making it easier for the police to apprehend criminals wanted on more serious charges, (4) gun registration keeps guns out of the hands of children, mental defectives, habitual drunkards, drug addicts, and other persons who should not have firearms, and (5) stolen guns can be returned to their owners more easily.

Chapel easily refutes these assertions, pointing to the tired comparison between automobile registration and gun registration, noting the familiar refrain of since you do not object to registering your automobile, why do you object to registering your guns? The difference between the two, he points out and as we know all to well in the present, is “the registration of an automobile is automatic. When a license is granted, no one questions a person’s right to own an automobile. If the tax is paid, the license tag is issued without question… The essential feature of firearm registration is the power of law enforcement authorities to say who may own a gun. The difference between automobile and firearm registration is obvious and vital under our constitutional form of government.”

The book is 424 pages in total and includes an extensive bibliography and an index, making it a useful reference source. While some of the information is dated, on the whole The Art of Shooting remains a good read and a nice view of the gun culture and shooting sports as they existed in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

Deer Hunting Hints. — C-I-L (Canadian Industries Limited)

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Some of you may remember C-I-L as the manufacturer of ammunition and sporting guns commonly found for sale at Canadian Tire and other retailers of hunting and shooting supplies. Imperial and Canuck were the brand names for the shotgun shells I recall seeing and using on occasion when I was a boy. C-I-L also manufactured rifle cartridges under the Imperial brand name. Together with the ammunition C-I-L manufactured the company published a series of booklets packed with useful information for hunters, and,  of course, advertisements for its line of sporting guns and ammunition. I remember my father had some of these booklets, which, unfortunately, are lost to history, but I keep an eye out for these booklets when I browse at used and antiquarian book shops. Deer Hunting Hints was published in 1950, though there is no date on the copy in our library collection; it may be a reprinted edition. Still, in its 37 pages, it packs a lot of useful information for the hunter interested in the pursuit of deer.

The opening chapter introduces the reader to the three species of deer, white-tailed, mule and black-tailed, their ranges and provides illustrations on how to identify them. The second chapter takes on the subject of firearms, offering hints as to what kind of rifle and ammunition the hunter should use in deer hunting and showing the C-I-L line of rifles and shotguns and ammunition, how very clever of them.

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The remaining chapters cover topics such as cleaning and maintaining your deer rifle, sighting it in, clothing and equipment for deer hunting, deer hunting techniques and how to dress and butcher a deer once it is on the ground and crucially, the Ten Commandments of Hunting Safety, in this publication called the Basic Rules for Hunting Safely. I remember in each of these C-I-L publications these safety rules were included.

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In keeping copies of these publications I enjoy learning about the hunting culture in Canada as it was in the past, before I was born. I find that it is really not so different in the present as this quote from the introduction of Deer Hunting Hints shows: “The first consideration, of course, is sportsmanship; the good sportsman respects his quarry as well as the rights of others. In the actual hunting of game, the first concern of the novice should be to perfect his marksmanship. He must be able to place his shots where he wishes them to go. This is his prime objective and it is not achieved without constant practice.” Publications such as Deer Hunting Hints preserve a record of our hunting and sport shooting heritage, that it has always been about sportsmanship and safety and is well worth defending for succeeding generations of hunters and sport shooters in Canada.

Posted by Geoffrey