(click to enlarge)
Grandpa Ferd Busch with shotgun and game in summer of 1907, viewed from the north of his new farm home. At left, his Dad, Wilhelm Busch; at right his brother Frank. At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.
In 2013 I happened to come into possession of a book of poems, “Lyrics of the Prairie” by a retired professor at the college I attended beginning in 1958. Soren Kolstoe (bio here: Kolstoe,Soren-History) had retired right before I began my four years, but he was legendary at Valley City State Teacher’s College. His “beat” was psychology, but his love was the outdoors, particularly the North Dakota outdoors. I wrote about him here, including (with permission) his book of poems.
Near the end of the book of poems is this one:
Strange how much a man can love a gun;
A battered thing of senseless steel and wood,
I’ve used it hard and fear its day is done.
I’ll get a new one, or at least I should.
A sleek new job with parts that really match,
A perfect product of the gunsmith’s art;
Smooth, shiny blue, without a scar or scratch,
A beauty that should win a hunter’s heart.
Yet all these beauties leave me strangely cold.
I find the parting harder than I thought;
I know they’re good but still prefer the old,
To any new-style gun that can be bought.
This gun was more than just a gun to me,
A trusted hunting pal for many years.
It served me well and somehow seemed to be
A partner in my triumphs, hopes, and fears.
It’s battered now and worn beyond repair;
Its hunting days it seems at last are done.
But still I’ll keep it, cherish it with care,
Strange how much a man can love a gun!”
SOREN O. KOLSTOE
I knew my Uncle Vince loved North Dakota outdoors, and in his home were four guns – I call them farm guns – which were always ready, but, by 2013, not used for many years.
He was generally a solitary hunter for the occasional duck, deer, varmint or whatever that crossed his land. (From time to time, he’d use the shotgun to scare off the pesky blackbirds who were decimating his sunflowers – I remember that). His gun was his companion on the hunt, that was all.
So, I gave Vince a copy of Dr. Kolstoe’s poems. As it happened, it was at a time in his life when he was rapidly deteriorating in health, and five months later it fell to me to admit him to the nursing home in LaMoure. I doubt he ever looked at the book, which I found in the envelope. Life had changed his priorities.
But the possessions Vince worried about the most were his guns.
I saved them from being stolen, but I’m not sure he trusted me – someone who has never had any use for a gun, nor even owned one – to take good care of them.
He’s gone now, and I still have those guns in safekeeping, at some point to go to the family member who wants them the most.
They’re just some old farm guns: a 12 gauge or two; a .22 calibre; something that would pass for a deer rifle; a single shot out in the shed. Just old farm guns.
I think of those guns, my Uncle, Dr. Kolstoe’s poem, and lots of other things, this day after the day before when the latest carnage took place in this country at a college in Roseburg, Oregon: lots of innocent folks, and the gunman, falling to bullets from guns.
Been a long while since we in this country have crossed the boundary from sanity to insanity when it comes to guns.
Our politicians are threatened with political assassination if they mess with any one’s gun in any way whatsoever.
“Second Amendment Rights” they say.
It’s long past time we figure it out. Those folks in Oregon yesterday, now being prepared for funerals, had a “right to life” too.
Vince once belonged to the National Rifle Association, but I gather not for long. He didn’t like the policy drift of that organization.
I wonder what he’d say if he were here today, having watched the news….
Once again we have a chance to converse about this topic. And maybe a chance to do something.
from Christine: It was risky to call your message “In Love With a Gun”. Of course, one can understand your real feeling about it after reading the message.
from Claude: Very interesting, Dick. Thanks. The recent shooter had six guns on him and seven more back at home. I think it was more than one gun that guy was in love with.
On Thursday night I was returning from St Paul and listening to MPR here (dated Oct 2 but I heard it Oct 1) to a college professor being interviewed who had grown up in Baltimore in the crack cocaine days. He said it was easier to get a gun than a job. He inherited his dealer “starter kit” when his brother was killed and left a safe full of money and drugs. So this now college professor knows from the inside a lot of the gun problem. He professed never to be a gun person himself. He bought as a mid teenager his first gun just because he felt he needed one for posturing or protection (often unloaded! that seems to be a mistake?). But he knew people who loved every aspect of guns and he said that today’s gun culture is probably the same.
from Sharon: This brought memories back of my dad on the farm and the many guns he had. One was placed over the back door. They were given to nephews and us kids when he died. The rest were sold at an auction. I took the old gun that did not work anymore just to hang over a wood stove in the basement. Just sold it on E Bay last year when we moved. Thanks for sharing.
from Larry: Thanks for sharing this. It is quite powerful, and express my sentiments about gun control.
from Jim: Dick, thanks for sharing. Brings back memories of my childhood too!
from Duane: Thanks, Dick… AMEN, FGS.
from Lynn: Thank you Dick,
As I remember we credited Dr. Kolstoe for founding the EBC’s and originating it’s name.
The EBC’s had a traditional fall pheasant hunt. After the hunt, we invited our dates to a pheasant dinner which we prepared and served.
During my first teaching job in Bowdon, ND, Dr. Kolstoe spoke to our high school student body and demonstrated hypnosis with a volunteer student. After, he came to my bachelor apartment and we had pheasant, which I had hunted and prepared in a crockpot.
I had two farm guns like you describe, a double barrel 20 gage and a .22. They were strictly utilitarian and I no longer have them, left behind when I left the farm. I fired military weapons on the practice range when I was in the Air National Guard. I have no use for guns now. My son loves to hunt and he is teaching his sons proper use of guns and hunting skills.
I agree we need to do better and withdraw from the insane use of guns. I thought the task force chaired by Vice President Biden put forth reasonable legislative proposals. I would like Senator Heitkamp [ND] to introduce her alternative, since she did not support the work of the task force. Somehow, some protective mechanism should have prevented a person who was an Army boot camp dropout from bringing six guns and five ammunition magazines to an Oregon school.
from Ken: Thanks for sharing this piquant and well-thought piece. Like many, I tend to feel that the situation is rather hopeless. With a reported 90%+ plurality of polled citizens being in favor of at least more extensive background checks, still the advocates of divinely ordained 2nd Amendment prerogatives (NRA and gun manufacturers) rule the day, along with nonchalant and effete politicians who fear taking them on.Truly a problem that our system does not seem capable or competent to address, much less solve. Sad.
from Norm: I feel the same way about the limited number of guns that I own having used them and still using them for deer and bird hunting every fall, something that I really enjoy doing.
While I know that the killings in Oregon have prompted another push for gun control, I honestly don’t think that would make much of a difference in preventing such future outbursts of violence. Just like I did not think that the adoption of the permit to carry law in Minnesota would lead to an increase in gun violence as claimed by it opponents…and it did not, of course although it did lead to some business for the sign people given all of the guns are banned from these premises postings that one sees all over the place.
Of course, the laws do allow the occasional idiot who needs to have people notice him or her who wanders through public places carrying a gun visibly on his or her hip. Those folks seem to have a need for attention and probably believe that people will really “respect” them if they walk through crowds with a visible weapon on their hips.
Goodness, if their mommies had only hugged them a few more times when they were growing up maybe they wouldn’t have such a need for public attention.
I am not an NRA member nor ever will be given their far right positions on not only gun control but many other issues as well. On the other hand, I honestly do not think that more stringent gun control laws will reduce the number of incidents like the recent one in Oregon. The shooter in that instance had bought several guns over the past three years all through legal purchases. As such, the gun control laws in Oregon did not prevent him from doing what he did.
I wish that I could say that I thought that more stringent gun control laws would any future Oregon’s but I honestly do not think that they would.
from Jim: Ok Norm, we know you love your guns. But you must admit that the level of gun violence in the US is well beyond sickening toward the astounding, war-like. In the country of Columbia, which the media portrays as a hotbed of revolutionary violence, FARC revolutionaries kill about 500 per year. Columbia is a country of 48 million so a matching kill rate for the 320 million US citizens would be a little under 3400. But actual statistics for US gun violence in 2013 are 11,209 deaths by homicide, 21,175 deaths by suicide, 505 deaths by accident (Cheney events), and 281 of undetermined cause. We are bythose measures, a far more dangerous place than revolutionary Columbia.
from Charlie: Many Very Good comments here about GUNS.
Like You Norm I grew up on a farm & my Dad also kept a gun above the kitchen door. I hunted many years with him & we had a lot of fun hunting pheasants, ducks, fox, squirrels, deer & even going to Montana & Wyoming Deer hunting a few times. I also still have a couple Small Caliber guns, the shot guns & deer rifles I gave to my sons & grand sons years ago. I always loved to hunt but after my Dad died, I pretty much lost interest & only hunted a few times after my Dad’s passing. Stupid me, I even was a member of the NRA for one year & soon learned how very crazy & far right they were & still are.
Many comments here that I agree with, that it seems almost hopeless that NOT much will change.
I do feel we need much more thorough Back Ground Checks. The Change of Ownership of every gun should require a Back Ground Check, Even those like when I gave guns to my kids. A limit on the size of ammunition clips. What kind of a hunter needs more than a 10 bullet clip ? Last but not least, Ban the Sale of Assault Weapons. NO HUNTER HAS A NEED FOR AN AK-47 type Gun, I also believe we should have National Gun Laws that I think fewer of the crazies would slip through the cracks. We Do Need the Same Gun Law in Every State All Over the USA ! !
Thanks Everyone for All Of Your Great Comments.
from Kathy: Here is my personal opinion on the matter of guns.
1. Repeal the Second Amendment. We no longer need to have armed citizen militias.
2. Put a huge tax on all ammo and guns except those used specifically for hunting. Require hunters to attend a class on gun safety and require them to carry insurance for owning a lethal weapon, just like we have to have car insurance. Require them to be disabled and locked up when it is not hunting season.
3. Confiscate all other guns and ammo. Collectors must disable the guns they have, not add to collections, and register their collections with local authorities. Hunters must also register their hunting rifles. A yearly tax to own a gun and/or maintain a collection should be required. Limit the number of hunting rifles a person can own.
4. Anyone involved in a death by gun will be subject to the death penalty.
5. Shut down the NRA, and gun manufacturers.
6. Allow only ammo for hunting to be made.
7. No more gun shows.
8. Prohibit the sale or transfer of a gun to another person.
from Emmett: We are working to get an activity started here in the state of Washington to publicly highlight those persons in Congress and our State Legislature that are against tighter gun sale laws and see if we can get a national movement to do that like the $15 minimum wage movement that we started. Something has got to be done. Listening to the Sunday cable news programs, there was much discussion about the subject. Several of the discussions had to do with the high levels of crime in Chicago and Baltimore, both of which have strong gun laws, yet none of the so-called experts seemed to understand that those cities have the problem of the states around them allow gun runners to buy volumes of guns at gun shows then turn around and sell them to criminals and others just outside the city limits. We need a national referendum on the subject and the selling of guns without doing proper background checks should carry a life-in-prison punishment. This won’t solve the entire problem, but it will hopefully make some impact.
from Carol: I’ve had more than enough with the handwringing that we “can’t do anything.” I am committing to not voting in the next election for anyone who will not personally assure me that they will support (on federal/state level) the very reasonable gun control laws that Obama proposed after Newtown. Have to look up the exact language, but they were background checks for every sale, a ban on (semi-?)assault weapons, a limit on number of rounds. If some Republicans can spend their whole lives voting on the basis of abortion only, we can only look at guns. I think it is truly the only way to make a difference.
Care to join me?
from Lloyd: I took Kolstoe hunting out in the Flasher [ND] area which is where I was from with a bunch of EBC’s. We had a great time but I mostly remember knocking a hole in the oil pan of his car and ruined the motor. I have always lived with some guilt because I was driving and should have been more aware that it had happened. The poem was great and so true. I have lots of guns, or at least several and they were almost all purchased in the 50’s and 60’s. They are great relics and all work well and I still hunt with them.