Category Archives: Life

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 8, Fundamentals of Marksmanship, late 1970’s.

My grandfathers were both shooters, my dad’s father was an amateur competition trap shooter, trick shooter and marksman from his World War 2 service in the United States Marine Corps, my mother’s dad from growing up hunting in the hills of Smith County, West Virginia. As I spent a lot more time with my Pap Ashcraft, mom’s dad, he took on the task of teaching me to shoot and started a life long love of firearms.

The rifle above is a single shot, Stevens Junior Model 11. It is identical to the one that my pap taught me to shoot on and that I fired literally thousands of rounds through. It served several generations of our family only to go missing after his death. The rifle was older and field worn. It had many repairs over the years but it shot true. Simple, non adjustable iron sights, manual extraction and loading, and you clocked the hammer to fire it. The trigger was crisp and effortless and it just managed to hit exactly where you wanted out to over 100 yards. It was not unusual for me to toss a soup can out into the yard and then shoot it until it rolled down over the hill over 100 yards away. But, most often my target was a paper plate with a dot in middle that pap would set up at 50 or 100 feet away.

I would sit or stand on the back step and put round after round through that rifle. Usually 50 or 100 rounds at a session several times over each visit. Every hardware store and bait shop knew what I wanted when I showed up for miles around. Yes, they would sell live ammo to a 5, 7, 13 or whatever age boy… Kids didn’t do the stupid stuff with guns then they do now. Probably still was technically illegal, no one cared.

To this day if I had that rifle I could likely dispatch a soda can at 100 yards with it on the first shot. My pap taught me the gun, then gun taught me to shoot it the way it needed to be shot to put rounds on target. The tool was the tool, you adjusted to it.

My grandfather instilled in me what later became the 4 rules of firearms safety that are taught today:

  1. All guns are always loaded. (Treat them so!)
  2. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you have made the decision to shoot).
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

I seriously need to find another model 11. I own some of the most advanced firearms in the world but my heart longs for that old, beat up, well loved rifle. I hope whoever has it appreciates it.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 7, Girton’s Gas Staton, New Milford, OH.

Growing up in New Milford, Ohio, a fixture of our lives was the gas station located down the road. Girton’s was owned and ran by Russ and Betty Girton. Russ was a mechanic, Betty ran the store operations and they usually employed one or two clerks. Anything a young woman or man could want, and most things many adults did, could be had from Girton’s.

Girton’s was a full service operation with garage. “Ding ding” as you pulled a car in, or your bike if you hit the rubber line just right. Gas, checked the oil and tires and cleaned the windshield, all with a smile.

Inside, coolers filled with beer, wine, dairy goods and deli meat and cheese, ice cream and ice cream novelties… Shelves for basic pantry items, snacks, smokes, and… A huge candy counter.

We all ended up at Girton’s pretty much daily as kids for a soda or candy, or for air in our bike tires. As we hit the age of driving, we stopped for our gas and oil. Sadly, small independent gas stations were driven out of being profitable by the larger stations and chains.

I don’t remember exactly when it closed. I feel sad that I don’t because it’s closing was a bellwether of the charges of our entire world, in which the warm and local was displaced by the cold and corporate for profit.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 6. Gary’s Barber Shop.

Growing up I can always remember my pap wore his hair high and tight. Not a military cut but a buzz cut and, occasionally, a flat top. Thinking about my dermatology issues with seborrheic dermatitis and his itchy scalp I figure he wore it close for the same reason I do… Less hair, less oil, less itch and sunlight kills it.

Haircuts were done 27 times a year, every other week and an extra before Christmas. Haircuts were done by Gary at Gary’s Barber Shop in East Springfield, Ohio. It was a small building next to his house on Ohio 43 and you parked along the street and walked down the hill to the shop. I mean, you could walk down the driveway and around the house, but no one ever did. If you think of James Dean as Floyd the Barber, you understand Gary. He was the only person growing up I ever knew who had tattoos, he was a volunteer fireman and active in his church. His shop was every small barber shop in America. An impressive bar of barber tools, powders, after shaves and combs in blue alcohol. Newspaper articles and photos on the walls, a nickel pop machine that sold little glass bottles of Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. (Leave the bottle, please.)

It wasn’t unusual to make the 45 minute drive to Gary’s only to find he wasn’t in. There was no phone in the shop and sometimes he had stuff to do or just went fishing and left a sign on the door. You waited or came back. No one minded. See, for more than a couple of generations of men, Gary was their first real haircut away from home, myself included. For many people he also gave them their final haircut. I distinctly remember that he made a trip to the funeral home to cut my grandfather’s hair one last time, and him being at the funeral. I’m sure that he did this for other’s, as well.

Gary is long dead, I’m sure. I haven’t been down by where his shop was in 20 years. I tried to find it on Google maps, but couldn’t. I honestly didn’t know him, and yet he was a friend of mine and anyone whose hair he cut… Strangers don’t come to your funeral.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 5. Wine coolers.

I honestly can’t say if I only remember tidbits about my Junior and Senior years of high school and the time just after graduating from the later damage to my brain or because of drinking… A lot… Of wine coolers. For the younger folks, long before Budweiser made strawberry and other Rita’s in a can, we had wine coolers… Refreshing, sometimes fizzy mixed wine drinks that came in 12oz bottles… But a few geniuses at the companies making them decided to package them in 2l boxes and soda bottles. They went down smooth, were incredibly cheap and I drank so much of them that my friend John nicknamed me “Cherry Passion” and called me that for as long he was alive. Yeah, imagine being out with friend and a dude yells out of his car window “Yo! Cherry Passion! What’s up, son?!” God I miss John. It was a much simpler time of life… Get lit, go to bed, go to work, repeat. Did they give you a hangover? Oh sweet Jesus, yes they did.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 4. The house with our initial in the chimney.

My mother and father were neighborhood kids. My mother’s family lived about a mile down the hill on Rte 213 from my dad’s parents’ house. I didn’t spend nearly the time in my paternal grandparents home as the other, sometime around 1979 or 1980 they sold it and moved permanently to Texas. A couple of things that I remember about it are that it had the letter “H” molded into the chimney. I remember my grandpa had a leather Lazy Boy. I remember my grandmother making us breakfast of saltines with sugar and milk like cereal.

And I remember the wall at the foot of the stairs to the basement. The wall was murderous. It was textured in this brutally sharp texture that you couldn’t touch without getting cut and I remember it would keep you from running down those stairs for fear of touching it. The sample photo isn’t even remotely how sharp it was. That wall had the blood of every person who was ever in the house in it. I am fairly certain that grandma was a witch.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 3. Lucky Lindy.

While it would probably have made sense to post this yesterday, on the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, I already had another post in mind for yesterday.

This photo, along with the newspaper article about the flight, was on my grandmother’s kitchen bulletin board. I have no idea why, to the best of my knowledge neither of my grandparents ever flew in an airplane, let alone had any interest in aviation history. I remember the article was titled “Lucky Lindy.”

My grandparents’ home was filled with small, but important, mementos… A little flower pot on the windowsill that said “Be happy, be gay for tomorrow’s another day,” a butter paddle that was used for spanking with a cartoon laminated to it, a collectable plate with a story about rooster not visiting a hen as often as as he used to… As well as photos of us all and of horses and of my aunt Nancy, who died before I was born.

As I write these little posts I can almost feel neurons shaking off mental dust and making old connections, even if poorly. Hopefully this endeavor will correct some of the losses from brain damage, aging, or both.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 2. Moving day to KSU.

Both of my parents did the college thing, mom’s bachelor’s degree is from Bethany College, dad went to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, but didn’t finish. Mom got accepted to a Masters degree in Sociology program at Kent State University. There were not remote education Masters programs in the late 70’s. Around 1976 we moved from the trailer on Sixteen Ridge to the Allerton Student Housing at Kent State in building “H.” Later on in life I would date a woman who lived in the apartment almost directly above ours that my parents’ friends, the Kellems, lived in.

On the day we moved we drove past my grandparents house on Rte 213 in Taylortown but didn’t stop. I think I remember them being on the front porch waving at us but it’s probably childish imagination. I remember crying a lot because I wouldn’t see my pap and grandma nearly every day anymore. I did spend a lot of time going to the house for vacations growing up. My pap lived there until the day he died there, laying down in front of his basement work bench. My grandmother lived there until she was no longer safe to live alone. The house was bought by a childhood friend, Robbie Angus.

A lot of other postcards exist from this house but so much more is lost.

There were huge walnut and pine trees in front of it when my grandparents owned it. It’s a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog house.

Postcards Of My Life #pcoml No. 1. Cooking in the trailer kitchen. 1975ish.

I have recently come to the realization that I do not have the huge network of connected memories that most people seem to. Different events and experiences in my life have resulted in my memories being fragmented, short and almost like, well, postcards. I know there was much more to my life, #pcoml will be an attempt to document the memories I have left, even if only briefly.

One of my earliest memories is from around 1975-1976. My family lived in a house trailer that was a caretakers home at a park and baseball field on Sixteen Ridge in Richmond, Ohio. I do not remember specifics like what was being cooked, time of the year, or honestly, even if it was my mom or father I was helping. I just remembered standing on a chair helping cook in the kitchen. I have very few even of my “postcards” from life in the trailer in Richmond.

On Bereavment, Dingoes and Firearms Values

Anyone who knows me knows that I take a lot of pride in knowing the value of a firearm, or in knowing how to find out what it is.  If I list something for sale, it generally sells quickly, and at asking price.  I really have taken a lot of effort to learn what guns are worth, what they’re selling for, and what the latest trends in popular and classic firearms are.  I developed this knowledge after, well, being screwed pretty badly because I didn’t have it.

When my father passed away in December of 2010, he didn’t leave a huge cash estate.  He had a lot of tools, and a lot of firearms.  He also had no burial insurance.  Because of a lack of knowledge, I ended up selling a LOT of firearms for MUCH less than they were actually worth.  Not so much out of desperation, as out of ignorance.  You see, when you’re looking to sell firearms quickly, the Dingoes come out of the woodwork to “help.”

At that time I knew what a Blue Book was, but I’d never owned one, and certainly didn’t have one.  Since my father had quite a few firearms he’d collected over the years in his safe, new in the box but never fired, a friend recommended I deal with a small dealer who was a friend of theirs from their church.  Now I’ve been around guns my whole life, but usually, up until that time, I bought new from dealers or used from dealers in gun stores, and very rarely did any research beyond “good price from good place.”  I trusted that this small dealer in Stark County would give fair value, and provided him a list.  He came back with prices, with what sounded like a reasonable explanation at the time…  “Even though they’re new in the box and unfired, they’re used guns, they are like a car, as soon as they leave the dealer, they lose a lot of their value.”  I’ve since learned that, yes, it’s not a “NEW” gun, but they don’t lose HALF of their value by having been sold and tucked away.  This dealer ended up with some fantastic deals on some very nice firearms because I trusted him, and he talked a good game.  Just an example, he got a new, unfired, Ruger Mark II Stainless Heavy Barrel .22, all original paperwork, box, the lot, for $175.  He was a Dingo, and I was a bleeding lamb that was cut from the herd and slaughtered.

There are many honest people and dealers out in our communities.  There are also a lot of dingoes.  They will do anything possible to get a fantastic deal, and will lie and cheat to make it happen  There are tons of resources available to tell you what the ACTUAL value of a firearm is.  The Gun Traders Guide and the Blue Book of Gun Values will tell you the average prices a firearm has sold for in the past year based upon it’s condition.  They will also explain how to assess the condition of a firearm to get an idea of the value.  There’s also a nation-wide website called Armslist that is composed of real people and dealers selling firearms.  A quick search will give you an idea of the current asking price of a firearm both locally and nationally.  Keep in mind these are asking prices and tend to have a factor built in to them based upon the knowledge that a buyer is going to haggle the price down.  You can also seek out a reputable dealer who has a reputation for dealing square.  A dealer isn’t going to give you full value, but an honest one will tell you what your firearms are worth on the private market and what they can give you for them and still make some money when selling them.  Again, they should be upfront about that fact.

If you need to sell of firearms in a crisis the worst thing you can let happen is for people to know that you’re IN A CRISIS.  It brings out the Dingoes in droves, and they will take advantage of your emotional state to attempt to get the firearms for as little as possible and you still feel like you got some fair cash for them.  It’s much better to either wait, involve a friend to help verify pricing, or do the research yourself and sell them off slowly for value.  Learn from my mistake.  I did.

A few Dingoes made a lot of money off my father’s dying because we felt a need to desperation sell, and were led to people who make their living off buying during other people’s grief.  It’s fair to say that, in many cases, my lack of knowledge, trust, and feeling like I had to raise money quickly, resulted in several of my father’s firearms being sold for 40-50% below actual value.  I have since armed myself with the knowledge to never have that happen again.

Get off the fence, or pay someone to do it for you…

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am an advocate for many issues.  What they are really isn’t important as far as this posting goes.  What is important is that if you believe in something, are passionate about it, and want to support it, you need to do more than give it lip service.  Clicking “like” or “favorite” or “+1,” in reality, is lip service.  It’s collected with a bunch of like-minded people and just shows moral support for the crowd.

To often, those of us who are passionate about things are only so in our minds.  Or in a group of like-minded people.  Many folks don’t reach outside that comfort zone.  If you are really passionate about a cause you need to be working for that cause.  Supporting it with time, effort, financially or with advocacy.  Take time to write letters, call people, reach out to people with no opinion, or those on the fence.  Do so respectfully!

If you can’t do that, at least band together with other folks of like mind and support the members who DO those things.  Join a paid national advocacy.  Contribute to a local chapter’s benefit.  Do something besides sitting around and BSing with like-minded people.