This is NOT your old Daisy Air Rifle.
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The Wind Rifle
I never put myself out there as any kind of gun expert—old time or new. However, I know what I like to shoot and see a lot of stuff in pursuit of the western/frontier/apocalyptic, and contemporary novel. I get surprised once in awhile.
Some firearms you just use and never think about their origin. I have an air rifle that I like a lot. It’s not your normal pellet gun or BB gun. It’s a break-barrel Gamo Whisper with a scope and suppressor (sort-of). Now this sweet little gun pops out a .177 pellet and 1275 feet per second. For a rough comparison, my trusty old .22 long rifle travels at roughly 1200 feet per second. Yeah, I know the bullet is heavier and it has more power behind it—but, you get the idea. To hit a target fifty to a hundred feet away with a pellet half the size of a pea (Little Marvel or Snow King for those with their caliper out) is no easy endeavor, but it’s easy with the right air rifle.
Imagine my surprise when I read that the Lewis & Clark expedition, circa 1804, used an air rifle. Ok, my feeble mind tried to wrap itself around that tidbit. Was it kind of like my air rifle? Knock down the occasional rabbit or squirrel? Oh, I don’t think so.
The Girandoni air rifle was the real deal. Designed by Bartholomaus Girandoni (we’d call him Bart around here) around 1779. The German’s called it a wind rifle and no, I won’t go there. The Austrian army used this thing until around 1815, before they scrapped it for more reliable weapons that go boom instead of pffft. Napoleon sure didn’t like it used against him. It is said he ordered the execution of any soldier caught with one.
For those who think it might’ve been a toy, think of this. Capable of firing 20 shots as fast as they could work a little lever and drop another ball into the firing chamber. I’m thinking one shot every five seconds would be a good number—compared to about one a minute by a very good operator with any of the muzzle loaders or other contemporary firearm. Think of this—a person with one of these rifles firing fifteen shots a minute( I’m sure that number is VERY arbitrary ) could be devastating to any attacking force, especially in the rain or snow when it’s hard to ‘keep your powder dry’. And, it came with extra air chambers that could be changed very quickly. Not charged quickly, but changed.
How powerful? It would shoot a .46 caliber ball through a one inch pine board at 100 yards. However, with each shot, the power would drop. After about 20 shots you might as well start throwing lead balls by hand, or start running.
Unfortunately, this instrument needed a lot of care and support system. The slightest ding in the air bladder could cause it to lose air, and the leather seals were prone to drying up and not working. It also took about 1500 cycles with a pump, similar to a bicycle pump, to fill the chamber. Imagine having the bad guys coming over the wall with you holding up your hand and yelling, “Hang on, guys. I’ll be with you in just a minute. Only got 500 pumps to go.” No, not good.
I won’t go into all the technical aspects of this gun, but if you’re interested, look it up. It’s fascinating reading. There’s a lot of supposition about how the gun was used by Meriwether Lewis, but anything is possible.
There are also many powerful air rifles on the market today that can be used in large game hunting—deer, wild boar and buffalo were mentioned.
One thing to consider. In the forests of the frontier 1800’s, or in an apocalyptic world in the future, the key to survival is silence. You don’t want anyone to know where you are or that you exist, especially when you’re hunting for food. So, if you’re trying to pull a sneaky Pete, slinking through the landscape, high tech bow and arrow notwithstanding—would you rather have something that goes Boom or pffft?
Note: A really great video of this air rifle is shown on the NRA website.
That’s all for now.
Darrel Sparkman, Frontier Writer
Politics today isn't much different today than it was years ago in the old west. Here's a great quote by a former president.
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.” Abraham Lincoln.
And both parties accuse the other of being tyrants. Like I said -- same old... same old.
And, here's an opinion.
Opinion Piece ( I wanted to write peace but don’t think it’s coming )
Rule for the road: Don’t listen to what they say... watch what they do. We all know who they are. And, don’t put party affiliation on this.
Have you noticed how the rhetoric changes from the top down. It’s like they get marching orders every day on how to speak and what to say. They use the same hand gestures when speaking. The word ‘notion’ was rarely heard until it came from the top. It used to mean idea, now it is a disparaging word.
They gave up on defining assault weapons. Americans aren’t stupid. Anything can be an assault weapon.
Now, the favorite phrase coming out is deadly weapons in the hands of wrong doers. This covers anything from a tricked out semi-automatic to your favorite spork.
And guess who they talk against for having these God-awful weapons. Not wrong doers, it’s not their fault. Never their fault. It’s the ease of which they can lay their hands on all these sporks lying around. Just think of the panic generated if sporks were painted camo. I can’t imagine the panic in the land of rainbows and butterflies.
I’m reminded of the movie War Games, a classic full of quotable lines, just like Tombstone. “I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good.” Or, Doc Holliday’s—“Say when.”
The American people are WOPR—well, half of them anyway. The other half are sheeple. Right now WOPR is searching for launch codes. It has most of them already. When the last one pops up will WOPR launch? Or, do what they want us to do, just roll over. After all, it’s worked for a lot of democratic socialists in the past. Don’t think so? Google just who called themselves democratic socialists.
These are trying times. A deadly weapon isn’t deadly until someone picks it up and uses it that way—sometimes for good, sometimes bad. Goes back to Cain and Abel. It’s all in the heart and mind and soul. And it doesn’t matter what the instrument is. Firearms are way down the list of items used for bodily harm. Heck, I bet sporks are ahead of guns. No, there’s a reason for all this. What they do, not what they say.
But, words do matter. Good people are being manipulated by rhetoric when they’d be better served to watch what their leaders are actually doing. Case in point. If someone is yelling and screaming at you, it’s time to watch what they do—not what they say. That bus has left the terminal.
Look at any other country that is moving toward socialism/communism, or trying to get away from it. The community organizers touting ‘comprehensive change’ and ‘forward’ and ‘progressive thinking’ thrive on chaos and promulgate it to the very end, all the while touting peace, tranquility, and the biggie: equality.
You think they are on your side? The professional pontificators? Watch what they do, not what they say. Look at their end game. Again, don't assign party affiliation to this.
By the way, I’m wrapping my sporks in oilskin and hiding them. We may need them soon. WOPR will get the final code. Will WOPR launch? Or, learn the lesson?
The question was asked, when an outpost was about to be overrun by the bad guys (gyps in the wire... so to speak), “will the wounded fight?” The answer? “Depends on the man.”
It always comes down to that.
This month we’re hearing from Western historical author Darrel Sparkman.
Interview with Darrel Sparkman:
The intro on your website is quite dramatic and reminded me of DIES THE FIRE and its sequels (collectively known as the Emberverse series) by S. M. Stirling. Have you read it? Not only electricity "dies" forever; so do guns, internal combustion engines, and essentially every type of advanced technology. It's fascinating to read Stirling's vision of how people manage to survive and build a new society (really, a wide variety of different societies). He focuses on those who do survive and eventually thrive, although there's plenty of apocalyptic destruction at the beginning.
I haven’t read that series. There seem to be thousands of authors writing about how it all comes to an end, which isn’t good for us because most of the old science fiction writing comes true sooner or later—discounting the fantasy worlds. I try to keep my writing focused on what could actually happen, right here and right now. That sounds trite when I read it, but it’s true. Reality is scary enough.
What inspired you to begin writing?
I’ve written since an early age. Poems and short essays, nothing very long. I remember having to write a poem for English class in high school. Afterwards, the teacher pulled me aside and told me I was a true poet and wanted me to put stuff in the school newspaper. Well that was the end of that. To my teenage macho mindset, I may have been a poet but I didn’t want anyone to actually know that. I had enough fights in school without tacking that sign on my back. But, I kept writing, you can’t just turn it off.
My wife and I are avid readers. I’d picked up a book about survival in a frozen world, one in a series. After reading it, I mentioned that I could write a better story than that. She told me, “So, do it.” Well, I immediately whipped out a novel, about forty thousand words I think, didn’t even proof it-I mean, why should I? After researching the market for at least a couple of minutes, I sent the manuscript off to a publisher. They were actually very nice with their rejection, but by then I was hooked. I kept writing, and sending them off. Boy, was I clueless. After close to a hundred rejections and side-trips along the way, I was finally published. I’m still working at getting it right.
What genres do you work in?
I work in several. I know my publisher would wish I picked one. Can you have genre ADHD? I’ve won an award with poetry, published post-apocalyptic books, early frontier historical fiction, and what I call regular westerns, circa 1870ish. I’m also working on a contemporary novel.
Your website identifies you as a “Frontier Writer.” Please tell us a bit about that role.
If you look up the definition of frontier, you’ll get several standard answers like “A wilderness at the edge of a settled area”, or “a line showing the edge of settled country”. In my writing, frontier is the line that has been crossed, going from the settled and comfortable life or situation into the unknown and where the outcome is up to you, and you alone. Star Trek uses space as the ‘final frontier’. Many use the ocean. Well, frontier can start right here at home when the lights go out, the gas runs out or your building is on lockdown with an active shooter. The outcome is up to you, no one is coming to help and you can’t call Ghostbusters. Or, going back in history, it’s leaving your comfortable settlement east of the Mississippi and going into unknown territory.
Do you outline, "wing it," or something in between?
Oh, how I wish someone could teach me to outline. I queried an agent once and they were interested enough to ask me for an outline of my story. What I sent them was a typical outline, you know… big heading for the subject, then big A, secondary line as little a, then after I’m out of letters, switch to numbers, all with proper tab indents. I can’t imagine the laughter that generated when it hit their desk. I don’t think I ever heard back from them. Actually, I pretty much wing it and then come back and fix it. I’ve tried writing out my story line, but usually half way into it the characters take over and change the whole thing. Normally, I’ll think of a story and start writing. The first chapter sets the stage for me and it seems like I spend as much time on that as the rest of the story. I guess my first draft is my outline, then I come back and expand it and try to make it readable. After my editor stops laughing, then I’m told how to really fix it. That’s sort of a joke... sort of. I’m working with some great people now. I’ll shamelessly plug Casey Cowan and Oghma Creative Media. It’s a small and growing press. Casey works tirelessly for his authors.
What have been the major influences on your writing (favorite authors, life experiences, or whatever)?
Favorite authors is kind of hard, because they’re all so different. I didn’t have a great childhood, and read to escape that. At times I’d read a book a day, and that’s no joke. It doesn’t take long to read Jack London’s White Fang. The bad thing is I usually remember what I read. So, everything I’ve read becomes kind of a mish-mash in my mind. My writing is a product of that. Louis L’Amour is one favorite. A speaker at a writing conference asked, “what makes you think you can write westerns, and don’t tell me you’ve read all the Louis L’Amour books.” Well, I’m sorry—but I have. No better reference to the western genre exists. But, it doesn’t stop there. Douglas Terman with Enemy Territory, John Brick with The Raid. David Graham with Down to a Sunless Sea. I love the writing of James Lee Burke and wish I could write like that. It just flows. One of the best adventure novels I’ve read was written by a children’s author D.V.S. Jackson writing about the Battle of Agincourt in Walk With Peril. I insist my grandkids read it, much to their chagrin. Dusty Richards is another great author. There are so many.
How have your Navy service and your career as an EMT contributed to your career as an author?
That one’s easy. Realism. Pee your pants afraid? Frustrated? Angry? Know you’re going to die? Wonder why you didn’t? Amazed at the vagaries of man? Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. But, it’s more about people. From kindergarten through twelfth grade I changed schools over twenty times. Add four years of service, a year of that in a combat zone, then seventeen years as a volunteer with a rural ambulance company and you see a lot of people and circumstances filled with emotion. Those translate into characters and dialogue that come across as real—if I can just write it good enough.
What is your latest or next-forthcoming book (or both)?
My latest book, and one I’m very proud of is Spirit Trail. It’s a frontier novel set in 1820 and the first of a series. Osage Dawn, another early frontier novel will be rolled out in August. Also, I have short stories that come out in the quarterly Saddlebag Dispatches.
What are you working on now?
I’m trying to get Spirit Trail II going. Also, a contemporary novel called Country Boy is mostly done. Then there’s the short stories, editing and re-writes. Plus, I have to work for a living to pay for my retirement.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Probably pretty generic, but with a story to drive it home. I was at the Ozarks Creative Writer’s Conference. Dusty Richards and Brett Cogburn strode up to the raised dais and podium. These guys are kind of a big deal and accomplished authors. They were supposed to give a question and answer session on writing for new authors and it was greatly anticipated. You could have heard a pin drop. Dusty just looks around and says, “Write the damned book!” And sat down. You can imagine the panicked looks on the conference organizers faces when they were expecting a forty-minute session. Of course, it didn’t end there. But, the advice is solid and he drove it home in a memorable way. Don’t worry about editing, getting it just right, or any of the stuff the people making a living off wannabe writers tell you. If you have a story, write it. Git’er done. Clean it up later. If you’re writing fiction, then make up the story, write it, and then clean it up later. Simple advice, but hard to do. As writers we tend to over-think everything. One last thing is due diligence. Even if you’re writing fiction, research the environment your characters are operating in, from politics to sun bonnets and clear down to making sure weapons or instruments are accurate for the time frame in history. Since it’s fiction, it didn’t happen—just make sure it reasonably could have.
What's the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?
www.saddlebagdispatches.com a quarterly for the western genre started by the great Dusty Richards.
www.oghmacreative.com my publisher and book catalog. Casey Cowan is the owner and a real gem.
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J8YBMUG Amazon author page.
Member of Western Writers of America