Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L

GENERAL TOPICS => Saddlebag Tales => Topic started by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 05, 2020, 09:21:28 AM

Title: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 05, 2020, 09:21:28 AM
“People should appreciate things for what they are.”

The 1863 Springfield Rifled Musket was one of the greatest killing machines ever devised.  It caused more casualties on either side of the Civil War than any other weapon.  There were lots of weapons used; knives, bayonets, swords, pistols, carbines, shotguns, even artillery.  But the lion’s share of the butcher’s bill was written in blood by this unassuming, single shot, muzzle loading rifle.  Or more specifically, the round it fired.

The Minie Ball was invented by a Frenchman.  It was cast of soft lead, slightly undersized, so it could enter the bore more easily when the piece was fouled.  It had an expanding skirt the engaged the lands and grooves when fired, making it very accurate.  Original sights were calibrated to 500 yards.  A well-trained soldier could hit a mite farther.  A good tang sight or telescopic sight could make it deadlier still.

At the end of the war, percussion weapons like these were obsolete.  Erskine Allen of the Springfield Armory devised a way to convert these muskets to use metallic cartridges.  These “Trapdoor” Springfields continued to serve well into the Indian Wars.  Fritz himself had carried two of these weapons while serving with the Army and the Marshals.     

Fritz stared at the gun on his work bench.  It had been modified extensively from its original form.  Maybe its owner took it home after the war, and modified it to suit his needs.  The stock had been cut about three inches past the first barrel band.  It wasn’t a hack job; the edges were rounded and smoothed, and the stock re-stained to match.  The barrel had been cut and re-crowned to match the carbine configuration.  This made the ramrod stick out too far from the wood.  Fritz would find a way to make it more aesthetically pleasing.  The original sights were missing.  The front sight had been replaced with a ramp and a blade, adjustable for windage.  The rear sight had been replaced with a peep, which was adjustable for elevation.  It looked like something Bill would’ve come up with.

He thought of Bill and Patches while he poured himself a coffee.  He hoped they and their kids were well.  Fritz pulled his copy of the ordnance manual off the shelf, and laid it open on his bench for reference.  He began a complete teardown.  Fritz was amazed by the beautiful color case hardening on the backside of the lock.  The outside had either been burnished by a soldier, or had lost its coloring during its service life.  Even though it was a mass-produced weapon, someone had taken the time to make it pretty. 

He heated water on the stove.  The manual called for a gill of warm water to be poured into the bore, and the tampion placed so that it could be shaken.  Bill had once recommended a little soap be added as well.  The hot metal would expand, opening its pores and releasing any toxins it held. 

Fritz heard rather than saw Scarlet ride up.  He needed his glasses to see now, but he could do this work by feel alone.  She came up behind him and put her arms around him, nibbling his ear.

“What’ya got there darlin” she whispered.  A thrill went through him when she spoke.  It always had.

“Oh, just something I traded for,” Fritz replied.

“You have a fascination with old military stuff,” she giggled.

“Hey!  I AM old military stuff!” he replied.

“My Whitworth is more accurate,” Scarlet said.

“True,” Fritz countered, “but this one loads quicker.  A well-trained troop could fire four shots in a minute.

Scarlet grinned wickedly.  “Well, you only need one.  How about we have a shooting match when you finish fixing her up?  Loser does laundry for a week.”

Scarlet was his equal in most things, his better at some.  The Whitworth was a sniper’s rifle.  The hexagonal rifling and matching bullet were extremely accurate at long range.  And she was very good with it.

“Hmmm,” Fritz said.  “Like comparing apples and oranges, but okay.  However, with the shorter barrel, I’ll need a tang sight to make it fair.”

Scarlet smiled.  “I’ll leave you to your toys then.  Until later…?”

He watched her leave.  Fritz appreciated the view.  She had some sliver in her hair now, and small lines where she laughed and cried.  But she was just as beautiful today as she was when he’d first met her in Mexico, all those years ago.  They’d made a good life for each other.  After he’d left the Army, they spent ten more years marshalling.  Then they retired to their ranch and the real work began.  She taught him everything she knew and he learned it well.  They weren’t rich by any means, but they were comfortable.  They had enough.  And despite her misgivings, God had blessed them with not one, but two children.  The oldest had graduated college, married and had a career.  Their youngest had followed his father’s footsteps into the Army.  With his connections he could’ve gotten him into the Point, but his son wanted to be a common Soldier, like his dad.  Fritz ensured he’d be in the Cavalry; that was a given.

Fritz was so proud when his son came home to visit.  He’d brought his new weapon with him.  It was a Krag-Jorgensen carbine, firing a .30 caliber bullet, using smokeless powder.  It allowed for higher velocities with the smaller projectile.  And the Army finally trusted it’s troopers with a repeating arm; it was a bolt action rifle with five rounds in the magazine.  Fritz noted there was still a magazine cutoff…some things never change.  

As he scrubbed the bore, Fritz thought about all his old friends, and wondered where they were, and what they were doing…   
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: medic15al on June 05, 2020, 12:35:48 PM
Now this is a good story. Keep up the great work!
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: pony express on June 05, 2020, 03:20:18 PM
Hey, Fritz! been a long time since you were at Ft Leonard Wood, and shooting with C.O.W.S. Glad to see you back here.
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 06, 2020, 11:12:42 AM
The bore had some light surface rust, but some judicious scrubbing with a shotgun brush took care of that.  An inspection with a mirror and a lamp revealed strong rifling with no pits.  He removed the rear peep sight, ran an oiled patch down the bore and set the barrel aside. 

Fritz noticed the sear was polished, but all the other lock parts were blued.  He ran a finger over the edge and felt a burr.  “Someone’s been messing with you I see,” Fritz whispered.  He stoned the edge of the sear until it was smooth.  Someone had tried to lighten the trigger pull by filing the sear.  They didn’t understand that this was a military arm, not a sporting rifle.  It had to be reliable.  It had to fire every time.  Fritz re-blued the sear and wiped it down.

Fritz scrubbed all the metal parts with fine steel wool and alcohol.  Ella had brewed him a large jug just for that purpose.  He thought about his “battlefield angel” and smiled.  He hoped she was well.  He also wiped the grime off the stock with alcohol and clean rags.  Once dry, he hand rubbed linseed oil into the stock and set it aside. 

Fritz would need to find replacement front and rear sights for the Springfield, which meant a trip to town tomorrow.  He oiled all the metal parts and laid them out for reassembly.  He’d been sitting for a while and was so focused on his task that he didn’t notice the pain.  He was in pain almost all the time these days.  Old injuries from his service days plagued him.  The wound in his side from Cutter bothered him the most.  He’d remember that fight for the rest of his days.  He thought he’d lost Scarlet to that butcher, and almost lost his own life as well.  He might’ve died from peritonitis from the one .31 caliber ball Fritz put in him.  Scarlet’s Dragoons and knife did him in quicker.  He was glad for that.

He could feel she was near, and the light in the room changed.  Fritz turned in his chair, noticing that it was dark outside.  Scarlet was carrying the bedside lantern.  Her hair was loose about her shoulders, clean and brushed.  She wore a simple white nightgown, tied at the throat with lace.

“Why didn’t you call me in?” he asked.

“I know you well,” Scarlet replied.  “Better than you know yourself.  When you focus on a task, everything else fades from sight.” 

The lamplight made her hair gleam like polished bronze.  A slight breeze caused the flimsy fabric to move about her body, accentuating her curves. 

“I am focusing on something else entirely now,” he said, smiling.

“Well then,” she purred, “focus on this.”  Her hand moved slowly to the ribbon at her neck.  Scarlet pulled the loose end, and the fabric fell away from her shoulders.  It caught for a second on the curve of her breasts, and then fell free.

“Do you want me?”

Fritz blew out the carbide lamp.

Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: medic15al on June 06, 2020, 11:27:01 AM
Oh my! This is getting good indeed!
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 07, 2020, 12:06:29 PM
A gypsy woman once told him the reason he woke up at 3:30 in the morning was that the spirits of the dead were most active at that time.  She said he should open his mind and heart to them, so they could deliver their message.  He’d woken up almost every morning this week at that witching hour, but no messages came to him.  Except that his cat wanted his attention, and curled up in the crook of his arm to be petted.  Even so, it took him at least an hour to fall back asleep, and sometimes, he never did.

He looked at his sleeping wife.  She wore a sweet smile, like a secret she’d been keeping.  She’d exorcised her demons when she killed Cutter.  Fritz still carried his demons.  They rode with him every night.  Every man who died under his command…there wasn’t quite a squadron, but it was close.

When he woke again, sunlight streamed through the bedroom window.  Scarlet was up and about.  The smell of coffee and fresh baked biscuits filled the air.  He dressed and went to the kitchen.  Scarlet was cooking bacon on the stove.  She was already dressed and ready for work.  Fritz figured she’d already been outside to tend to the foals.

As he looked she turned her head over her shoulder and smiled.  Each time they made love was like the first.  She stirred his blood.  She always had.  She always would.

“Mornin’ darling,” she smiled, setting a plate in front of him.  He poured a cup of coffee into his old tin cup.  It had been crushed at the Rosebud when Strider fell.  He had thrown it away, but Scarlet had rescued it form the trash bin.  She gave it to Bill who reshaped it.  She then painted it with crossed sabers, and the 2 and I representing his old unit.  Like him, her love had transformed something old into something new.

“If it’s okay with you,” Fritz said, “I’m going to ride into town and pick up some parts for the Springfield.  Do you need anything?”

She asked “do you have enough lead to cast some bullets for the Whitworth?”

“I think so,” he replied, “but I’ll pick up a spare ingot at Chris’s.”

She kissed his cheek.  “Give that to Chris for me.”

“As long as he doesn’t kiss me back,” he quipped.  “Damned Frenchmen…!”

Fritz wrapped some bacon round a biscuit and headed to the barn.  Strider’s ears twitched as he approached.  He licked his lips, anticipating the snack.

“You know Scarlet wouldn’t approve of this” he said to his mount, tearing the biscuit in half.  Strider gobbled it greedily.  His horse behaved almost like a human.

Fritz saddled Strider with his McClellan.  He led him outside and dropped the reins, allowing the bay to crop grass while he went to the shop.  The Springfield was right where he left it.  He opened the safe and took out the Centennial Model.  It was his favorite long gun, given to him by Scarlet when it was new.  He loaded the tube and put five rounds into the buttstock slide.  Cycling the action, he put one more round in the tube, and headed back out to his horse.   

Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 08, 2020, 05:20:47 PM
Chris LaMarche had been a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy during the war.  He lost most of his hearing from the pounding of the guns.  As a result, he left the Navy and became a gunsmith.  He met Fritz during the war and they became fast friends.  Fritz was happy he’d decided to settle in the west. 

Fritz dismounted and tied Strider’s reins to the hitching post out front of the shop.  He scratched the bay between the ears and said, “don’t wander off.”  The horse nodded as if he understood…maybe he did. 

Fritz entered the shop and called out “Chris!” loudly.  Chris was at his bench, so Fritz approached in his line of sight and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hi Fritz!” Chris yelled and got up to hug him.

“Scarlet told me to give you a kiss for her.  I think I’ll let her do it herself.”

“Coward,” Chris replied.  Afraid I might kiss you back?”

“Yes,” Fritz laughed.  Fritz saw a Colt Lightning disassembled on the bench.  “Problems?”

“These things are junk.  The works are too delicate.  They get out of time.  Colt should’ve left well enough alone.”

Chris and Fritz had like minds when it came to guns.  “I like the birds head grips though.  The gun Colt should’ve made.”

Chris looked over his glasses and smiled.  “Didn’t Bill build one for you?”

“Many years ago” Fritz said. 

“Where’s your carry gun?  Don’t you usually go heeled?”

Fritz had left the house without his pistols.  He reached into his vest and pulled the 1849 Pocket.  Scarlet had reinforced the pocket with leather to keep it secure. 

“Fritz,” Chris said, “this gun is almost 50 years old, and it’s a cap and ball revolver!”

“I like it,” Fritz replied.  “I nearly killed Cutter with it.”

“Not according to Scarlet.  She said you were nearly killed.  Leave it.  I’ll convert it to cartridge for you.”

Chris got up and went to the display case.  “I made this for a customer who never paid.  Carry it until I finish yours.  It should take about a week.”

Chris handed him another 1849 pocket.  This one had a loading gate milled into the recoil shield.  It was set up to fire a .32 caliber Colt cartridge. 

Fritz handed over the old Colt.  “Take good care of it for me.  That’s not why I’m here though.  I need some sights for an 1863 Springfield Rifled Musket, and an ingot of lead to cast some bullets.”

Chris pointed to the back.  “You know where the parts bin is.  Help yourself.”

Fritz started digging in the box.  With a little luck, he’d find what he needed.
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: medic15al on June 08, 2020, 05:26:41 PM
This is a great read. You have talent in writing.
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 09, 2020, 02:57:05 PM
Fritz found the sights he’d been looking for, and a Vernier tang sight.  Additionally, he picked up a tin of musket caps, a can off FFg black powder and paper to roll cartridges.  Chris had a mold for casting Minie balls, and threw in a second ingot of lead.

“You know she’s gonna beat you, right?” Chris said.

“Perhaps,” Fritz replied.  “But it’s the thrill of the chase that makes life worth living.”

Fritz made his way back home at a leisurely pace, the Centennial model resting across his saddle.  That’s when he heard the boom.  It came at a distance, rolling across the prairie.  Fritz waited for an answer.  About a minute later, an identical boom echoed.  He’d heard that sound before.  It was the Whitworth.  Scarlet was practicing.  Fritz quickened his pace.

He could see her in the distance.  She was shooting offhand, taking her time and showing her skill.  Now that he was closer he heard the ringing of the steel plates at the far end of the range.  She was wearing his kepi to keep the sun out of her eyes.  Her hair fell behind her shoulder in a single braid.  His cavalry cord, almost white with age, held it all in place.  She was smiling.  As she lowered the rifle to reload he approached.

“Milady,” he said, tipping his hat.  “don’t let your daddy see you wearing blue.”

“You know he doesn’t care about the color,” Scarlet replied.  “Only the man who wears it.”

He couldn’t see where she was hitting on the target, but she wasn’t wearing glasses yet.  Her eyes were still sharp.

“You’re not gonna give me a chance, are you?”

Scarlet capped the rifle and pulled the hammer to full cock.  “A slim one…maybe.”

She smiled as she pulled the trigger.  The Whitworth thundered.  The plate gonged.

“Care to walk down and check my work?”

Fritz dismounted and walked beside his wife.  They held hands.  He held his horse, she held her rifle.  Not much was said.  Not much needed saying.

Five bright spots shone on dark metal.  A ten-dollar gold piece could cover them all.

“Can you cast me some more bullets?” she asked sweetly.

“This is gonna be harder than I thought,” Fritz said.
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: medic15al on June 09, 2020, 03:01:09 PM

Still fiddling with finding the button....
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 10, 2020, 03:19:23 PM
The C-Bar-C was a working ranch.  Jeke and the boys ran the day-to-day operations, but Fritz and Scarlet rode out with them almost every day.  There were horses to train, cattle to tend, and fence to mend.  Scarlet taught him all she knew about ranching, and he was a fast study.  The work kept him busy and honest. 

Since she'd been practicing this morning and hadn't ridden out, Scarlet felt obliged to make lunch.  When she called in the boys, there was chili in the pot over the fire, and cornbread biscuits in the dutch oven.  There was coffee, water, milk, and that tea sweetened with molasses that she'd introduced them to.  The boys ate hardy, and if someone passed a flask around, no one paid it any mind.

"So Fritz," asked Zeke between bites, "what's in the pot?"

Fritz got up to ladle some more chili into Zeke's bowl.

"No," Zeke said, "how much is in the pot?"

Fritz was confused.  "I'm afraid I don't understand."

"Well, the boys and me been wagerin..."

Fritz spat out his coffee.  "On...what...?"

Zeke chuckled.  "On the shootin' match of course!  I put five dollars on you myself!"

Fritz turned towards the porch.  "HONEY???"

Scarlet stepped out, wiping her hands on a towel.  "Yes dear?" she replied sweetly.

"What did you tell them?"

"Oh," Scarlet replied in that 'what...little ol' me?' voice she used for just such occasions.  "The boys saw me practicing this morning.  I had to tell them something..."

"Now boss," Zeke said, "we don't need you this afternoon, and we got a lot of money ridin' on you, so get in that shop and get to work on your front stuffer!"

Fritz handed his cup and bowl to Scarlet, who kissed him on the cheek.  He turned toward the barn, mumbling "sonofoabitch..."

Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: medic15al on June 10, 2020, 03:36:10 PM
LOL! That gave me a chuckle..

Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 11, 2020, 08:56:18 AM
It’d taken him about two hours to get the sights on and the Springfield reassembled.  The Vernier sight took longer, as the Springfield had a very short tang.  He’d mounted it on the wrist of the stock, just behind the tang.  He added a pistol grip to the wrist as well, giving him better purchase.  He replaced the cut down ramrod with one made of hickory, with a brass tip.  He had to drill out the hole so it sat closer to the barrel.  It took time but the results were worth it.  He’d set the molds on the stove to heat, and melted the ingots of lead.  Fritz wanted to roll paper cartridges, but he didn’t know if he had time.

Scarlet came in carrying the Whitworth.  She set the stock in the padded vise and grabbed the cleaning rod off the hook.  She took a .45 caliber brush, screwed it on the rod and went to work on the bore.  The Springfield sat completed on the bench next to her.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.  “You’d hardly recognize it as the same rifle.”

Fritz poured lead into the molds.  “Thanks.”

Scarlet turned towards him.  “What’s bothering you?”

Fritz opened the molds and knocked the still warm bullets onto a folded flannel.

“Nothing,” he replied. 

She stopped and went to him, taking his hands.  “Bullshit,” she said.  “You’ve been off since Grant came to visit.  Why?”

Fritz sighed.  “I was so proud of him, in his new uniform, carrying his new Krag.  I saw myself in him…you too.”

Scarlet nodded, listening. 

“I heard it said that ‘you know you’re getting old when you’re no longer considered dangerous.’  I found that rifle and thought about it.  It was the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield once.  Now it was sitting there abandoned…forlorn.”

She wanted to speak but knew he wasn’t through yet.  She gave him time.

“I just had to bring it home.  I had to fix it up.  I wouldn’t be the same as it was, but it’d still be useful…like me.”

“Now you’re being silly,” Scarlet replied.  “When we met down Mexico way, you were hell with a long-range rifle.  Saved our asses a couple of times as I recall.”

“Not that I regret anything Milady,” Fritz whispered, kissing her hands.  “We have a good life, and I’m happy to wake up next to you every morning, and lay down with you every night.”

She blushed.  He loved that she still could.

“I just miss those days.  To see that same fire in my son’s eyes reminded me of how much.”

“There’s a storm brewing,” Scarlet said.  “I can feel it…I know you can too.  But this time, I think we’ll have to sit it out.  Our son may not be so lucky.” 

“We taught him well,” Fritz replied.  “He’ll be ready.”

He kissed his wife, and hugged her hard.  “Now I’ve got to make rounds for tomorrow’s event.”

Scarlet smirked.  “I’m gonna kick your ass.”

“Nah,” Fritz replied.  “I’d enjoy it too much.”
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 12, 2020, 01:15:05 PM
The dawn broke cool; sunlight streamed through the lace curtains.  The moment the light her face, Scarlet opened her eyes and smiled.  Her lover lay close in her arms.  His eyes were closed and he was relaxed.  They’d started a game of “trace the scars” last night.  Both Scarlet and Fritz were well suited to that game.  The touches became more intimate and romantic.

Fritz opened his eyes and smiled.  “Morning Hun.”

Scarlet flung the covers off and jumped out of bed to greet the morning.  Her body glowed in the morning sun.

“See my lover come,” Fritz quoted the Song of Solomon, verse two.  “She is like a gazelle, or a young stag…”

She turned and smiled, hands on her hips.  “Surely not a stag…”

Fritz agreed, nodding his head.  He rolled out of bed, suppressing a groan.

“Your lover comes like an old bear, or a sloth…”

Scarlet came to him, swaying her hips seductively.  “That’s only because I took all your vigor last night!”

“Too true,” he replied kissing her.

Fritz looked out the window, and noticed the scud of clouds near the horizon, streaming towards the house, and that was good.  It meant a “no value” wind at the range.

They dressed and went downstairs.  Fritz made the coffee while Scarlet cooked breakfast.  They learned to work together a long time ago.  If they wanted any “personal time” together, they had to.  Now with the kids grown and gone, they could be more like themselves.

With tin cup in hand, Fritz went out to the shop.  He opened the safe and took out the Whitworth and the Springfield.  He ran dry patches down both bores to ensure they were clear.  Fritz stuffed both pockets with rolled paper cartridges, grabbed the rifles and walked out to the range. 

The range was about 500 yards from the front porch.  Fritz noticed that the cairns marking the yard lines had been freshly whitewashed.  He walked all the way down to the 200-yard line and set the rifles into the rack.  Zeke and the boys were making their way down as well.  Chris was riding his mule up, and Scarlet rode Lucky out to the line.  She’d wrapped biscuits in a bandanna to keep them warm, and passed them along.  Fritz pulled a small spyglass from his vest pocket.  It had been given to him by Blackbeard at his retirement.  He’d toyed with him, saying, “keep an eye on her lad, as I might come and steal her one day.”  He laughed to himself.  He could see her as a Pirate’s woman.  Hell, her could see her as a Pirate Queen!

Fritz looked to the line and noticed the target had been painted as well.  They were white with red X’s, at the head and chest.  The boys had been thorough, that was for sure.

“I’m gonna keep this fight fair,” Chris said.  “I’ll flip a coin.  Scarlet calls it for first shot, and which X to shoot.”  He flipped the coin in the air and caught it.

“Tails!” She called sweetly.

“Nope,” Chris said.  “Heads got it.”

“I’ll take center mass.”  Fritz dropped into a good, tight sitting position.  “As the one challenged, and as I’ve never shot this rifle, I request three ranging shots.”

Both Lucky and Chris’s mule were well accustomed to gunfire.  Scarlet nodded.

Fritz pulled a paper cartridge from his vest and tore it with his teeth.  It wasn’t a pleasant taste, but brought back vivid memories.  He poured the powder down the bore and nosed the Minie ball into place with his thumb.  Drawing the ramrod, he pushed the lead down and tapped it in place.  He replaced the ramrod and pulled a cap from the opposite pocket.  Placing the hammer at half cock, he pushed the cap into place.  He looked back at Scarlet.

“Fire at will darlin,” she said.

Fritz brought the hammer to full cock and rested the buttstock in his shoulder.  There was no leaf sight for 200 yards.  He’d have to estimate the elevation and hold off.  Fritz took a breath and let it out slow.  He took a second breath, let it out part way and held.

“Sight alignment, sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze,” he thought.  When the hammer falls, it should surprise you.  It did.

The Springfield roared as if it was happy.  Maybe it was.  The round struck the target in the upper right quadrant of the lower red X.  The boys hooted.  Scarlet whistled.

Fritz reloaded, hoping the first shot wasn’t an accident.  He let out half a breath and squeezed.

The second round landed almost on top of the first.  He was doing everything right.  The sights were straight.  He adjusted his sight picture, loaded, and fired again.  The third round landed almost exactly where the X crossed.  Fritz smiled.

“Old Soldiers never die…”

Scarlet answered.  “They just go to Hell to regroup!”

Most of the people here had served at one time.  Some wore blue, some wore grey.  It didn’t matter anymore.

Fritz stood.  “The course of fire is as follows.  Ten rounds each.  Three offhand at 200 yards, three sitting at 300 yards, three prone at 500 yards, and the last shot at the shooter’s discretion.  Agreed?”

Scarlet winked.  “Do your worst.”

Fritz readied the rifle and took his stance.  He adjusted his footing so his rifle was on target.  He now knew where the sights pointed.  It should be easy to put the rounds where they needed to be. 

When he’d finished.  Three rounds were practically touching at the center of his X.  Fritz stepped off the line, and ran a wet patch down the bore to remove the fouling. 

Now the boys looked to Scarlet.  The Whitworth had belonged to Travis, just as the Dragoons and the bowie had.  They were like extensions of her body…deadly extensions.  It took her longer to load the hexagonal bullets, but there was no rush.

The Whitworth belched fire.  It was louder than the Springfield.  Fritz was using the government load of 60 grains of black powder under the .58 caliber Minie.  Scarlet used the military load for the Whitworth; 90 grains of black under a .451 caliber projectile.  She needed no ranging rounds…she knew where they’d hit.  Dead center.

Chris checked the targets with military binoculars.  “I’d say it’s a dead heat.  Shooters, move back to the 300-yard line.”

Chris walked with Fritz.  He pulled a cloth wrapped item from his saddlebags.

“It thought it wouldn’t be done for a week,” Fritz said.

“It’s not,” Chris replied.  “This is something else.”

Fritz handed Christ the Springfield and took the parcel.  Unrolling it, a beautiful weapon fell into his hand.  He recognized the birds head grip of the Lightning.  Attached to it was the frame and barrel of an 1860 Army Colt.  The barrel had been bobbed to about three inches.  The loading lever had been removed and the hole plugged.  It was lovely.

“If figured if you were gonna carry a belly gun, it should have some oomph to it!”

“Thanks Brother,” Fritz said.

“Lemme know if you want it converted,” Chris replied.

At the 300-yard line, Fritz dropped into the sitting position.  It was his forte; it took longer to get into (and out of) than the kneeling position, but it was more stable.  He’d gotten into a rhythm now.  Load, aim and fire.  He held low and to the left.  The rounds struck in a group just below the first.  It wasn’t as tight but they were touching.  He levered himself out of position with the buttstock of his rifle. 

“It’s a bitch to get old,” Fritz said, “but I’m happy I’m still here to do it!”

Scarlet dropped down into a sitting position, and wiggled her butt to get lined up on her target.  Fritz noticed.  She knew it.  Everyone else noticed too but were too discreet to say it.

Scarlet’s rhythm was slower due to the loading time.  It was tougher to force the hexagonal rounds down the bore, but she did it.  He’d recommend running a patch down it between this and the 500-yard line.

There was no doubt where the rounds would land…center mass.  The boys applauded. 

Chris used Fritz’s glass to check the targets.  “You’re slipping buddy,” he said.

Fritz grunted.  He helped Scarlet up.  “Do you want to run a patch down that bore?”

“We didn’t do it in a fight…I won’t do it ‘til it’s over.”

“Stubborn girl,” he thought.  It was one of her qualities he admired.  It also vexed him.

They walked side by side to the 500-yard line.  Scarlet noticed the pistol in his belt. 

“Ohhh…pretty!  Lemme see!”

He handed it over.  She admired its lines.  “Chris sure does good work.”

He smiled.  She liked what he liked.  “Yeah.  A lot like the one you gave me before the Rosebud fight.”  That one was hit by gunfire while it was in his hand.  It wasn’t salvageable.

She stuck it in her belt.  “I’ll hold onto it for a while.  Maybe I’ll give it back.  If you’re nice…”

“Tease,” he said.

“Always,” she replied.

Once on the 500-yard line, Fritz got down into a prone position.  This was also very stable, and good for long distances.  He flipped up the Vernier sight and set it for 500 yards.  He gauged the wind, which remained at zero value.  He rolled onto his back and loaded.  Once done, he rolled back into shooting position.  He checked his position again and knew he was dead on target. 

“Sight alignment, sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze.”  He said the words aloud this time.  He heard the round strike the target.  Chris glassed it to spot for him.

“Hit!  Center mass!  One the red!  Three o’clock.”

Fritz adjusted the windage slightly.  “One minute of angle at 100 yards…” he whispered.

The Springfield roared.  It was happy.  That was its name now.

“Hit!  Center mass!  One the red!  Dead center!”  The boys hoorayed. 

Fritz reloaded, taking his time.  He had all the time in the world.  No one was shooting back…for a change.

“Hit!  Same location!  Good job!”

Fritz rose slowly to his knees.  Scarlet helped him the rest of the way up.

“That was incredible!” she sang.  “Of course, I will only do slightly better…”

He smacked her on the rump.  She purred.  “You do that again and I won’t shoot.”

“I win either way,” he replied.  “But, I wanna see what you can do.”

Scarlet sighed and dropped to her belly.  She lined up the Whitworth’s sights and pulled the trigger.  The round sizzled downrange.  He heard the impact.  He already knew.

“Hit!  Dead center!  Nice shot!”

“Now,” she said simply, “to show you that wasn’t an accident…”

The second round struck on top of the first.  The third round struck on top of that. 

Chris eyed the targets.  “Hmm…Both of you are shooting well.  Scarlet is shooting a little better, but she has the advantage.  The Whitworth is in original military configuration.  Fritz’s ‘Officer’s Model’ is nicely done, but the shorter barrel gives him less velocity.”

“Officer’s Model?” Scarlet asked.

“The Officer’s Model was produced at the Springfield Armory as an optional purchase for officers.  The barrel was shorter than the rifle’s but longer than the carbine.  It was probably about Cadet Rifle length.  It had a carbine profile to the wood, with a pewter or silver fore end.  They were equipped with Vernier sights and were highly engraved.  Though they were Trapdoor’s taken off the line, they were usually un-serialized.  They added the wood cleaning rod under the barrel.  There were only about 500 made.”

They started back towards the house.  Fritz was counting his pace.  He loaded as he walked.  Everyone was ahead of him and Scarlet.  No one was behind the line.  He’d paced out a little over 200 yards when he called to Chris, “Shooter ready!”

“All-ready on the firing line,” Chris called out.  “Shooter, you many commence firing!”

Fritz put the appropriate setting on the Vernier.  He wanted to see if he could still do it.  Fritz took a knee and steadied himself.  His knee ached but it held. He squeezed the trigger.  The Springfield roared once more.  He heard the round strike steel, but wasn’t sure where. 

Chris glassed the target.  “Six o’clock low, six inches down from the bull.  Still on red.”

Fritz’s leg trembled.  “Help me up, please.”

Scarlet helped him to his feet.  He shook his head.

“It’s still a good shot,” she whispered. 

“Yeah,” Fritz replied.  “It might’ve killed him.  Who knows?  Your turn darlin’!”

Scarlet mounted Lucky and rode back to the house.  She dismounted, drawing the Whitworth from its scabbard.  She took her time to load.

Zeke called out.  “Boss…you wanna get out of the way?”

Fritz took two steps to the left and sat down.  “No.  I trust her.”

Scarlet rested the Whitworth across her saddle.  It bellowed.  He heard the bullet race by like an angry hornet.  He heard the impact but couldn’t see the hit.  Not at this range.

Chris glassed the target.  “Gimmie a minute…Three inches below the bull, center mass.  Scarlet wins!”

The boys hoorayed.  Fritz whooped.  He knew he’d been up against it.  Being whipped by “The Scarlet Angel” wasn’t a bad thing.  Fritz walked to the porch and set the Springfield on his rocker.

“Like I said,” Scarlet purred, slipping her arms around him.  “Only slightly better than you.”
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 14, 2020, 10:37:53 AM
Fritz's hands were red and raw when he finished up the laundry.  Scrubbing on a washboard with soap was no joke, but a deal was a deal.  He'd finished up and was hanging to dry when he heard the shots.  Six shots on the iron skillet out back.  As he put the last piece on the line, there were six more shots, only much faster than the first set.

As Fritz dumped the washtub, Scarlet walked around front with a big grin on her face.  She was spinning Fritz's short Colt in her right hand.

"Does it pass your muster, Milady?"

Scarlet smiled.  "It does.  In fact, I'm willing to cancel our wager if you'll let me keep it."

"Not a chance," Fritz replied.  "You shot it, now clean it!"

Scarlet sashayed to the shop.  "By the way, we do bed linens tomorrow."

Fritz shook his head.  "Shit."


Fritz sat on his porch, enjoying a cigar and a bourbon in his rocker.  He saw the rider coming up path.  By the way he sat a horse, Fritz knew it was his son-in-law. 

"Good evening Deputy Bona.  Care for a drink?"

"No thank you sir," Glen replied.  "I'm still on duty.  Marshal Ross sends his compliments, and asked me to drop this off to you."

Scarlet came out and smiled.  "Hello Glen!  How's my little girl?"

"She's fine Miss Scarlet.  Telegram for you.  I think it's from Grant."  Glen tipped his has and turned his mount.

"Y'all come over and see us sometime!" she called out. 

"We will," Glen said, and rode off.

Fritz opened the envelope and pulled out the flimsy.  "It is from Grant," he said.

Scarlet knelt by the rocker.  "What does it say?"

Fritz read.  "Dear Mom and Dad, stop.  Hope all is well at C-C, stop.  Send all info and maps regarding Cuba, stop.  Give Sis my love, stop.  Grant, end."

A cold wind blew across the porch.
Title: Re: Old Guns
Post by: 1stSgt Fritz King on June 27, 2020, 01:07:59 PM
Fritz took the big Colt out of the safe and brought it to the kitchen.  He sat at the table and looked it over.  It had some scratches from when Strider got tangled up at the Rosebud, but overall it was in great shape.  The armorer had exed out the martial markings when he purchased it at his retirement.  The armorer had added something else.  On the butt, he'd marked "2, I, FHK."

"Lest we forget," Fritz whispered.  He oiled the piece and wrapped it in waxed canvas.  It had served him well in the last war; it would serve his son well in the next.  He put it in the box with everything he'd dug up on Cuba.  There wasn't much; the maps from the atlas, and a few pages from the newspapers.  Maybe 'Sleep would have some more.  He'd check with him in the morning.  Fritz nailed the lid on the box and addressed it to "Cpl Grant King, I Company, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Riley, KS ."

Scarlet was sitting in the living room mending socks.  She'd lit a fire in the fireplace.  Fritz went to stir the coals when he noticed the mantle piece.  Sitting on the right side was the Whitworth.  Sitting on the left was the Springfield.  One was not above the other.  They sat as equals.  Fritz smiled, and poured them both a bourbon from the crystal decanter Rose had given them at their wedding.

"What are we drinking to?" Scarlet asked as they clinked glasses.

"To the past," Fritz said.  "And the future.  May the latter be as bright as the former."

They drank.