Old Time Inspiration

How To Sink A Ship: Guns Only!

We never know when or where we’ll meet our next hero. Sometimes we don’t even need to actually meet them to be inspired. This was the case of my latest inspirational hero.

I was out visiting His Editorship in Joplin, along with my sidekick, “Doc” Barranti one weekend not too long ago at all. While Doc was donning his apron getting in contact with his artistic side spinning mud at Crackpot Pottery, Suzi Huntington’s pottery studio in town, Roy and I perused a few gun shops. We ended up ordering smoked BBQ for a delicious carryout dinner, you know, typical guy stuff. Our first stop was Brandon’s Guns…

Classic Shop

Brandon’s is a classic gun shop and you’ve likely heard Roy mention it in his Insider now and again. You never know what you’ll find or see. His is the classic Buy, Sell and Trade type shop, and Brandon has owned it for 27 years. The old adage “one’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is no truer than in a gun shop. Brandon knows this and is open-minded to all trade-ins, no matter how crazy.

Besides guns, Brandon takes in reloading equipment, bullets, brass, dies, anything pertaining to firearms, and some not so, as evidence to the cherry wood coffin in the middle of the shop. He has model airplanes suspended from the ceiling — a personal weakness of his — and he’s quick to offer coffee, soda, water or a shot of something, um … a bit harder, for those special customers, depending on what time it is.

Good gun shops are more than places of business; they’re a gathering place for people like you and me to meet, talk, catch up and swap stories. It was at Brandon’s I heard the tale of one of the most interesting and distinguished gentleman — I never met. I knew we would be fast friends though, should I ever be lucky enough to shake his hand.

WWII Veteran

While visiting with Brandon, he shows us a nice leather western-style holster. Brandon tells us it was made by a 102-year old gent by the name of Neal Ruff. It seems Neal took up holster making at the age of 100. That in itself is a great story! Someone that old, trying new things at the age of 100! I was inspired and impressed. Maybe there is hope for me to find my direction in life yet!

Then Brandon tells us to wait and returns with a target Neal shot on the day before his 100th birthday. The tightly clustered one-hole group was shot at 50 yards with a CZ 453 .22LR. Check out the picture!

Brandon goes on to tell us Neal is a WWII veteran and flew P-38’s — like the photo of the model Brandon has hanging above the counter there. Neal also happens to have the distinction of sinking a Japanese ship using his .50 caliber guns. Rather than attacking from high above and dropping down at a sharp angle, Ruff would fly parallel to the ocean surface, straight at the ship.

Being a lifelong shooter, he remembered shooting at a steel sign with his .22 rifle as a kid. He remembered: “If I hit the same spot repeatedly the bullets would eventually wear through the sign. I figured the same strategy would work on a ship.” Sure enough, it did! Neal and his team hammered away at the Japanese ship until it went down.

Brandon told me about the first time he met Neal at the VFW. Neil had a pipe perched in his mouth at a jaunty angle, a cigar in his front pocket and a glass of scotch in his hand. Neal noticed Brandon’s confusion and told him he prefers cigars, but his wife hates the looks of a man smoking one.

Neal crumbles pieces of cigar in his pipe and smokes it to keep his wife happy, making him look “debonair” as his wife would say, smoking his pipe. Even at 102, it’s a great example of the small things we men do to keep our wives happy. And might proof a short snort now and again serves to keep us able longer!

Fireballs and Setting Suns

As you’ll see from one of the photos included, Capt. Ruff was on another successful mission when the squad witnessed a huge fireball and cloud rising over 40,000 feet above Nagasaki. Holy Moly! Neal witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan when we ended the war by dropping Atomic bombs! Simply amazing!

There’s so many life lessons mixed in the stories of Capt. Ruff I’ve shared, I don’t know where to begin to go on. But I’d have to say, my favorite, the one meaning the most to me is just because you’re getting older — doesn’t mean you give up on life!

Don’t go out like a setting sun, but rather, a fireball. Try new things, do the things you enjoy and keep your eyes open when you go to your friendly, local gun shop. You’re liable to come home with more than a gun or other shooting goodies. If you see a rusty old codger, engage him. You never know what stories he has to tell about a most fascinating life.

It was a fun visit and His Editorship left with a trade-in box of 500 cast .44 bullets and a LEE Loader in .30-30 in his hands, obviously preparing for some adventure and experimentation himself.

Me? I had a story to tell…

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