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THE SHOOTIST

ANOTHER TIME—ANOTHER PLACE


WHEN I WAS YOUNG AND IN MY PRIME, I USED TO DO IT ALL THE TIME, BUT NOW THAT I AM OLD AND GREY, I’M OBLIDGED TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY!


We had plenty of game on our Hays County ranch in central Texas and I grew up shooting. As I remember my first gun was a 22 of some sort, then a 250-3000 Savage, then my old favorite, my Winchester 270 Super Grade 1936 model that weighed 9 lbs. then and for some reason it still weighs 9 lbs. now!




As I mention in my hunt book, “NOT ENOUGH BULLETS”, if it ran, crawled, wiggled, hopped or flew, I shot at it. If it was good to eat, we eat ate it and if it was not, I shot at it anyway. I mean, what’s a young “shootist” to do anyway?




So, by the time I reached my 16th or 17th birthday, I was hot and I could shoot. Well, 1950 came rolling along and I chose Sul Ross State College in Alpine, Texas as my school of choice. Then, that summer prior to my entry, Dad and I drove out there to reconnoiter the school and while there we ran over to Marfa to visit with the Mitchells, an old pioneer ranching family. Seems that back in the dark ages Dad had gone to school with some of them down at Southwest Normal College in San Marcos, Texas.


We located Mr. Mitchell and had a great visit and in the course of the visit, Mr. Mitchell invited Dad to come back out in November and hunt with him down on the 57,000 acre Rawls Mesa about 45 miles SE of Marfa. Dad said he’d love to do that. Then Mr. Michell said, well, hell, let’s just run down there while you and your son Marshall are here, won’t take long, and I’ll show it to you and introduce you to the Rawls.


Well, by golly, we did just that!


984 miles and twenty hours later (I’m joking) we arrived back in Marfa and lemme’ tell you something! The trip and the ranch were like being in another world. Wild desert country-mountains all round. Then we drove up on top of the Rawls Ranch mesa and I’ll swear you could have seen San Antonio on a clear day. Dad and I were blown away!


NOVEMBER 1950


The Rawls Mesa 57,000 acres had few if any roads, only one or two going to the three different sets of improvements, otherwise you were horse-back. Well, the good news was since we weren’t horse-back, that meant we were a’foot.


SAY WHAT?---YUP!


So, we bailed out of Jr. Rawls headquarters house about day-lite 30 on some day in late November of 1950 in our 1947 Willys Jeep and Dad drove me about two miles back into the country to one of the few windmills, stopped the jeep and said “Get out! I ‘ll pick you up back here at dark.”


SAY WHAT?--- TWICE.


PREPERATION


There was an ARMY/NAVY SURPLUS store at about 3rd and Congress Ave. in Austin that sold everything Military from the past Great War, so, earlier that Fall, I went in there to shop for sundry items that might be applicable at the Rawls Ranch, and one was the Military Water Canteen in its canvas case that fit on a Military web belt, which I also bought. If a man is gonna hunt in the desert, a man needs to have his-self a water canteen—Right? Right!


Well, fast forward to late November 1950 and you find your butt has just been dumped, not dropped, off in the middle of 57,000 acres in the West Texas desert somewhere and you’d better get with the program. A whole lot of the area is rolling Greasewood flats that are about one half mile across until you hit a draw, arroyo or deep canyon. Don’t ask me why I did it, but there was no need to amble through the greasewood, so in cowboy terms, I didn’t hit a little lope, I hit a trot.



And trot, I did, for the next 18 years. I could trot through that country all day and never break a sweat. Trot up to one canyon, stop, glass it or roll rocks down it to see what might jump up and take off again.


But, there was one immediate casualty. My WWII water canteen. Water weighs, what, 6.5 lbs. per gallon? Man, the very first day after doing my thing, that damn canteen full of water began to weigh more and more until it became unbearable. Plus it flopped up and down until finally after a mile or three, I jerked that son of a bitch off, web belt and all, and chunked the whole kit and caboodle off into the nearest canyon.


So, in the future, when and if you and your family are doing one of your “Bucket List” trips to the Big Bend area of Texas and stumble across an artifact in a canyon that resembles a WWII Water canteen and WWII web belt with the initials “MEK” scratched on the canteen. I suggest you notify the Smithsonian immediately.


MEK

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