Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cave exploring

The other day I happened upon an essay entitled, "The Gun as a Weapon of Education," written by one Edward Cave and published in a 1918 edition of The Outlook.

The headline was intriguing, certainly, but the subhead hooked me:
"Lessons from the Long Trail that Goes 'Way Around Beyond the Bleak and Barren Mountains of Mere Marksmanship to the Happy Valley of Sportsmanship"
Knowing of the author's connection to Scouting, I scanned the piece for a mention. These lines jumped out at me:
"A couple of years before the Germans turned loose their war, for eight months I disturbed the pious and pacific calm of the National headquarters of the Boy Scouts with the rude idea that Baden-Powell, the British soldier who originated the Boy Scout idea, meant their slogan, 'Be Prepared,' to imply prepared to carry a gun, not a harp."
That, my friends, is absolutely priceless. Cave continued:
"Despite instructions, I drilled my troop of Boy Scouts, and drilled them hard. Since then I have had the satisfaction of vindication on both counts. In addition, I have had the satisfaction of helping a good many thousands of Boy Scouts and plain ordinary boys to learn how to shoot a .22 rifle properly. I joined the National Rifle Association of America and the United States Revolver Association, and recently induced the former to encourage boys to take up target-shooting outdoors with the .22 rifles."
Cave's assertion that he influenced "a good many thousands of Boy Scouts and plain ordinary boys" was no idle boast -- in 1915 he published Boy Scout Marksmanship, a seminal work on the subject and a valuable primer for boys within and beyond the uniformed ranks.

Later in the text, I chuckled at Cave's expressed intent to "square up some old accounts" -- that is, to needle certain types of people that he found particularly annoying. Specifically:
"Folks who are afraid of a gun, but otherwise all right.

"Folks who will not let a big-enough boy have a gun.

"Folks who are fond of roast chicken -- and, if necessary to get it, would chase a pet rooster till red in the face and chop his head off -- yet raise objection to all hunting, and are classified among wild life conservationists as sentimentalists.

"Pacifists -- the worst of the lot."
That passage is another keeper, for sure. Cave closed his engaging essay with this:
"Far away on the horizon you see what at first appears like a fog in some distant valley. It is the smoke pall above some city, and it reminds you, hunter that you are, of the vaporings of the city men you know who can never stand where you do, nor even rise above their droll little chimneys, yet presume to force upon their fellows their narrow conception of a world outlook.

"Poor little wall-warped and roof-stunted boys who were never allowed to have a gun!"
"The Gun as a Weapon of Education" is a fun read -- playful and unapologetic, relevant despite its advanced age. I recommend it.