Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Long time coming – part 2

Long time coming part 1

by Tom Gaylord

My prep school was located in Massachusetts, in the hills overlooking Boston. It was supposed to be one of the top prep schools for Harvard, which is why I got to go, but what my mother never knew was that it was also allied with the most famous America rifle range of all—Walnut Hill.

By the time I got there, the range had been in operation for a long, long time. Some of the most famous offhand matches had been shot there, and the list of names of those who had graced the grounds was legendary. Even with her prejudice against guns, my mother had no doubt heard of the likes of Captain Hill, G.H. Wentworth, Mr. W. Lowe, Charles Hinman, Ross, and the great Harry Pope! They were the stars of the day, as famous as heavyweight prize-fighters and baseball players have become today. Their names were in all the prominent newspapers; indeed, the Boston Globe was one of their strongest backers and even fielded a team of women sharpshooters. Quite a progressive notion for the early part of this century.

As a student, I was offered a job pulling targets in the pits at Walnut Hill, which I accepted, of course. Through the low offices of that position, I met and associated with some of America’s finest shooters, as well as no limit of local gun cranks who also used the facility. Doctors, lawyers, and bankers were all a part of the great American pageant of rifle shooting at that time, and Walnut Hill became the place where they met to socialize and to conduct their business, as well.

In time, I was adopted in spirit by several wealthy gentlemen and my association with firearms began in earnest. They loaned me their second guns with the equipment I needed to make bullets and to load them. I bought the powder and primers from my earnings in the pits, and the lead was free for the taking—one of the advantages of being in the pits. I even cast lead pigs from some of the surplus and sold it to the members to get money for more powder and primers.

By the time I was accepted to Harvard, I was in solid with the group at Walnut Hill and could return at any time to shoot with them. At college, I joined the rifle team, where I was afforded the opportunity to continue my surreptitious studies without a break. My studies were in finance, but my time at the range proved to be as valuable as any three classes, from the contacts and associations I made.

After school I accepted a position with a Boston bank, where I was in the department that handles trusts. Through my connections at Walnut Hill, I quickly came to the attention of the Managing Director, who, though not a shooter himself, recognized that his clients all knew me by my first name and were most willing to see me professionally, despite my youth.


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