Chapter 3 – Smitty

I wear a baseball cap almost all of the time so a haircut is not a big priority. But when the hair I have left starts to really stick-out and curl up all around, I know it’s time for a haircut. Funny thing is my unkempt look doesn’t seem to affect Vanna. A bad hair day and an unshaven face don’t seem to bother her much which greatly surprises me because other seemingly less grievous infractions can cause quite a stir. I really love that woman, but she does keep me guessing!


It was Saturday afternoon and I had just left Burt’s barber shop. I was there about an hour and a half, although the actual hair-cutting took around 5 minutes. Uncle Albert was sitting there along with Stinger. They weren’t there for haircuts but constituted moral support and entertainment for Burt’s walk-in customers. What a bargain! For the price of a haircut I got clipped, some really good information on female anatomy, directions on how to defeat terrorists and how best to catch catfish with my bare hands.


I was in Jimbo’s neighborhood so I decided to stop by. It seemed like beer time. Besides, I had some questions on the female anatomy discussion that I was too afraid to ask in such a public forum. My brother must have heard my truck coming because he met me at the front door.


“D.R. hurry! Get in here! We’re getting to the good part!”


I rushed on in with the TV going pretty loud when it suddenly went silent. A voice from the den said “I put it on pause.”


“What’s going on here?”


“Tyree and I are watching Lone Wolf McQuad and we’re at the part where they bury him in his Ramcharger. Go on in and I’ll bring you a beer.”


Chuck Norris’ movie Lone Wolf McQuad is one of our favorites. We must have watched it 100 times. As a matter of fact, I think Jimbo wore out his first VHS tape and had to buy another copy. I walked on into the den and saw Tyree sitting on the couch, beer in hand.


“Hey Tyree.”


“Hey D.R.”


I noticed right away that Jimbo’s old console TV was gone and a spiffy new flat screen was in its place. On the screen was ranger McQuad’s dirty, semi-conscious face, slumped in his Dodge awaiting his for sure death. Frozen in time like that, it was difficult to see our hero with no escape.

Jimbo rushed in, plopped down, handed me a Corona and punched play on the remote. As we had seen many times, Chuck gets buried, pours a Pearl beer over his head and with renewed vigor starts his buried Ramcharger, drives it out of the ground, kicks the door open and immediately kills two of his tormentors!


With a chuckle I said, “A fellow just can’t watch that clip enough. Ranger McQuad just has to be the toughest hombre on the planet.”


Then Jimbo added, “You know, I’m not so sure about that.”


“What do you mean?” I said with a big question mark in my voice.


“Well ol’ Kung Fu Carradine, although a most despicable villain in this movie, is really the tougher bad ass. His skills and tenacity complimented by his lack of any moral compass make him go that extra evil inch to devastate his enemy. That my friend is what is tough, even though we may not like it.”


That’s my little brother for ya’. He always has to outdo me with talk of moral compasses and such. I’m still not real sure what he’s talking about.


Then Tyree decided he needed to have his say-so. “I think the toughest guy in this show is that FBI agent Jackson. They are in the middle of a big fire fight and he gets shot right in the gut. All he does is cuss, as if he nicked himself shaving and then keeps on shooting. A lesser man would have just died on the spot!”


I quickly replied, “Oh Tyree, you just like him because he’s the only black guy in the movie”. At that we all had a good laugh.


I turned to Jimbo and said “OK Richie Rich, we’re drinking these fine Coronas complete with a twist of lime and watching a flashy new TV. What gives?”


“It’s a beauty, ain’t it! 55 inch LSD HD screen, cable and Netflix ready with a deluxe remote.


“Don’t you mean LED screen”.


“Yeah, whatever. I sold The-Inside-Straight-Rifle then went by Sam’s Club and bought this TV along with a case of Coronas.”


“Alright!” I said, as we fist-bumped with beers in hand.


To understand our revelry you have to go back two weeks earlier. Jimbo and I met at Stinger’s house to play 7 card stud. Stinger introduced his cousin Henry, which was the equivalent of saying I vouch for this guy. Henry was alright but a bit of a loud mouth. That night Jimbo was luckier than Hugh Heffner and Henry was unluckier than O.J. Simpson! It was just the way the cards were falling that night. Henry’s gripping was a bit irritating, but Jimbo was happily just raking it in. I’ll also say, both had quite a bit to drink. The game was beginning to wind down around 1 AM when Henry makes a big bet with trip 6’s showing. Jimbo had a spade straight flush draw working and he had the case 6 hidden, so he goes over Henry with a bigger bet! I about spit my beer all over the table. Geez-us, we were staring at trips and Jimbo was showing trash! Henry was stunned a bit too with the new bet being way over what he had left on the table. Henry claimed he had a rifle in his car that he could cover the bet with. Stinger endorsed him with a “Yep, he’s good.”


Sure enough, Jimbo caught an 8 of hearts to fill his straight and Henry really only had the trips. Henry, now silent, being a man of his word, went and got the rifle, put it on the table and turned around and left. The game broke up and Jimbo was pleased as punch. He picked up his money and the old screwball rifle, just shaking his head with a grin.

Table & Hand Final

The next day I was talking to Jimbo and we started calling the gun “The-Inside-Straight-Rifle”. We got it out and looked it over real good. It was a lever action rifle but strangely it was only a single shot. When you pulled the lever down, a door on top hinged down to allow you to put one bullet in. It was strange because it seemed to work backwards. To top things off, the hole in the barrel looked huge!


I said “Well, by the size of the bore it sure looks big enough for deer, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut H&L doesn’t carry any bullets for it.”


Jimbo agreed “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right on that. I was thinking I’d take it over to Smitty and see what he has to allow.”


I don’t really know Smitty’s real name but everyone calls him that because he is our local gunsmith. I don’t think he has any formal training but if it has something to do with a gadget that shoots or goes bang, Smitty KNOWS about it. He’s forgotten more about guns than most people ever learned about guns! Everyone loves to go see Smitty and watch what he doing and listen to his ideas on various inventions. In an attempt to keep the number of armchair helpers to a minimum, he put only two chairs back into his new shop. Jimbo and I are included in his fan club and we are always looking for an excuse to go visit ol’ Smitty.


A few years back, Smitty bought the depleted gravel pit south of town. It was perfect for him because it was cheap and he could safely shoot all he wanted. He brought in a nice double-wide trailer which his wife Charlene fixed up very nice. A large comfortable porch was added and beautiful flower beds were placed all around. Now, the only detraction from this picture perfect scene are the charred remains of Smitty’s old shop, which are near the house. After the explosion and fire, Charlene made Smitty build his new shop quite a bit farther away.


Charlene and Smitty seem like the odd couple. Charlene works week days in town at the beauty parlor. She is tall and trim, always dresses very nice and is quite fetching. She’s very polite and friendly to everyone and seems to be the perfect wife. On the other hand, Smitty is sort of short and he is always covered in grime. His clothes are usually tattered and he always smells like acetone and Hoppe’s number 9. The magnifier visor constantly worn on his head makes him look like a bug eyed space alien!


When we drove through Smitty’s gate we both got a kick out of the sign posted on his fence. It had a picture pointing the business end of a pistol at you with the caption “Warning: We Don’t Call 911”. A short distance down the road I pointed off to the right and told Jimbo “Pull over there. That’s Smitty’s shop about 100 yards from the house.”


“Geez-us, that’s a long walk from the house. I hope he has a restroom out there!” Just then we saw the outhouse off to the side. We both laughed and Jimbo quipped “Man, that’s old school, but I love it!”


The shop door was open so as we just walked up and said “Knock, knock Smitty, it’s D.R. and Jimbo.” He immediately turned around and flipped his visor up.


Excitedly, Smitty said “Great! Hey guys, come on in. You have to see this!”


He had a barreled rifle action clamped in a vice. It had a 5” metal contraption hanging down where the trigger should be.


He said “Get in close here and be real quiet.”


He lift the bolt up then ever so gently lowered it back down again to cock the rifle. He leaned in towards the action and softly whispered “Go off.”


Nothing, so he whispered slightly louder “Go off”.


Nothing, so he whispered just a little louder “Go off”.


“Click!” the firing pin fell.


Smitty jumped with glee and held both his hands out flat for a double high-five and said “Now that boys, is a real, honest to gawd, hair trigger!”


Jimbo and I were both amazed, but my bad habit of talking before thinking made me say “Great, but what’s that good for? Isn’t that kind of dangerous?”


Smitty replied “It ain’t good for nothin’. I would never set a trigger on a hunting rifle less than 2 pounds. I just wanted to see if I could do it…and I did!”


Smitty was laughing and continued “Ol’ Carl brought his .270 in here the other day complaining that the trigger pull was too heavy and would I lighten it. He said he wanted it so light a mouse fart would set it off. We both had a good laugh. That was an easy fix so I set it down to 2 pounds, tested it for safety and sent a happy customer on his way. But that got me to thinking about an experiment. How light could a mechanical trigger be made? I designed this trigger with no less than 4 sears and 6 transfer bars. Totally impractical but awesome!”


Neither of us had a clue what Smitty was talking about, but we both congratulated him with multiple pats on the back. What we really were trying to do is get the grease off our hands from the high-fives. When Smitty settled down and refocused, he saw The-Inside-Straight-Rifle in Jimbo’s hand.


He said “Wow that is a nice Martini-Henry rifle there.”


Jimbo quickly replied, “Yep, I won it off Henry, but he was drinking beer.”


He handed the rifle over to Smitty who admiringly said “I may be missing something here, but this fine rifle is called a Martini-Henry after designers Fredrick Martini and Alexander Henry. It was adopted as the British service rifle in 1871. This is a series II model and by the serial number was probably produced around 1880. I’d say it is chambered in .577/450 Boxer-Henry which is extra rare. Note the heptagonal rifling, way ahead of its time back then. You hardly ever see a Martini-Henry in this good of shape, where was it stored?”


Now Jimbo, being a very practical guy (except when playing cards) says “Henry got it out of the trunk of his car. Do you think it would be a good deer gun? Where can I get some of those 577 bullets? Could it be drilled out or something to shoot .410 shotgun shells? I tried one and it almost fit.”


Smitty, with a stunned expression on his face, looked a Jimbo and said “You don’t shoot a gun like this! It is a rare collector’s item. The cartridges themselves are collector items. If you’d like to sell it, I might know a guy in Austin that may be interested.”


That got Jimbo’s attention. “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind selling or trading it, but I don’t get around to Austin very often.”


“Let me see what I can find out.” With that, Smitty scurried off to his desk which was piled high with papers and started shuffling through them. Meanwhile Jimbo and I started snooping around the shop.


Jimbo was focused on a beat up Winchester 94 on the rack. In a low voice he said “I wonder how much coin I’d have to kick in to get Smitty to swap?”


I said “Yeah, just what you need, another lever .30-30. How many do you have now?”


With a quick snide reply “Not enough and besides I like ‘em.”


Jimbo was like a kid in a candy store, looking through the rack of used rifles, all neatly standing in a row. I took the opportunity to browse around myself. There were lathes, milling machines, drill presses, grinders and all were dirty with oily metal shavings. One strange thing was a shiny red car door sitting against one wall. It looked brand new. I knew what car it was from because it had a wide racing stripe across the bottom that read Mustang. There were additional stripes swirling along the top as well.


In one corner of the shop there were 5 gallon buckets with lids and plastic flower watering buckets. A cardboard sign on the stack said “Turkey Lure Kit – $10”.


On the far wall, I came across a separate work bench that obviously had something bulky on it, but it was covered up with a tarp. A gun barrel was sticking out of one end of the tarp. The muzzle had a square hole in it!


In the background we heard Smitty make a short phone call, hang up and return with a scrap of paper. My curiosity was quite stoked about everything, so I asked “What’s the deal on these turkey lure kits for 10 bucks?”


“Yeah, that’s left over from turkey season. Just before the season opens, I get a lot of guys in here needing a shotgun repair or are looking for a used gun. I ask them if they are going to see Bobcat Bob to buy some turkey lure. Then I remind them that they’ll need to take their own 5 gallon bucket. You know ol’ Bobcat, don’t you?”


“Yeah, we’ve met. Let me guess, the turkey lure formula requires an exotic ingredient that only he sells for high dollar. Or the lure is only good for an hour or something like that.”


Smitty chuckled and said “Yeah, I guess you do know Bobcat Bob, but the turkey lure really works and he doesn’t sell the formula. That’s a secret. But he will sell you 5 gallons for $5 but you must provide your own bucket and method of spreading it. Supposedly, the lure can be stored indefinitely without any problems. I tried to get Bob to put some in my shop on consignment but he acted like I insulted him when I mentioned it. What a cantankerous old coot!”


Jimbo interrupted, “Say Smitty would you consider some type of trade for my rifle against this .30-30 Winchester in the rack?”


“Jimbo, I’m glad you came to see me, because we both are honest men.” Handing over the slip of paper he said “Here call this guy. He is very interested in your rifle. His name is Alfonse and I told him to expect your call. He owns a lingerie shop in North Austin and he’s a real wheeler dealer. Be careful. Don’t take anything in trade and don’t let him have it for less than $1,200 CASH. Oh yeah, and don’t call him Al. After that you can come back here and I’ll sell you 2 or 3 of those old beat up Winchesters if you want ‘em!”


When Jimbo heard $1,200 cash I swear his pupils turned into dollar signs. I haven’t seen him that excited and happy since he won $20 on a scratch off! He was so stunned I had to answer for him.


“WOW! Thank you Smitty, you be da’ man!!” I thought about a high-five but decided against it.


“Glad I could help, but if’in it was me, I would put that rifle away in a safe place. Someday it will be worth a real fortune. Never, ever sell or trade a good gun, you’ll always regret it later. You’re talkin’ to someone who really knows!”


Jimbo was dancing around and slapping his jeans. He said “Come on D.R. we’re heading to Austin!”


“Jimbo, just sit down and relax a minute. I can’t go anywhere but home today. Gain your senses then you can calmly call Alfonse and arrange a meeting without acting overly anxious. Smitty, can Jimbo get a glass of water or something, he’s gone into one of his over excited states?”


“No problem, I have water and beer over in my fridge. Help yourself.”


At that, Jimbo was off to the frig.


“Smitty, I can’t thank you enough. He’s on cloud nine. I just hope he’s not counting his chickens before they’re hatched!”


“No problem, just glad I could help. If he follows my advice, he’ll do fine. But if he wants, I’ll be glad to swap him heads-up for that .30-30 clunker on the rack!” At that, Smitty let out a real belly laugh.


“Smitty I have just one more question. Out of curiosity, what’s with the car door? It looks brand new. You doing body work too?”


“No D.R. but you have a good eye. That is one of my neatest inventions. A client came to me and wanted me to build a gun into his car door so that if a bad-nick like a carjacker, robber or such came up to his car he could shoot right through the door. Here let me show you.”


He walked over and turned the door around and sure enough there was a place for a magazine to be inserted into the arm rest. Under the arm rest was a trigger with a button safety. He went on to explain “The bullet exit holes on the outside of the door are camouflaged by the fancy swirls in the racing stripe. If the driver has to pull the trigger, someone is going to have a very bad day with three .45 slugs coming at ‘em on a 15 degree spread!”


I studied on what he said for just a bit and then I asked “But Smitty, why couldn’t the guy driving just pull his gun out and just shoot through the door in the regular way?”


“Well D.R. you could do that, but the real trick about my design is you don’t break the glass with the window up or down.”


I said “Really? How can that be possible?”


Smitty just grinned.

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