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I 6 NiumENC –” A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South Jan. 18, 1974 250 The Saturday night special “It’s all over for the Indians just like it is for the gunfighter,” lamented that grand drunken gunslinger Kid Shelleen. ” `Cept they didn’t give us no reservation or teach us how to weave rugs. Yeah, it’s all over in Dodge. Tombstone too. Cheyenne, Deadwood, all gone. All dead and gone. Pow! Why, the last time I come through Tombstone the biggest excitement there was about the roller-skatin’ rink they’d laid out over the O.K. Corral.” By Robert Sherrill If many Americans seem to share Kid’s nostalgia, they can be forgiven. Nostalgia is reserved for landmark events that occurred recently enough that the current generation can identify with them, and if Americans feel as their periodic celebrations of the event would indicate that they were present at the birth of the gun, they aren’t far wrong. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about guns is that, although their basic principle of operation has been known and utilized for at least five hundred years, the gun as a symbol of The Observer is proud to present the beginning of Robert Sherrill’s new book THE SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL and Other Guns with Which Americans Won the West, 4’rotected Bootleg Franchises, Slew Wildlife, Robbed Countless Banks, Shot Husbands Purposely and by Mistake & Killed Presidents Together with the Debate Over Continuing Same. The publisher is Charterhouse, New York, and the price is $8.95 or if you’re really broke, it should be available soon at your nearest library. We do urge you to read it in any case. We will even spare you the Annual Gun Control Editorial if you promise to read it. Sherrill’s most impressive credential is, of course, that he was once an editor of the Observer. He’s written for a few piddly organizations since he left here such as The Nation and The New York Times. Also, he writes books and managed to get himself banned from the White House. He is a fine and witty writer, a tough and independent thinker and a well-known curmudgeon. efficient deadliness is a relatively recent phenomenon.* TO SAY that these weapons have helped establish the American way of life is actually too modest a judgment: they are a part of America’s life, and we respond to and with guns in a very American way. Could any response be more American than that of the two New York youths who shot and killed a storekeeper because they had asked for apple pie and he had offered them Danish pastry instead? Or the husband who shot and killed his wife for being thoughtless enough to run out of gas on the way home? Or the jivey New York youth who shot the discotheque manager who wouldn’t sell him a ticket? Or the Maryland host who decided to restore gaiety to his party. by shooting the guest who refused to stop arguing with his own wife? Or the Ohio engineer who got tired of hearing the bomb-loaded B-52s flying over his home near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and used one of his three high-powered rifles to puncture the planes that came near? Or the two motorists in Maryland who ended their little traffic dispute with a pistol and a shotgun, one shot in the leg, the other in the chest; or the New York woman who killed one and wounded two in a gunfight over a parking space; or the Virginia woman who, claiming she was run off the road by another motorist, climbed out of her car with a .38 pistol in hand and dispatched * It may be that some cosmic thumb was held on the scale to keep gun-design progress down, in balance with medical progress, which was slow indeed. Back in the days when European armies were trying to kill each other with bullets that wouldn’t travel the length of a football field, serious physicians were using a gunshot balm concocted from two boiled puppies, whose flesh was then mixed with a pound of boiled earthworms, plus white wine, brandy and prayer. By the seventeenth century medical knowledge had progressed to the point that when a patient who had been shot in the head was brought to one of the famous physicians of the day, he located the fracture by the sound caused through striking the skull with a cane. Gunshot wounds in the eighteenth century were commonly treated indirectly which, considering everything, was probably best with purgative salts, and blue pills. For more of this esoterica, see Dr. Theodor Billroth, Historical Studies on the Nature and Treatment of Gunshot Wounds From the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time \(New Haven: Nathan Smith Medical