Author Cork Graham evaluating the recoil-reducing BLACKHAWK! Knoxx SPECOPS Stock on a Remington 870 12 ga. Photo courtesy of Cork Graham
People who know, know that there’s a special spot in my heart for the state of Montana. With some of the best hunting and fishing in the country, how could I not love Montana? Go a little deeper and you learn that my family spent a few years in Montana during the early part of the last century.
The gravestone of author Cork Graham’s Great-Uncle Merton Graham.
Photo courtesy of Cork Graham
My great-uncle Merton Graham is buried in the Fort Shaw Military Cemetery, established in 1867, at the fort built to defend against Blackfeet. It’s a dramatic land with bluffs along the Sun River, just west of Great Falls. Born in 1911, in Macksburg, Iowa, he died in 1915. Such a sad loss for my great-grandmother Ora Bonham Graham, who I last remember giving me candy at a nursing home in 1968, during our summer family visits to Spokane from Saigon.
When I later read a piece about her by her daughter, Ruby Phillipy, a poet in Spokane, I could only imagine what it must have been like for great-grandma Graham to loyally follow her husband, William, from a beautiful and lush family corn farm in Iowa, to a one bar, one store town on a dry and windy northern plain—my great-aunt said her mother cried when she stepped off the train.
Whenever I travel Montana, I always feel compelled to lay a collection of flowers by little, great-uncle Merton’s stone, as he seems so lonely with most of the others in the cemetery having met their demise much earlier and much more dramatically: such and such cavalry officer or soldier, or pioneer “killed by Indians”.
Last week, I was a little further south, in Bozeman, for a gun and outdoor writer’s conference held by Blackhawk!, a tactical equipment and clothing manufacturer. When I told “Student of the Gun” host Paul Markel I came in from San Francisco, he said, “Welcome to America!”
I get that often enough, what with all the nutty views of guns crystallized in this city since the hippies took over Golden Gate Park and Haight/Ashbury as their own during the late 1960s, and forced a mass migration north to Oregon, Idaho, and Washington of traditional San Francisco families that had been here as far back as before the original Gold Rush. The last major migration resulted from those who had to escape the ridiculous rise in real estate taxes in response to the Silicon Valley “Gold Rush” of the 1990s.
My father brought my family to the San Francisco Bay Area because of the great impression he got while a Marine at Treasure Island Naval Base, teaching radio communications to Naval personnel during the Korean War. His memories were filled with weekend escapes to San Francisco. But, as is oft said: you can never go back.
In 1969, during a visit to San Francisco from our home in Saigon, they came across a gorgeous house in Sausalito, overlooking the bay. At $68,000, they thought it too expensive. When we moved to the Bay Area in 1977, they checked in on that home to see if it was available. Yes, but the new asking price was over $1 million. I’d hate to know what it’s going for now!
We have a troubling situation in America nowadays. The quality of life that our parents and grandparents took for granted on a middle-class income is now quickly become an opportunity only the wealthy can afford. And the very large middle-class that was the heart of the United States’ strength is quickly disappearing into segments of either great wealth or abject poverty. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the poor and the wealthy, it’s just when the disparity between the two becomes so extreme that we run the danger of experiencing what Europe and Mexico experienced during the 1700s and 1800s.
When it leads to elitism, we’re quickly sliding down a hill that will either end in totalitarianism, as experienced in the Soviet Union, or intense hatred and fear resulting from real and imagined conspiracies, as those which gripped France during Robespierre and the Reign of Terror.
Competition Champion and Master Shooting Instructor Todd Jarrett switching between a pistol and AR platform on single-point BLACKHAWK! Storm Sling XT.
Photo courtesy of Cork Graham
In San Francisco, they’ve been trying to disarm the residents and the world, using theories based on inaccurate and wishful thinking. It’s like the wealthy elite of San Francisco and California who think the more they can get the government to tax the people and give out more handouts to the homeless, the homeless will improve their lives. In truth, all that happens is that they breed more social program-reliant homeless, who would be better served by a city government not so welcoming—Giuliani effectively cleaned up New York City and it wasn’t by setting out a welcome mat like Mayor Newsom.
If there’s any more difference between San Francisco and Montana, aside from views on the 2nd Amendment, I can’t think of it: a visit to the SERPA production office of Blackhawk!, where the employees are well-taken take care of, and take pride in their work, in contrast to those making good money panhandling on San Francisco’s Market Street, could not be more striking. In the first scenario, the employees get a sense of self-respect by turning out a quality product. In the other, the only thing that happens is the elite delude themselves with a pat on the back, while the homeless are kept in a horrific form of Groundhog Day: the spirit is like a muscle, if it’s not exercised it atrophies.
While I was in the Free State of Montana, evaluating the potent offerings from Speer, Blackhawk! and Federal, all now under the ATK umbrella, at the Manhattan Wildlife Association Logan Range, I was hit by a deep sense of melancholy. It’s the one that I get when people ask me if I’m a Republican or Democrat. My response is always the same: “I’m an American! Do you remember what that used to mean?”