Initial Reactions and Random Musings

A duelling pistol by Robert Wogdon of London—so preeminent in his field that a serious dispute between gentlemen became known as “a Wogdon case.” Courtesy Rock Island Auction Company

by David E. Petzal

Editor’s Note:

A few weeks ago, we welcomed Dave Petzal as a regular contributor to the Gray’s Sporting Journal website.  Dave was one of the earliest contributors to Gray’s in the 1970s, but is also a long-time denizen of the New York outdoor-magazine world as senior editor of Field & Stream.  As such, he knew everyone who was anyone, and has an intimate knowledge of where many of the bodies are buried.  After familiarizing himself with our website, he sent the following as an email missive, and it was simply too good not to publish.  Once a journalist, always a journalist.Terry Wieland

I’ve been reading past Sporting Notes with near-orgasmic pleasure (Why “near,” you ask. Because I’m really old, that’s why.) and thought you might be interested in the following, none of which have any relationship to each other. 

Duelers: In 1965, as part of a photography job for a book, I was admitted to the Chase Manhattan Bank’s vault to photograph the Robert Wogdon pistols used in the Hamilton-Burr duel, and held in my soft editor’s hand the pistol that killed Alexander Hamilton. It was quite eerie. While I was in the vault, I was accompanied by an armed guard who stood three paces behind me and three to the side with his hand on his revolver. He did not stand down until I had left.

Tommy Mac: John Barsness accompanied Tom (McIntyre) on a hunt in one of the Scandinavian countries, and they found themselves at lunchtime in a cabin with a huge cast-iron skillet and a very large, fresh-caught halibut. John said Tom melted a pound of butter in the skillet, sliced six enormous steaks off the halibut, fried them up, and proceeded to eat the whole thing. 

Jack O’Connor, the larger-than-life shooting editor of Outdoor Life from the 1940s until 1972. The stories about him are legion—some tellable, some not. Photo Courtesy Outdoor Life

At a Field & Stream editorial symposium in 1998, Tom drank, in front of numerous awed witnesses, 18 large Beefeater martinis, put on his cowboy hat, and staggered off to the room he shared with our art director, Dan McLain. Seeing he could not make it to the bed, Tom collapsed onto a couch on which reposed Dan’s laptop, in which reposed half a year’s work. Tom’s massive ass squashed it to flinders. Dan, upon waking in the morning and seeing the extent of the tragedy, leaped in his car and sped off.

Some years later, he assumed the Lotus position in his living room, poured a container of gasoline on himself, and struck a match. I told Tom that I held him accountable. He was having none of it.