by David E. Petzal
Gray’s Sporting Journal is pleased—pleased? nay, overjoyed!—to welcome David E. Petzal to our website. Dave is a long-time senior editor of Field & Stream but, more important (to us, at least) he was one of the earliest contributors to Gray’s.
Dave is known throughout the business as not only one of the most acerbic writers around, but also the most erudite. He is a dedicated hunter and gun nut of “the most depraved kind,” and since joining Field & Stream in 1972, he has hunted almost everything, almost everywhere.
Asked for a brief description of his career, he responded:
Dave Petzal is so old he can remember life before television. He is a graduate of Colgate University, served in the Army as a drill sergeant, and started in the outdoor magazine business in 1964. Dave went to Field & Stream in 1972, where he has been ever since. Dave has hunted in just about all 50 states, most of Canada, Europe, and New Zealand, and has made eleven safaris. He shoots competitively in NRA Mid-Range matches, where he holds the rating of Master. His motto is, “Don’t get familiar, buster.”
This, however, is our invitation to familiarize yourselves with one of the best writers around. We are calling his collective contribution “Fair Game,” and everything in the outdoors is fair game for his piercing eye and deflating wit.
Make yourselves at home. He won’t bite. Much. — Terry Wieland, Gray’s Shooting Editor
Tom McIntyre and Thunder Without Rain
by David E. Petzal
On November 3, 2022, Tom McIntyre’s overworked heart shut down while he slept, depriving his colleagues of a treasured friend and the world of a genuine man of letters who happened to be a passionate hunter. He was 70 years old.
Tom first went to Africa when he was 19, and many times thereafter, and took a rifle everywhere, including all the nasty places where nice safari-ists do not go. Africa and its animals enthralled him, and most of all the Cape buffalo.
In the course of his life he hunted all over the world, and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. He was a wonderful, and a prodigious, writer and made a living at it for 40 years. He was one of the very few in this difficult trade who were successful in books, magazines, television, and film.
Which brings us to his final work, his magnum opus, his labor of love—Thunder Without Rain, a Memoir with Dangerous Game, God’s Cattle, the African Buffalo. It took him five years, and he finished it just three weeks before his life ended. I would like to report that it is a masterpiece, a combination of splendid writing and exhaustive research. It contains both those elements, but it is disorganized, filled with irrelevant material and, in many places, nearly incomprehensible.
It’s one thing, in a book on Cape buffalo, to trace the ancestry of Syncerus caffer back nearly to the beginnings of vertebrate life on earth. That’s fine, and no one has done it before, and it has its place here. But Tom also saw fit to dwell on such subjects as the psychiatric problems of Ernest Hemingway. They were many and grievous, and make for interesting reading, but they have no place here. Ditto for Tom’s autobiography, his relationship with his father, et cetera. This is supposed to be a book about wild cattle, and the hunting thereof. The chapters teem with asides, parenthetical subjects, and digressions that should have felt the touch of the “Delete” button.