It was in the late 1960s or early 1970s when a cookie company (I think Keebler) introduced their “new” chocolate chip cookie. Seated at a stark white table
was veteran character actor Lou Jacobi. After hearing a few seconds of the pitch, Jacobi simply uttered: “I like the old.” But the invisible shill kept at
it and after several more seconds in which the cookie was extolled, Jacobi, stone faced and somewhat reminiscent of Mr. Spock, simply said: “I like the
Lou Jacobi (1913-2009): “I like the old.”
In 1970, I had scraped up enough cash to purchase my first centerfire rifle. After much deliberation I had settled on an Ithaca .243. A sales clerk
employed by my father named Dick Valenti (not his real name, and soon afterwards involved in a shooting of which he was exonerated) recommended a gun shop
owned by a buddy of his.
“It’s in a bad neighborhood,” he told me. “Tell your dad to carry a gun. And beware of this giant black crow that flies around on the inside of the store.
Creepy, but hey you’ll get a good deal.”
Since I was only 17 at the time, my father would have to sign for me so one weeknight we drove down to the gun shop that really was in a “bad neighborhood”
and sure enough, there was a black bird flying around the shop, but it was a mynah bird, not a crow. The deal was soon sealed and I walked out of there
with an Ithaca LSA-55 (LSA meaning Light, Strong and Accurate), which was actually made for Ithaca by Tikka. The rifle served faithfully for decades and a
lot of varmints were taken, but more often than not, woodchucks and raccoons would still manage to crawl away.
Ithaca LSA-55 Standard
It was in 2000 that I happened upon an interesting book that was on a table at the local gun show. Entitled
Game Loads and Practical Ballistics for the American Hunter
by Bob Hagel, it was copyrighted 1978. For a buck, who could go wrong?
Unknown to me, Mr. Hagel was an accomplished hunter, and for lack of a better word, ballistician. He personally retrieved bullets from hundreds of animals
and made all kinds of bullet comparisons and penetrations. But it was the chapter on the perfect varmint round that got my undivided attention. There he
proclaimed that after much testing and analysis, a 75 grain hollow point Sierra bullet pushed along with 35 grains of IMR 3031 (another “old” powder) would
reach a muzzle velocity of about 3200 f.p.s and pretty much “anchor” any critter.
Bob Hagel (1916-2005)
Down to the “man cave” I went and before long, hand-loaded 100 of these babies. Now I needed some vermin to show up. Like it was pre-destined, a feral cat
that had been terrorizing my chickens, presented himself on one cold January morning. The .243 barked, and the cat just dropped. No kicking, no nervous
reaction, and no exit wound! I was a firm believer in “the old.”
The years rolled on and more rifles were added to my collection, inadvertently pushing the Ithaca to the rear of the vault where it has remained unfired
since 2000. Only because of a recent shooting invitation did I rearrange the vault and perchance the .243 made its way to the front again.
In early June of this summer, as I made my way to the pole barn to gas up the John Deere, something scurried by, just giving me a brief glimpse of what I
suspected to be a woodchuck. We crossed paths multiple times all summer long. Every time I had a .22 and crept up to the barn, he was gone. When I didn’t
have the rifle, there he was staring me down, almost mocking me because he knew I was powerless to stop him. July and mid-August passed the same way. Once,
“Woody” was on top of the 1972 Chevrolet Impala and he looked like a hairy hood ornament. But time was running out. In the very early morning hours, just a
few days ago, I peeped out my bedroom window and there he was, munching on the succulent, wet grass just 30 feet from the barn. No .22 rim fire for him.
The .243 came out and for the first time in 16 years it barked again. Sure enough “Woody” was anchored to the spot and the cat and mouse game was over.
Last known photo of “Woody”
So what is the point of all this? I’m merely saying that a lot of us really get caught up in the fever of things that are “new”, and that we cast aside the
old and move on. Writers like Hagel, O’Connor and Ackley did not have access to computers, but they sure knew their stuff and it is a shame that most of
these fellows are all but forgotten. But for my money, I’ll echo Lou Jacobi and say: “I like the old.”
Game Loads and Practical Ballistics for the American Hunter by Bob Hagel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.