Jack London’s Schützenfest Articles

Schützenfest – Wikipedia

During the Middle Ages, many towns had to find ways to defend themselves from gangs of marauders. For this reason, clubs and associations were founded, comparable to militias; these paramilitary associations were sanctioned for the first time in the Law for the Defensive Constitution of the Towns by King Henry I, and officially integrated into the towns’ defense plans. Accompanying the military exercises and physical examinations of the towns’ contingents, festivities were combined with festive processions. Participants from other parishes and, at times, even the feudal heads of state were also invited to these Marksmen’s Courts (Schützenhöfe). However, the self-confident spirit of the townsfolk that marked these festivities was not always regarded positively by the authorities. For this reason, different traditions developed in other regions. The military significance lessened over the centuries and became meaningless with the creation of regular troops and garrisons for national defense. The Schützenfests, however, continued in the form of a regional patriotic tradition.

San Diego Schutzenguilde

Jack London’s Schützenfest Articles

Schüetzenfest No. 1

July 15, 1901 . The Goths have entered Rome ! Aye, it is so, but there was no cry in the night, no clamor of hasty flight, no scurrying with household gods to the citadel. Rather, did San Francisco throw wide her gates and fraternize with her Teutonic invaders. On the other hand, these descendants of Germanic Tribesmen who swept down out of the forest of middle Europe some two thousand years ago, are quite unlike their savage forbearers. They are not clad in the skins of wild beasts, and though they bear weapons in their hands, we do not fear; for they come not in war, but in love; not as foes, but as blood-brothers. And though their ancestors of old time looted many a fair city, we need keep no anxious eye on our possessions. We have but one thing they might appropriate if they were able–and that is our climate.

        It was a unique parade, that which passes through San Francisco’s peaceful streets Sunday forenoon. Beneath fluttering banners and between packed rows of spectators, to the martial music of band and fife and drum, marched two thousand men and picked men all. Not since our own “ Californias ” has so splendid a body of men been in our midst. And picked men they certainly are, picked from all the states, these men of the shooting clubs, these sharpshooters, these Schüetzenbrüder.

        Men from the cities and men from the fields and forests; riflemen and sharpshooters from the Eastern centers, and hunters and fighters from the plains and mountains of the West. From Montana , Idaho , Arizona , Colorado and Iowa , from Chicago , New York and Boston , and even from Europe they have come to take part in the Third National Bundes Shooting Festival. They are skillful men, eagle-eyed and steady of nerve, who have won trophies everywhere-gun experts and crowned kings of the target, to say nothing of princes and knights galore, who have demonstrated their fitness on rifle ranges the world over, and who have come together here, by the shores of the Pacific, in friendly contest.

Promptly at the target The Examiner’s siren the parade swung into motion from the corner of Market and New Montgomery streets; and right here, in passing, it is meet to state that promptness pre-eminently characterizes these riflemen. No delays; no lagging. They achieve the impossible feat of doing everything on schedule time.

        Grand Marshal Robert Weineke led the long column of many divisions, and with the assistance of innumerable aides on gaily caparisoned horses, went over the line of march in splendid order. The route was up Market Street to City Hall avenue , around the Lick monument, countermarch on Market to Kearney , to California , to Montgomery and down Market to the Oakland ferry. The banners were many and beautiful, but it was the uniforms that especially caught the eye. Gray and green predominated. And, it is indeed a pretty sight, a body of stalwart men clad in the traditional hunting green with black drooping plums of ostrich in their dark slouch hats. But with the recent development of machinery of warfare in one’s mind, one would forebear looking a second time at the unobtrusive, inconspicuous grays. They would surely conceal more easily a sharpshooter’s movements at the time when discovery would mean to invite a whirlwind of death-dealing missiles. And the grays were pretty, too-in fact, all uniforms were neat and tasty.

        From the ferry a special boat, and from the Oakland mole a special train, carried the sharpshooters to Shell Mound Park . And there, at 12 noon , to the stroke, Captain F. A. Kuhls, President of the Shooting Bund made the opening address. Part of the program took place in the big pavilion, with the furled standards swaying beneath golden eagles of victory and the marksmen leaning picturesquely on their rifles.

        Grand Marshal Robert Weineke, for all that he had done, was honored by the addition of another badge to the many on his coat. But he was not alone, for the breasts of the President and the group about him on the platform were bespangled and blazing with innumerable medals. It was a marital scene, and it dissolved in true marital manner to the rattle of drums, the unisoned tramp of feet and ringing German cheers.

Then the great crowed scattered and spread over the grounds in a quest of restaurants or quiet places where hampers and lunch baskets might be opened, and also in the quest of that national beverage that made Milwaukee famous

        At 1 o’clock sharp the President F. A. Kuhls opened up the great shooting contest by firing three shots into the air. The first shot was “for our adopted country” the second “for the old fatherland” and the third “for the commonwealth of the National Shooting Bund.”

        At once followed by a wild scramble for the honor of making the first bull’s-eye, and the hasty firing only eased down when loud cheers proclaimed the lucky individual.

        Then what seemed like an indiscriminate fusillade set in. There were so many targets and so many shooting boxes that the whole thing seemed confused and disorderly. That there was any sanity about it, an adjacent lady could not be convinced. “How does anybody know anything?” she demanded excitedly, her voice pitched high in order to get above the roar of the guns. “Who is shooting what are they scoring? Who is judging? Who is keeping track? And where are the targets?”

        Nay, she could not see them. There were no targets. Preposterous! But a young fellow in a United States Artillery uniform calmed her apprehensions after a quarter of an hour of endeavor, where upon she undertook the hopeless task of re-explaining everything to her Grandfather.

        And well might she be forgiven her minutes of anxiety lest the whole shooting contest had gone to smash. At first glance it was indeed hard to locate the targets amid the maze of timbers and uprights that studded the range. Besides, two hundred yards is not to [be] sneezed at, and a black bull’s-eye at that distance does not appear overly large.

        What really gave the impression of disorder however, was the smoothness with which the machinery was running. The whole trouble was subjective. There was no evidence of the mind of some man behind and directing it all; no creaking of the wheels, as it were; but gradually as one grew accustomed, order began to appear out of chaos. Each man was firing in turn. The shooting secretaries were at their posts; and down at the far end of the range the targets were constantly being replaced, and the long handled spotters and vari-colored flags of the markers were indicating the scores as fast as they were made.

        And in this manner did the ten days’ contest commence; and not only is it the greatest shooting festival California has ever had, but it is the greatest ever held in the United States. It might put the tournaments of the middle ages to scorn; for in those same Middle Ages it is to be doubted if knights ever jousted for as princely prizes or for honors more highly esteemed and verily, in those days it was a rare knight who fared three thousand miles or more to a tilting match.

          The glittering array of prizes in the Temple of Gifts cost not a cent less than $100,000, while the honor that accompanies them is something that can be measured by worldly and commercial standards; Yes, the standards are quite different from those of old time. Here at the Bundsfest they will crown a man king. He will be a common man king, crowned not because of what his father or grandfather chanced to do, but crowned because of the things that he himself has done; and to be king of the American riflemen; to possess the steadiest nerve, the keenest eye, the finest and subtlest judgment, and to be adjudged by one”s own fellows-surely this is finer and bigger than to sit vacuously in a high place because, forsooth, some greater and stronger robber-ancestor ground a people under his iron heel.

        And while the sires and sons and husbands and brothers line up at the firing butts their womenkind and children are not a whit behind in enjoying themselves. All over the big grounds is frolicking and merrymaking of young and old; children in the swings and on the hobby-horses; lusty young fellows doing the giant swing on the bars or striking with heavy mallet tell they ring the bell three clips out of four; and then, since there are many men to shoot and only so many targets, there is dancing going on at both pavilions, and it must be confessed the floors are crowded with whirling couples. Everywhere is the clink of glasses to genial laughter, while over all, ringing and reverberating throughout the place, are the rifles. And for ten days without intermission, with balls, receptions and concerts in the evenings, this will continue.

        This is the Schützenfest.

Schützenfest No. 2

July 16, 1901 . –Promptly at 8 o’clock ere the sun had dissipated the morning mist, the contestants at the Bundes Fest let loose their rifles. They were canny marksmen, these, who left their snug beds at such a chill hour; for they knew when the light was good, and wished to try their skill when the air was quiet, before the sea-breeze came romping in from the Pacific.

        And they were ambitious, too; for the cash prize was the reward of him who made the first bull’s-eye of the day. This early and successful bird was B. Jones, a local man of ability and reputation. After this first little flurry the marksmen settled down to business, and thereafter until noon , when they knocked off for an hour to go to lunch, there was no cessation from the continuous firing.  

        It was a rare treat to watch a sharpshooter sitting down to work. With the shooting-case and gun slung over his shoulder he would tread his way to a vacant place at the table, shaking hands, nodding greetings and bandying persiflage right and left. Once at a table, off with his coat, collar and cuffs, up with the sleeves and on with a short and very business-like apron.

        Then comes the unpacking, for quite a bit must be done ere he burns his first powder. The gun must be set up and every part explained and wiped with painstaking care. The oil, which he so solicitously put into the barrel the evening before must as solicitously be taken out again with a cotton rag-if he wishes the weapon to do its very best possible by him. And one by one, he examines the cotton rags carefully as they emerge, until at last one comes forth immaculate and innocent of grease.

          Then there is the loading outfit. The caps and cartridges and bullets must be taken out and arranged, ready for use. By the way all the sharpshooters load their own shells, and load them on the spot. They are very finicky these knights of the target, and very wise. They will not trust even the most reputable firearms company to do their loading for them, and they know just what is what when they do it for themselves. Each has a particular number of grains that constitutes his favorite charge of powder, and he sees to it that that particular number of grains, neither more nor less, goes into place behind his bullet. However, so fine have they got it down, there is little variation in the weights of their charges. The great majority shoot from 41 to 44 grains of semi-smokeless powder. Besides greater evenness, another advantage accrues in loading one’s own shells-one always knows the exact condition of his powder.

        The tables in the shooting hall are pitted curiously with countless holes. One wonders; but when the sharpshooter screws his powder measure into the surface of the table the phenomenon is explained.

        Screwing the palm-rest on and adjusting and blacking the sights with a burning match, he gives his rifle a final look-over and turns to the loading. Most of the guns are muzzle-loaders, that is to say, the bullet is loaded via the muzzle, the shell and powder by way of the breech. The bullet has a slightly wider base, and as it is shoved down cleans the bore as it goes, gathering and sweeping before it whatever dirt happens to be in its path. Thus, the marksman always shoots with a uniformly clean barrel, and uniformity is what he strives after, especially when he has scored two bull’s-eyes on the “honor” target and has only one more shot coming.

        Deftly capping the shell, the sharpshooter slips it beneath the aperture in the powder-measure. A couple of twists of a thumb-screw and it’s filled with the precise charge of powder desired. A thin wad completes the process and with the rifle in one hand and a shell in the other, he proceeds to his shooting box and takes his first whang at the target. Then he must return and go over the whole performance again.

        In the hey-day of a machine age, when we are accustomed to the finest mechanisms, these target rifles are nevertheless marvelous creations. And creations they may be rightly called, for to the exquisite article turned out by the gun maker we must add the personal equation of the owner. Each marksman makes his gun over to suit himself, recreates it so to say. Out of all the rifles it is to be doubted if any two would be found that are even roughly alike. The most cursory glance suffices to indicate that there is just as much individuality about them as there is about the men who fire them. With proper training one could doubtless study human temperament from these things of wood and steel.

        In sights alone there are innumerable devices-in fact as many kinds as there are eyes. And out of the butt-plates longhorned and short, curling and straight, “Schützen” and “Swiss” and “Hunting,” rubber and nickel and brass could be epitomized to a complete course in comparative anatomy.

        While as for the palm rests-there is no end to them. Among the throwing-sticks of the Alaskan Indians one may look in vain for two alike, and so with the palm rests of the Schützenbrüder. Just as each man possesses a hand quiet his own and quite dissimilar to all other hands, just so does each palm rest resemble no other palm rest under the sun.

        And they are expensive affairs, these rifles, the average cost of each being somewhere around $100.00. Nor are they toys either. To be under fire from one at a half mile would be more edifying than comfortable, while at even a mile or more a man would be struck with an irresistible desire to head for the tall timber.

        Pope rifles seem to be the favorites, and though calibers up to 45 are permitted, the 32-40 is the standard. And here in a way is illustrated the infinite care and study which must be taken by a man if he would be a sharpshooter. The bullet of a 38-55 is larger than that of a 32-40. Being larger, the chances are, with precisely the same aim and landing in precisely in the same spot, that it would cut the ring a little bit closer, get in a little bit farther-in short, make a little bit better score. But on the other hand the recoil is heavier, as it naturally is in proportion to the caliber. So the sharpshooters after delicate and prolonged experiment have concluded that better results can be obtained with minimum recoil, than with a maximum cutting bullet; and the 32-40, for all around target purposes, seems to give the greatest satisfaction.

        It is not all in the mere aiming and firing, in the loading, cleaning and handling, important thought hey may be, there are other things which must be taken into consideration. A man must bring into play the finest and subtlest of judgment. He must be able to estimate on the instant the true values of virtually intangible things. And the ability or non-ability to do these this constitutes the chief difference between a crack shot and a luckless bungler. The study of the light is a science in itself, while the wind drift is probably harder to calculate than all other things put together.

        No cause is without effect, and no force can be without result when acting upon a flying object cut free from everything save gravitation. And so with the wind upon a bullet. In the two hundred yards which the bullet must transverse between the muzzle and the target there is ample time for the wind to deflect it from its course. And the least deflection will prove fatal to the score, while the wind, acting with never twice the same velocity and veering ever often in its direction, must be mastered or the marksman fails. And since there are men who make good scores, it is obvious that the wind is often mastered.

        Again a good sharpshooter must know himself-must know his own physical condition to a nicety. The dictum of a physician that a healthy stomach is the correlative of a sound mind, is something that a mouth full of words. And all public speakers have learned a severe cost that their best efforts have been made when their stomachs were in best trim. And it is so with the sharpshooter, who if any man ever does, must call upon the finest and most delicate resources of his mind. If a man be not at all his best and if he knows his business, he will not attempt any of the big shooting.

        King Hayes, who has hit a ten inch bull’s-eye 198 times out of a possible 200, at 600 feet, and who has won the crown of the Schützenfest for three years, thoroughly understands this. “No, I shall not shoot” he said today; “not until I feel better, a heavy cold on the stomach you know; I dare not dream of entering the lists.”

        Frank Dettling of the Sacramento Helvitia Club, the man who shot the first center bull’s-eye of the fest, was the only one in the morning who ventured his skill upon the Honor Target Germania. Each member of the National Bund is entitled to only three shots all told, so they are not in a hurry to try conclusions with it. But Dettling, unafraid, made a score of 55 out of a possible 75, and so many prizes have been offered he is not anxious to sell his score card.

        A. H. Pape, king of the California Schützen Club, scored 46, 47 and 49 out of a possible 150 on the standard target, 8 shooters on the ring target scored 71 and 72 out of a possible 75.

        The most splendid shooting, however, fell to the credit of C. M. Henderson of the Golden Gate Rifle and Pistol Club. At the man target he made three flags and a 19 in succession- that is to say in four shots he made 79 out of a possible 80, beating Harry M Pope by three points.

          That this be appreciated by the non-elect it were well to explain this man target. It represents the head and upper part of a man’s body, the whole figure being black. It is divided in perpendicular lines half an inch apart, the center line counting 20 and the numbers running down each side to 1. Now, at 600 feet the target simply appears black to the eye, yet Mr. Henderson put three shots dead into the center and a forth but a half an inch off.

        “Pretty close to $200 for the ten days!” his friends cried jubilantly as they crowded around to congratulate him. It is highly improbable that any competitor during the remainder of the fest will make the 80, while possibilities of a tie-score are not many. Anyway Mr. Henderson does not see his way to accept $190 for his chance at getting the $200.

        It will not come amiss, in conclusion, to speak of the precautions taken against accidents. No smoking is allowed in the shooting hall. In the same place, under all circumstances, the rifle must be carried perpendicularly, the muzzle toward the ceiling. And all manipulations with the rifle, and all alterations and aiming for the purpose of regulating the sights, must be done on the stand, the muzzle pointing toward the targets.

        But all this is in the very nature of the men of the Bundes Schüetzenfest. What else could be expected of men who are so definite and coherent in what they do and who take such fastidious care of their guns? No horseman ever tended his pet racer so tenderly than do they their rifles, and many a lover loves his loved one not half so well.

Schützenfest No. 3

        July 17, 1901 . – Tuesday was California Pioneers’ and Native Sons’ day and many of the men who shot swiftly and sure in the “days of gold” were in evidence at the firing boxes where they watched how the young idea had learned to shoot. As for the young idea-the native sons-why many of them were doing the shooting, being members of the National Bund as well as sons of California .

        The native sons of California Schützen Club, appropriately celebrated the day by capturing the first bull’s-eye.

        The knights of the target turned out in stronger force than on Monday morning. They had learned the best time for shooting when the light is more equal and the air is calmest. But yesterday was a good all-around shooting day, for even in the afternoon the wind was nothing to speak of. As far as they arrived the markmen fell into a business-like way, working steadily and the task of gathering in their fair share of the trophies arrayed in the Temple of Gifts .

        C. M. Henderson’s remarkable score of Monday on the man target, by which he tied the world record, did not seem to deter the bold hearted men of the Schützen clubs. The shooting at that difficult target was fast and furious, and early in the day Mr. Ross scored a 73 and Mr. N. L. Vogel made 70. But this is out of a possible 80, and Mr. Henderson hugs his score card of 79 closely and laughs. But then there are other prizes to be won on the man target, valuable ones too, and plenty of them.

          The men are beginning to warm up as the Schüetzenfest wears on, and there was shooting all along the line. The glass shooting-boxes of the Honor Germania and Eureka Targets were in use all day; though no record-breaking scores were made. M. F. Blasse of the Golden Gate Rifle and Pistol Club had his card punched to 64, followed by Ben Jones of the San Francisco Turner Schützen Club with another 64, which was good but not quite so good. In case of a tie it will be found that the bullets in his targets will not have cut so closely as those in the targets of Mr. Blasse.

        On the standard American target D. M. McLaughlin, at an early hour, ran up a 48 out of a possible 50. Mr McLaughlin is one of San Francisco ’s best shots and a jolly good fellow to boot. W. W. Yaeger, the Colorado expert, followed with a 46, being tied by H. M. Pope and J. Utschig.

        Jacob Meyer of the Sacramento Helvita Schützen made the best 71 out of a possible 80 no the ring target, being tied both by T. R. Geisel of Massachusetts and H. M. Pope, a member of the New York Club.

        And now that the ice is broken the “king shooting” has likewise begun, though none of the contestants has yet completed the requisite 200 shots.

        S. C. Ross [F. C. Ross], first king of the National Bundes, hammered steadily away at the butts all day, getting into trim. William Hayes, the reigning king, was also present throughout the day, though he did not touch hand to rifle. It is to be hoped he recovers soon from his severe cold, else, as he said yesterday morning, he will not be able to compete.

        Jolly Louis Ritzau, with his American flag mascot, was pretty much to the fore in pinging away at the targets; and it is whispered on the side of Mr. Faktor has an abiding faith in that same mascot.

        The outlook is bright that the next Bundesfest will be held at Denver , Colorado . Sentiment seems to favor some point midway between New York and San Francisco , and upon the map Denver locates near that very point.

        At first thought it appears strange that the best marksmen hail from the cities. Both the present and past kings of the Schützenfest are city men. Mr. Ross Hailing from Brooklyn and Mr. Hayes from Newark , N.J. ; but on second thought it is not so strange. There are specialists in shooting as well as in anything else. What more natural than that the city man does his work at the target, the country man his at big game? The methods are so different; different faculties, different powers are called into play. Not that the target man would make a poor hunter; far from it, but, rather, being a crack shot at the target does not indicate that he would be equally good at big game. And vice versa, of course.

        Out of the twenty men from Colorado some five or six use the palm rest, while the remainder hold their guns in the old fashioned, ordinary way. They are hunters, these men-hunters primarily. They are used to drawing beads on big game at times when seconds and fractions of seconds count. And they have become expert without the aid of some of the intricate contrivances favored by their city brothers. None the less, they have well demonstrated their skill at the targets, these cool-eyed men from the mountains, and some dark horse may crop up among them to bear away the crown.

Schützenfest No. 4

July 18, 1901 . – Most notable was the entrance upon the scene of Mr. Julius Becker, who, when it comes to Schützenfests, is one of the old warhorses. On his breast he proudly wore a silver metal cast in the figure of a war-harnessed knight and won at a fest of the Danzig Schützenguild of West Prussia in 1854.

        Among other metals, and some imperial, he had with him, won in competition from the early fifties to the late seventies. Very young it makes us Americans feel to sit at the knees of such a man, who calmly relates that he became first knight of the 525 th annual fest of the Marienwerder Schützenguild, and that happened a quarter of a century ago!

        Nearly six centuries gone, Winrich von Knieprode, first knight of the name, made his stronghold in a castle perched on a rock near Marienberg. This same castle it was that the Maltese knights built when they gave over crusading and fell to conquering the pagan Prussians; and from that this same castle Winrich von Knieprode waged successful war against the Robber Knights and gave law and order to the devastated land.

        And this was the knight who founded the first Schützenguild 550 years ago. And that guild, of which Mr. Becker is a member, still flourishes today and treasures the great metal chains of silver presented to the first Schützen König by its founder. These chains weigh twenty-one pounds and each year the target determines which member of the club is to receive the great honor of holding them in charge.

        When Napoleon Bonaparte brought Prussia to her knees, he entered Danzig with the express intention of looting these chains. But in vain were the royal servants browbeaten and threatened, and in vain were the gardens and cellars of the King dug up. The unconquered Corsican went on his way empty-handed; and the only thing, but the greatest thing saved, the King produced the chains and caused the glad tidings to be sent to all the people.

          Mr. Becker’s shooting days are over, but as he sits and watches us younger men and measures us by the traditions of centuries, we feel very young indeed. Many a long cycle and strange event must come to pass ere our children’s children and their children’s children shoot for kingship at the 550 th of an American Schützen

        Wednesday was All Peoples Day, and all peoples day it turned out to be, with smoke thick on the firing line and the men lining up for a chance at the targets. It was an ideal day, with just enough wind to cool the air and not enough to discommode the marksmen.

        That is, it was cool except in the glass shooting-box of the honor targets. Here strange and startling temperatures ranged, and, to judge from the sweat dripping from some of the men as they emerged, even a government thermometer could not have withstood the pressure.

        “Hot?” one of the unfortunates remarked, sweeping the moisture from his fevered brow; “just let me tell you that the steam-room of the Olympics is out of the running.” And threat he turned away, weak and tottery, to meditate upon the mystery of things in general and honor targets in particular.

        All the sharpshooters have balked at these three targets for three days now, and not a few of them are still balking. And small wonder. During all the fest a member is entitled to but three shots on them, while the prizes to be gained thereby are most valuable and the honors overwhelming.

        The fun has begun, however though it is anything but fun to the nerve-tied men who venture in to the glass box. Finally, when they have steeled themselves to the ordeal, they walk up very quickly, with determined faces, and duck in without a glance to right or left.

        Here is where A. H. Pape fell down yesterday. Pape is reigning king of the California Schützen Club, and from the opening of the festival has backed his reputation with skill and credit. Yesterday morning, having just made 23, 24 and a 25 on the ring target, and feeling rather good because of it, he decided that then was the time to tackle the Honor Target Eureka. Well, each shot is a possible 25, and his first shot netted him 9. His next shots brought him 21 and 22, but too late to avert the Waterloo . Then he grew reckless, and went up against the Honor Target Germania, dropped the red flag the first shot, missed the second and declined to fire the third.

        What causes merriment among the sharpshooters is the fact that his father F. Pape, who is 63 and who was never reckoned a crack shot, stands third high on the same target, with a score of 67. It is rumored that Pape the younger made the failure out of filial respect; that he could not bear to beat his father. But Papa Pape says nothing, though his eyes wink significantly.

Schützenfest   No. 5

July 19, 1901 . – Things are warming up at the firing butts. The fest opened Thursday morning with a rush, and swept onward and upward, from climax to climax, throughout the day. Rifles blazed at the stroke of eight and kept the secretaries and markers on the jump until the night-bell, when the Temple of Gifts opened its gates to the victors.

        Records were broken and smashed, and scores deemed impossible were made. Ringing cheers heralded these performances, and rushes to where the Rhine wine flowed free followed them. Hands closed on hands in the grip of fellowship, and men ordinarily decorous, clasped arms about one another’s necks and shouted congratulations.

        It was a great day, with King-shooting and honor-shooting furiously hot all along the line. But greatest of all was the breaking of all the records of the previous kings of the Schützenfest. The dark horse has been sprung, and midway in the game, and lo, he belongs to us of the Golden West, and nothing less than a San Francisco man is Adolph Strecker, who when the Fest is ended, will doubtless be crowned king of American Riflemen.

        It is an education to watch these target princes at work, and the more one watches the more marvelous does their work appear. In the mere facing the firing butts, individuality is the most manifest. All of them, except the left handed ones, of which there are several present, present the left side of the body to the target; but at that point similarity ceases. Nevertheless, somehow in one way or the other, they manage to approximate results-that is bull’s-eyes.

        First of all, they lean the muzzle of the rifle on the board before them, and snuggle the butt in against the arm just outside of the shoulder. Then the muzzle is elevated with a quick movement and there is more snuggling of the butt-plate. No child’s play this Bund shooting! It is noticeable that many of the men draw two or three long breaths before aiming, completely exhausting and expanding the lungs each time and doing the work on a full breath.

        After the gun is up, and before they go any farther into the matter, they shake their legs a bit, as though to settle down any shifted ballast, or, perhaps to polarize any fleshy molecules for greater firmness. And this notwithstanding the fact that their feet rest on solid cement. Then comes the sighting about which they are very deliberate, often dropping the muzzle to the board and beginning all over again, and it’s not unusual for them to leave the firing stand without having fired a shot. Slowly, back and forth and around, the rifle wavers and then, suddenly, it freezes and the man freezes too.

        There is no better way of describing it, unless to say that they petrify before one’s eyes-man, gun, everything turns to stone. Think it is hard? Try it. Never mind the gun or position; just stand upright, with arms to the side, and discover how unstable you are; feel one muscle after another slacking up and giving way, and your weight shifting, and your body swaying this way and that. Further, and just to enter into the psychology of it a bit, suppose you have two bull’s eyes on the Honor Germania target, and this is your last shot, and you know you’ll have to wait three years before you are entitled to three more shots-just suppose all this and take just into account the reputation you have to sustain and the critical eyes of your comrades focused upon you, and you will understand something of what the target princes have to endure, and you will gain somewhat of a knowledge of the tremendous self-control they must exercise.

          A 32-40 range rifle, charged with forty to forty-four grains of semi-smokeless powder, gives a report heavy enough to jar the atmosphere and shock the nerves of the bystander. And yet the marksman, when he has petrified with whole body, brain, and gun, and every faculty and thought finely poised, shows not the slightest apparent disturbance when a gun goes off in an adjoining box a yard away.

        But to return, when the rifle has stopped its wavering and the man has petrified sufficiently he presses the trigger, the gun goes off and the score card is made or marred. But the trigger! It may respond to the slightest pressure and the man may be able to hold the gun motionless for ten seconds, and for all that his shots may yet go wide. He is so constituted that he fails when it comes to pressing the trigger. Just at the moment that everything is in line and he knows that everything is in line, at the moment when from the brain a message flies to the finger “to pull,” at that moment of moments there is an involuntary preparation, an unpreventable stiffening of the muscles and the aim is spoiled and the bullet sped.

        If by mere thought a gun could be discharged without the transmitting of a nerve message or the consequent movement of a muscle, far higher records could be made. The man who best overcomes this, other things being equal, runs up the biggest scores. But right here at the pulling of the trigger is where many men fall down, and they fall down all along the way, so that the skilled sharpshooter is a creature of the keenest selection. He has passed scores of successive tests at which his fellows have been weeded out.

        The prize shooters discover a variety of ways in holding their guns. The majority use a palm rest, but among them they bring up the rifle to a nearly erect head and others lower the head to the rifle. Other men shoot with right elbow up and left arm straight and supporting the gun far out near the muzzle. Others balance the gun under the chamber with extended thumb and fingers of the left hand. And still others rest the trigger hand in hollow of left arm and clasp left hand about right elbow. Then some elect to stand with both legs firm and stiff, the weight of the body divided evenly between them; some with feet together; some with feet wide apart, and some with one leg stiff and carrying the whole weight and the other slack and idle.

        Most of the shots use the pinhead and aperture sight interchangeably, though a few stick to one or the other. These sights are a revelation to the ordinary non-shooting man, whose only knowledge of such things comprises the beads on revolvers and shotguns, and they explain, to some extent how the sharpshooters are able to do such marvelous work.

        Take the pinhead sight for instance, which is used by some when the light is dim or flickering. With it the aim is not ordinarily taken at the center of the twelve inch blank spot 600 feet away. At that distance the center would only be conjectural. So, with the pinhead sight the aim is directed at the lowest point of the circumference of the black circle. And if the aim is directed precisely at this lowest point in the circumference, the bullet will strike just six inches above in the dead center of the bull’s-eye.

        The aperture sight operates quite differently. It is, as its name indicates, a small circular opening, and is used as a front sight. When the gun is in proper position and the marksman looks through the aperture, it is seen to encircle the twelve-inch black bull’s-eye with just a bit to spare. This bit to spare rings the black with a circle of white. And when this ring of white is uniform in width all around the black, it is time to pull the trigger. Thus the shooter is not concerned with the center of the bull’s-eye at all. It does not in the slightest enter into his calculations. As with the pinhead, his business is with the bottom edge of the black spot, so in this case it is with the circumference of the black spot-a big improvement, it must be granted, on the old time method of sighting.

        Sighting is an intricate matter, and requires a wide knowledge of many things. In the morning when the light is gray, there is a tendency to shoot low. This is countered by elevating the sights, and all is well until the sun comes out full and strong, when the tendency is to shoot high, until the sights are readjusted.

        All good game shots shoot with both eyes wide open, the right eye making the sight, the left following the game. In target work this is not to be expected, but nevertheless many men so shoot. In such cases the left eye does not work, its line of vision being intercepted by the black card surrounding the back sight. But the advantage sought and gained is the placing of nothing more than a working strain on the right eye. The man who squints his left eye tightly is looking in an un-natural manner with his right. At the end of a heavy day his right eye will be unduly fatigued; and not only for that, for if he persist through a long period of time chances are large that his eyesight will be ruined.

        So it is not all beer and skittles and Rhine wine for these men who go up to the firing butts and with definiteness and coherency split the air with their little pellets of lead. In the days of old the mightiest muscle drew the longest bow; but today it is the finest and most delicate nerve that touches off the trigger. Brain has conquered brawn in the struggle for human mastery, and it is well that it is so.

Schützenfest   No. 6

        July 20, 1901 . – But, while the rifles are cracking, and little fortunes in powder are going up in smoke and little fortunes in lead are hurling through the air, the complicated machinery of this huge shooting gallery is running so smoothly that it seems automatic.

        Every bullet has its billet and of the countless shots fired not one goes unrecorded. Yet the targets duck up and down, vari-colored flash messages through the air, wires move backward and forward, wheels speak in cipher, and all the time not a human being is in evidence. The casual observer, without thought, is prone to accept it as part of the cosmos; on first thought it seems uncanny; and on second thought he is seized with an itching desire to go and see how it is done.

        But there are obstacles to be overcome. The casual observer will learn that the target-pit is the holy of holies, and that not even the National President of the bund can enter it unless accompanied by two of the shooting masters. For the markers have it in their power to make or break the scores of the sharpshooters, and the sharpshooters are only human men, and ambition is oftentimes an overpowering passion.

        Surely, I thought it must be great to go down there into the pit and listen to the swift-winged bullets singing their song of death not a yard above my head-all the effects of a modern battle, where the bullets are thickest and swiftest in the hottest part of the zone of fire! So I made it an object in my life to get there.

        The shooting masters swung off down the path in a long stride as though they had a long journey in prospect, and ere that journey’s end was reached, I, trotting at their heels, realized fully the distance traversed by the bullets from gun-muzzle to target.

        “Shooting master” was an open sesame; and given in response to the gruff “Who’s there?” the barred door swung open and the pit yawned at our feet. It was dug between to great bulkheads of sand, one of which received the bullets fired at the targets, and the other protected the men at their work.

        It was very cool and quiet in the pit, with the waters of the bay dashing softly beneath and the catspaws of sea breeze drifting by now and again. There was no sound of voices and the put-put of the rifles came to the ear faint and far off.

        But where was the battle? Where was the impact of the bullets and the zip of their flight? True, the long line of men and their scarlet-banded markers’ caps produced a military effect, heightened by the lacelike spotters held in their hands and by the colored pennants; but that was all.

        All traditions on the subject are violated at Shell Mound. These bullets do not fly shrieking through the air. They sing no song of death or score. I know that a yard above me, invisible to the eye, a steady stream of lead is flying, hundreds upon hundreds of bullets as the minutes tick off; and yet there is absolutely no sound. Bullets may sing at one hundred yards and they may sing at three hundred yards, but I, here and now, make affirmation that they do not sing at two hundred yards, soldiers and war correspondents to the contrary.

        It was fascinating-the contemplation of that silent, invisible stream, replete with potentialities of death and defying objective realization. One knew that it flowed there above, steady and unceasing, but the knowledge was based largely on faith. There was no direct evidence, for the evidence furnished by the double line of markers and targets was what the counts of the land constitute “hearsay.”

        Put! Put! Put-a-put! put! went the rifles, and the markers’ flags and wheels, in a constant motion, signaled the result of each shot. I looked at the target before me-a twelve-inch circular black spot in midst of a white paper square. On its unchanging surface I saw nothing occur, yet the markers waved a blue flag in token that it had been pierced somewhere within six inches of the center

        A fresh target takes its place and I resolve to watch more intently. Put! Put! Put! go the rifles, but they do not guide me. There are twenty and odd other targets and the men of the fest are shooting at all of them. So I put my soul into my eyes and strain at the paper object. The marker suddenly thrusts up a white flag and indicates the tiniest of holes, low down and to the right. Yet the paper had not even quivered as the bullet passed through it.

        I watch more intently. Time and the world and the Schützenfest swing on unheeded. My whole consciousness, life and being are summed up in that paper target. And there even as I look, a little hole has taken shape. But I did not see it take shape. The instant before it was not. The instant after it was. But so swiftly had it come that it escaped the eye.

        Behind the target line the sand flies up to sprays of diamond dust. A snug fortune of lead must lie in that heap of sand and I should like to grubstake a couple of men into it with a pick and a shovel and I would, too, were it not for the fact that Captain Siebe located the mine years ago.

        Friday was Ladies’ Day, and the jolliest day of the week. The traditional hospitality and sociability of the Teuton were ably vindicated by the wives and daughters of the local sharpshooters. These ladies of the Schützenfest received the ladies of the ladies of the visiting members.

        There was a concert by Ritzau’s American ladies orchestra, dancing in the pavilion, and singing and merrymaking everywhere; and at last, but not least, the charming Schützen Liesel, her picturesque costume giving the quaint old-time touch necessary to complete the picture and make the color true.

        When night drew down, the festivities increased, and after the laurels of the day had been distributed from the Temple of Gifts , the park was illuminated, and amid the sputtering of fireworks and blazing rockets a grand ball and general jollification wound up the day. Nor were the marksmen idle. The smell of powder was strong in the shooting hall, O. J. Barnes of the Colorado contingent, probably made the record of the Fest in successive bull’s-eyes, dropping the red flag eight times. In the king-shooting the members of the Bund, undaunted, hammered steadily away at the targets on the heels of Adolph Strecker, and their cards are running big. That they will overtake him is not probable. If they do it will mean that they will have broken the record of a phenomenal recordbreaker.

Schützenfest   No. 7

July 21, 1901 . – Never before in the United States , nor probably in the world, has there assembled a finer aggregation of marksmen that are now breaking records at Shell Mound Park . And as one watches them in their work, keen-eyed and iron-nerved, displaying the most delicate adjustments and subtlest judgments, one cannot avoid speculating on the part these men would play in modern warfare.

        And right here let it be stated that these target knights are not knights of the carpet merely. In every war the United States has undertaken, the sharpshooter companies have been among the first to gird on their harness and to go forth. And the work they have done has been the kind which may be classed as spectacular. A thousand men, molded into a huge projectile, and sweeping irresistibly across the field of carnage, is something that catches the war correspondent’s eye and which later blazons the pages of history. But the lonely sharpshooter, perched precariously in a tree or groveling in a scratch in the earth, fights his fight by himself. He must be General and army and observation corps all in one. He must do his own scouting, map out his own campaign and advance or retreat as he sees fit. And to do all this requires the highest individual efficiency, and to do it well is to make the extreme demand upon a man’s courage. Men are bravest in bunches, and the man who could storm the ramparts of hell with a thousand fellows may falter at facing one foe in a lonely wood.

          But to return. The sharpshooter has always played an important role in war, but never so important as now. The conditions of war have changed. Armies no longer come into close contact. The bayonet and cavalry charge are obsolete. Cold steel is no longer possible. Where the squadrons once thundered to victory are now the barbed-wire fence, the electric mine field and the inexorable zone of fire.

        Rapidity of fire, greater range, greater precision and smokeless powder have revolutionized warfare. The substitution of chemical for practically mechanical mixtures of powder and the reduction of calibers have given greater range, and by flattening the trajectory of the bullet, greater penetration. At half a mile a bullet will go as easily through a pile of men as through the body of one. And for a mile and a half it is deadly. And because of all of this the function performed by the sharpshooter in battle has become a hundred-fold more important.

        Julian Ralph, writing from South Africa , said; “Place Germany in a trench, and all the world could not drive her out until her ammunition or her supplies were exhausted.” And bearing this in mind, we realize the value of the community of men of the Schützen clubs now in our midst. Several hundred of them, anywhere in our mountains, would block the passage of Europe ’s proudest army.

        Nor is this an empty boast. >From the facts of the case let us speculate. The development of the machinery of warfare has invested frontal attack with overwhelming fatality. The British at the battle of Omdurman opened fire on the advancing dervishes at 2,000 yards, and with deadly effect; and the nearest any dervish approached was 200 yards. The whole dervish army was slaughtered beyond that distance.

          Our men of the Bund are disposed in the mountains, no one knows how. The enemy, not knowing how many men oppose it, would devote itself to skirmishing, scouting and tentative flank movements, all the while exposed to the withering, exasperating fire of sharpshooters. The air would be filled with little invisible messages of death, and remember, at more than a mile smokeless powder makes no sound.

        Watch a scouting party, a “feeler” detach itself from the great army and fare forth to the mountain enemy. A half-dozen mounted men it is, and they push forward quietly and unobtrusively. There is nothing to be seen, so they must “feel”- that is, expose themselves to the enemy’s fire in order to discover the enemy, and, if possible, find out its force.

        The horsemen ride out on an open place. The mountains and ravines, patched with clumps of trees and bare spaces, stretch out before their eyes. All is silent. Not a foe is in sight They alone seem to draw breathe in that wide expanse. They rise slightly in their saddles to search more closely the peaceful scene.

        Suddenly one of the men grunts and whirls in the saddle with throat a-gurgle, and pitches to the ground. His comrades are shaken. Not a sound has been heard. There was no warning. They search carefully. No smokewreath floats slowly up to indicate the position of the hidden sharpshooter. There are a thousand spots in the field of vision where he may lie hidden, and with him may lie hidden a thousand others But where? Ay, that’s the agonizing question, for even if they ask it, for aught they know, the bullet that brings them death is on the way.

        Another falls; a horse goes down; and they turn tail and fly madly. This is not war. There is nobody to fight. What else can they do but flee before the silent and invisible enemy?   And their report to the waiting army-How many men? They do not know. Where? Up there, somewhere, they know not where.

        In such a region, under such circumstances, several hundred sharpshooters could multiply themselves into many thousands. Always between them and the enemy, would intervene a mile of death which the enemy would be chary of venturing into.

        And if the exasperated general would send heavy “feelers” forward, with orders to go on and on; and if they did come in touch with the sharpshooters and charge, be it remembered, still, that with the new, self-charging, six-millimeter Mauser, a man can fire seventy-eight unaimed, or sixty aimed shots per minute. Thus, one hundred men of the Bund, securely ensconced, could pour into the advancing force 6,000 aimed shots a minute.

        But suppose things get too hot. All the sharpshooters have to do is retreat a bit. There are many mountains, and for each of those mountains the enemy would have to sacrifice many men, as witness Buller on the Tugela. And each mountain would mean that the thing would have to be done over again. But time is precious, and large armies are expensive, and never was an economic problem of warfare so important as it is today.

        But suppose the great army gives over and tries elsewhere. Large bodies move slowly, and the men of the Bund, in small detachments, could speedily outstrip the army and confront it again. And this is not theoretical. It is costing England a million dollars a day in South Africa , and British are anything but cowards. A lesson is being taught down there, and the world is looking and learning while Great Briton does the work and foots the bills.

        In the evolution of the weapon from the first hand-flung stone to the modern rifle, the conditions of warfare have changed many times. What the next change will be, we do not know. But, just now, for today and tomorrow, the sharpshooter is one of the most important factors; and in the battles to come, the nation with the largest number of sharpshooters and the best equipped, will be the nation, other things being equal, that lives. So all hail the men of the Schützen clubs! Every record they break adds to our strength and fits us better to face whatever dark hours may betide.

Schützenfest   No. 8

        July 22, 1901 . – There are times when sensation is more potent than thought; when intuition exceeds reason and obedience to the subconscious promptings produces bigger results than can the finest skill of the world. And the men of the Schützen clubs who make and break records out at Shell Mound are aware of this. And when they listen to the still small voice whispering admonition or encouragement and obey, they very often avoid spoiling their records or succeed in placing them a notch or so higher than ever before.

        Between himself and his audience the public man knows when he has established a perfect correspondence. The demagogue knows when his listeners are with him; so the actor and the preacher. Mark Anthony knew when the Romans were hanging upon his every word when he made his historic speech, knew that ten were responding perfectly to each secret suggestion, were being swept unwittingly along with him to the end designed.

          Likewise the sharpshooter. There come times when he feels that everything is with him, his eyes, his hands, his muscles, nerves, the gun, the target, the shooting range, and all the natural forces. He does not know why; he cannot tell why; he simply “feels.” He feels that then is the accepted time, that then he can perform prodigies of marksmanship.

        And if he be in normal condition, this feeling is true. He can go ahead and shoot far more ably than is his wont. But if he be in abnormal, nervous condition, the chances are large that this feeling or intuition is false. Ay, and there’s the rub-how to tell? Is the feeling the result of over-excitation? Or is it produced in some sub-conscious way by through co-ordination of all his parts?

        This through co-ordination comes but seldom, yet it is when it does come that that the greatest shooting is done. Every part of his complex organism must be fitted and running smoothly. The digestive juices must be doing their work. The heart must be pounding away the same as it would be if the man were asleep. There must be no inflammation of or fatigue of the eye. There must be neither too much nor too little blood pulsing through the brain.

        In short, the most delicate balance must exist between his parts. If the equilibrium of one be disturbed, all must work to re-establish that equilibrium. No one part may act without the instant communication of that act to all the other parts, and all the other parts must then and at once act in correspondence.

        But the marksman, when he is in perfect condition, does not know it. It must be impressed upon him somehow. Hi shooting if it has been commonplace before, begins to pick up. The red flags are dropping in quick succession He is doing well. Then, like a flash, and without thinking, there comes to him a feeling that now is the time.

        He warms up to the work, loading and firing rapidly. His blood is bounding, fresh and vigorous. His vision becomes clarified. He is aware of an exhilaration, of an elevation of the spirit, and he is no longer aware that he has a body, so perfectly does that body correspond.

        All sluggishness has departed from him. His brain is lucid and working without effort. Every fact recorded there through out his life, and related to shooting stands out clear and sharp. He may utilize them as it is not given often to him to utilize them; for they are all there before him and he may select from them all. When he estimates the wind drift, or the flickering light, or the changing atmosphere, he does so without exertion, so easily and quickly that that he does not know that he is doing it. He knows where each bullet strikes before the marker can give the signal. He has become a god and knows all things without thinking. In reality he is thinking, but so perfect is the whole correspondence that he is unaware.

          This is exaltation, inspiration. He is keyed up to concert pitch, He is oblivious to everything save the work he is doing. His brain, clear on shooting, is dim to everything else about him. He hardly knows himself. Faces of bystanders appear vague and indistinct. He moves as in a dream, aware of nothing but shooting, shooting, shooting.

        In such exquisite poise is he, such delicate balance that he has become like a somnambulist. The slightest thing may upset him. The least intrusion of the world he has withdrawn from may snap the tension. At a man’s speaking to him he may collapse. Then is the time for his friends to keep away from him and keep everybody else away from him. And it is not too much to say that he would consider himself justified in killing on the spot a man who harshly aroused him.

        Many call this condition luck, but the wise marksman, King Hayes among them, will shake their heads when questioned about.

        “It is perfect trim,” they will say, and they are right. It is when in such condition that the artist, the man who creates with head and hand, produces his greatest and most enduring works.   It is, to sum up, the condition when no part of the organism is unduly excited or unduly lethargic, but when an equitable excitement has been communicated to all parts, has elevated their pitch and given them unity.

        This is the condition of Strecker on that memorable Wednesday afternoon, when he fired the 160 shots that put him on the high road to the kingship. He was dreaming and dreaming greatly. He waved congratulating friends from him in an absent minded way, for he knew his inspiration was upon him and did not wish to waken. Nor did he waken until the targets closed down at 7 o’clock , when he came back to the world and his friends.

        On the other hand, this is a condition marksmen try to induce. Before venturing their fate, for instance, upon the Honor Eureka, they devote themselves to the ring target, and shoot, and shoot, and strive to bring about a perfect co-ordination of parts, This conscious effort to produce an exalted condition which will sweep them on to victory tends to bring about overexcitation. After three or four good successive shots they are prone to believe that the time has come. They feel it, but they feel it falsely. Then they tempt the honor target and are undone A lying spirit has whispered them to destruction.

        A. H. Pape had an experience of this kind. He was shooting exceptionally well on the ring target, which is twin to the Eureka . He was striving after the manner of marksmen, for that exalted condition, and he thought it had come to him. And when he made in succession 23, 25, 24 out of a possible 25, he was sure of it. So he presented his honor card to the secretary and trained his rifle on the Eureka and, lo! His first shot, that should have brought him a 25, brought him a 9. He had not run upon his luck, or, in other words, had not established the fine poise to delight equilibrium of mind and body.

        There is another phase of range psychology, quite different from exaltation. It is the itching to know one’s fate, the excitation produced by a good score and the knowledge that the next and last shot will make or mar everything, and the inability to overcome this excitation or to wait until it has passed away of itself. On Tuesday McLaughlin the crack San Francisco shot, made four 10s in succession on the Standard American Target. All he had to do was to repeat what he had already done four times, make one more 10, and the record of the Fest was his. This very knowledge was sufficient to produce a strong nervous excitement, while the desire to know the best or the worst was irresistible. So he fired his fifth shot and scored an 8.

        Wednesday morning on the same target, Strecker made four 10s. But he had the will requisite to prevent him from going up at once to know his fate. He restrained himself for two days before he fired the fifth shot; but even then he only made a 9. However, had he taken his chance at once the probabilities are large that he would not even have made an 8. As it was, his waiting enabled him to beat McLaughlin and to tie the high man.

        And finally there is F. E. Mason, who is displaying perhaps the most splendid self-resistance of all. On Friday he got in 150 shots on the king-shooting, making an average of 1.9½ per shot. Strecker’s average for his 200 is a fraction under 2. This makes Mason the only rival for kingship in sight, and his next fifty shots will decide. Yet for two whole days he has restrained himself and attempted nothing. “Waiting until conditions are favorable,” he says; which means waiting until he feels the right serenity of soul and body that accompanies perfect coordination, and until he hears the still small voice whispering to go in and win. Upon his ability to feel and hear correctly trembles the kingship the kingship of American riflemen.

Schützenfest   No. 9

July 23, 1901 . – Whenever men do things with head or with hand, a pardonable curiosity is aroused, and thus it is with the big men of the Bundesfest. Who are they? What are they like? How and why do they do these things? Are these not facts to generalize from? Can we not learn some of the qualities which enable a man to shoot his way to pre-eminence at the butts.

        This is the tenor of the questions asked by other men who do not line up at the butts or expect to line up, but who nevertheless would like to know. In answer one can only say that the facts are many and oftentimes contradictory. The nationality of the crack sharpshooters varies; likewise experience with rifles and targets. Some are old and some are young, while some seem to be all nerves, and others have no nerves at all.

        S. C. Ross [F. C. Ross] for instance, the first king of the National Bund, is a slender brunette of medium height. He is native-born and his clean-cut features are not distinctive of any particular race, but portray rather the cosmopolitan admixture of diverse races which is common of the American.

        He has an eye, black, with clear whites, and of quick movement. When it does come to rest, which it rarely does, it betrays that peculiar piercing quality as though he gazed right through one. In repose his face sometimes takes on a sad expression, which is quickly put to flight by the least human occurrence around him. He has a bright smile, quick to come and quick to vanish; nor is he slow to acknowledge a greeting or pass the good word along. His mind, as his eye, travels everywhere and is alert, eager, quick to see the point and cap it with another.

        Quickness characterizes him. He seems to be a bundle of nerves, to have more than his share of the American kind of nerves-the kind that makes men get up and dare things to the ends of the earth-the high-tension, finely strung, concert pitch kind-the kind that cannot brook defeat and fight to the death on a stricken field.

        But for all that Ross possesses restraint, control. When it comes to holding a sight on the target no man petrifies more solidly than he. His powers of concentration are likewise large, and necessity seems to have developed them. When he is shooting he is shooting, and that’s all there is about it. He’ll see you later; just then, no. And it is an emphatic “no.”

        William Hayes, the reigning king, is a medium sized blond, and not withstanding his fifty four years he has not put on flesh. He is slow of gesture and occasionally his speech lapses into a just perceptible drawl. Looking him full in the face and listening to him talk reminds me in a vague sort of way of Mark Twain. There must be something temperamentally akin in the two men. His full blue eyes move fully and steadily, without haste, but with certainty and dwell upon whomever he is talking with or upon what ever his hands are doing. Sever in response, his face and eyes break into the most winning of smiles. These smiles have a habit of lingering, and in this respect are quite unlike those of Ross, whose smiles come and go in a flash.

        Steadiness seems to best characterize King Hayes. Not that he is slow, though. He conveys an impression of potency, of powers to do, and while there is less nervous waste one feels in that wiry figure all the quickness of a cat.

        Like Ross he is no big game shot and has little field experience, though a veteran of the target. He is native-born and first began to shoot in 1869. He has been at it ever since, having attended most of the important contests of the intervening years.

        W. W. Yaeger, the crack Colorado shot, is also native-born and a blond. But he is a big game shot as well, and wind and sun have bronzed his fair skin and put upon it the weatherbeat common to men who live in the open. Further and worthy of comment, he is the only one of the big marksmen who really shoots offhand. He is remarkably slight of figure and weighs but 114 pounds. His cheekbones are prominent, with large hollows underneath. And although he has a wan and cadaverous look, after a cursory look one would deem Yaeger to be the most nervous of men. But on the contrary, if ever a man was the most devoid of nerves, he is. He has all the steadiness and solidity of poise a carriage one would expect to accompany 250 pounds.

        His movements are very slow and very deliberate. Nothing shakes him. There is never a quiver or tremor, and it is a joy to see him handle a gun. There is no flash to the eye or haste in his actions. It simply appears that he has something to do and is doing it. He may be characterized as deliberate, or, rather as the nerveless incarnation of deft deliberateness.

        But what ever generalizations may have been arrived at so far are knocked in the head by Adolph Strecker, the heir apparent to the Schützenfest crown. He is the last man in the world one would pick as a sharpshooter, much less as the king of the sharpshooters-that is, until he faces the target. His record extends over a quarter of a century. Crowned king of American riflemen in 1874 at Baltimore , his star has shown brightly ever since, but never so brightly as today. And still he does not look like a marksman.

        Long and lean of limb and tall, narrow-shouldered and narrow-chested, with grizzled iron-gray beard and hollow cheeks, his forty-nine years have weighed far more heavily than have the fifty-four of Hayes. The latter looks much the younger man. Strecker is also blue-eyed, but a native of Germany . His face is sad in repose, even melancholy, and when he smiles he looks boyish to a degree. He appears far from strong and one wonders that he was capable of the prolonged strain of firing 160 of his king shots in a few consecutive hours.   

        His eyes are unlike those of other fine marksmen. They are not keen and sharp and piercing, but seem filmed over with a dreamy softness of the kind that one would expect eyes of a maid, Yet those are eyes that out of 200 bullets guided 197 into the bull’s-eye.

        But when he faces the target he undergoes a transformation. He becomes cold, absolutely cold, as though as though cast in chilled steel. His whole nervous organization seems to stiffen and harden. And there lies his power. Nothing freazes him, startles him He has that peculiar ability to utterly forget the world and he can call upon the last least thread of his strength and knowledge and concentrate it all on the work at hand. On the day he did his remarkable shooting the rest of the sharpshooters ceased shooting and joined the spectators at his back. The excitement grew intense. Every time he raised his rifle hundreds of eyes were focused upon him, boring into him, and he knew it, but did not permit it to affect him. In fact, the more he fired the better he scored, and he was grieved when the lists closed for the day.

        By the way Strecker is extremely conservative and never goes in for improvements until he is forced. He was the last crack shot to give up his old-style muzzle-loading rifle, and he only gave up then and purchased a Winchester because the progressive men were overtaking him.

        Then came the Pope sharp-shooting rifle, with the Pope system of loading, and the progressive younger element invested and began to catch up with him. But Strecker fought and shy until the record was in peril, and until the thirty-two caliber bullets were rattling in the worn barrel. Then he sent the old Winchester to Harry Pope and had it bored out to a thirty-three caliber, and built over to accommodate the Pope loading system. This is the gun with which he did the work at the present Bundesfest, the same old Winchester he first used, battered and worn from over ten years’ service. It reminds one of the small boy with the bent pin and a piece of twine catching the biggest trout in the stream.

        Ittel, the Pennsylvania expert who cropped up late in the fest and came within three points of beating Strecker, is native-born, but of remote German ancestry. Strecker is the only one of the big experts who is foreign born. While the majority are of German decent, in from two to half a dozen generations, Hayes traces back to the little green isle and Ross’ name speaks for itself.

        In looking over these men one striking thing is manifest, none of them is unusually tall or stout. The men big in stature or girth, while they have done good work, have not done the very best. On the other hand, the men who have done the very best are of medium height or under, and are prone to leanness. This is hardly a coincidence. There must be some reason for it, biological, or psychological, or otherwise.

Schützenfest   No. 10

July 24, 1901 . – The king is dead-long live the king! Ay, and the Schützenfest is dead-long live the Schützenfest! Amid a great furor of enthusiasm King Strecker received his crown from his comrades-in-arms, and the last hours of the festival waned away in wassail and revelry that required special trains and boats to see the heroes home.

        And the Schützenfest died hard. All of Tuesday morning the rifles barked and the bullets thudded home. The smell of powder was strong, and to the last men lined up at the honor targets. And at the stroke of twelve, when the twenty and odd targets went down on the run, there were rifles steadied an eyes straining along the sights for the last bull’s-eye.

        At once the Temple of Gifts was rifled of its precious hoard, and on the long tables of the shooting hall was displayed the glittering array of prizes. Gold there was galore-gold yellow and mellow, rippling down the tables in shinning streams, spreading out into miniature lakelets and dazzling the eye with its shimmering witchery. And there were tall mugs, huge bowls and loving cups of precious metal; nor was the flash of diamonds or the glint of gems wanting to complete the splendid picture. It was the loot of a province spread fittingly there where the rifles had fought out the battle, and the beribboned and be-medaled Prize Committee apportioned the plunder among the men who had done the work.

        The rafters rang and rang again with cheers of greeting to the prize winners, and it was noted that the high score men smiled broadly, and continued to smile broadly. May the affliction become chronic. Next in honor to king Strecker was Dr. Schumacher, who made the record on the Honor Eureka and received the magnificent Hearst Trophy. On the shoulders of his brother marksmen, to the strains of “ America ” from the band, he made an exit from the shooting hall, madly waving in either hand his hat and a silver laurel wreath.

        Well, it is over. Never in the history of the bund has there been anything like it, and many a day will come to pass ere the like is done again. Nor has it alone been a spectacular affair with success achieved through lavish expenditure and magnificence. There has been shooting done besides, and the greatest of its kind. Every record of the previous test has been broken, and many records have been broken many times. From every standpoint it has been an unqualified success.

        And now that it is over, let us make confession. There are things our German-American brother can teach us. We can, among other things, sit at his knee and learn how to be sociable We understand democracy, but our democracy is Anglo-Saxon in it’s traditions and there is an aloofness and an aggressiveness about it. We are not prone to come together in large numbers and forget our individual sovereignty. One man is as good as another, therefore let one man get out of another man’s way. No crowding. Toes are liable to be stepped upon, and then there will be trouble.

        But while we understand democracy in its political sense, the German understands it better in its social sense. We have much to learn from him in democratic good-fellowship, for in that he excels. In his past history he has not had so much to say as others concerning liberty, equality, and fraternity; he has been too busy doing them. In the Fatherland straining against feudal forms and harsh lines of caste, he has been handicapped; but in the United States there was opportunity, and right well has he advantaged by it.

        He takes life less seriously then we, and more slowly. He puts a rhythm into it, as it were, and works and plays; while we race along, keyed up to the highest tension, at break-neck pace, always a jump ahead of the second hand. We haven’t time to laugh. Faith, life is too short and too strenuous. We sweat over our pleasure as well as our work, and take a vacation when the doctor forbids us our desk or shop. The Epworth Leaguers came in a flurry of special trains, jammed into our city, and departed in a tangle of baggage-they haven’t caught their breaths yet; while the men of the Schützen clubs were here first and in leisurely full swing, and are still here, and though the shooting is over have an unfinished itinerary of feasts, picnics and excursions.

        And though the German takes time to laugh, it is a jolly laugh, and in it is none of our haste-induced hysterias and none of the cynic levity of the French, which is the antithesis of laughter. There is room in life for a healthy, wholesome, good time, and if life over here seems crowded the German none the less makes room. Let the world and its cares wag on; he knows all about it and shoulders his fair share; but when he packs his lunch basket for a good time he sees to it that the world and its cares are left out. Sufficient unto the day, he holds, is the pleasure thereof.

        Last Sunday, out at Shell Mound, there came together a huge family party of ten thousand heterogeneous men, women and children. But the Teutonic influence was over them and they danced, played and made merry, and went home in glee. There was no wrangling or fighting or harsh words spoken. Good nature ruled the day and each did as his fancy dictated-so long as it did not infringe on the happy fancies of others, in which case he didn’t. Some elected to dance, others to shoot. Hundreds stripped their lean lithe bodies and pitched the shot, did gymnastics, and flashed through the air running, in high jump; hundreds preferred to dance, hundreds sang in chorus on the elevated platform, and for variety carried their leaders around on their shoulders; and hundreds chose to sit around the tables drink beer and look on. And it was well. Each followed his particular bent, extracted his maximum joy out of the day, and contributed his share to the general hilarity.

        Innate in the Teuton is the spirit of democracy. He believes in equality of opportunity and that a man should stand on his own two legs. The history of the Bund, taking its rise as it does out of the old Schützen-guilds of Germany , corroborates this. There the man who does the finest shooting receives the highest honors, and no matter who his father was, class distinctions fall away. A cobbler, if he is crowned Schüetzen König, takes precedence over the Emperor during the festival. The Emperor may sit beside the cobbler on his throne, but the cobbler’s commands are flat and the Emperor’s are not. As Julias Becker said the other day, “Not even the field marshal or the highest general would dare so much as brush the soot from his sights.”

        And so today, transplanted to the fruitful soil of America , the same spirit obtains and it is the spirit of democratic good-fellowship. It is said that in one party from the East there are nineteen millionaires. Well, I looked for those millionaires, and I failed to find them. From appearances there were no millionaires, or else they are all millionaires.

        A good illustration, and to the point, concerning fellowship is the little Teutonic trick in the giving of medals. In the average American contest, the medal-winner, if he is not over prosperous in the world’s goods, is usually forced to the verge of insolvency in standing for the crowed. But the Germans line their medal cases with gold pieces, so that the winner may hold up his end of good-fellowship and not have his good luck metamorphosed into calamity.

          During the fest the Germans among many things, manifested that they were good trenchermen. But, unlike the Latin, who eats for eating sake and takes a pride in cookery, the German eats for sociability’s sake. Dinner is a god-given hour, wherein he may meet his brothers in closer contact then mere rubbing of shoulders in the course of carrying on the work of the world.

        Nor did he neglect this hour out at Shell Mound, even when the firing was hottest and the excitement most intense. Promptly at the dinner hour the rifle was laid aside, and though there were records and records yet to break, he lingered for an hour or so at the table, where jovial company held forth and song and toast passed up and down. Surely the American tendency would have been to snatch a sandwich on the fly and go on with the shooting.

        A spade is a spade, and when the men of the National Bund said they were going to have a festival they meant a festival. And, looking back, a festival it was. California outdid herself in her open-armed welcome; the fest committee outdid itself in its arrangements; and it is not hazarding too much to say that the visitors did likewise in the good time they have not only had but given. So here’s to you, and standing, men of the Schützen clubs, jolly good fellows all, as good in comradeship as in jollity and as good in citizenship both!

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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