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American Handgunner Sep/Oct 2011 Digital Edition - Page 44

Mike “Duke” Venturino SHOOTINGIRON TM THUMB BUSTIN’ MUSINGS FROM THE DUKE Photos: Yvonne Venturino I n my 6-plus decades I’ve worn many hats, speaking literally not figuratively. They have never been for adornment, never has there been a “Sunday go to meeting” hat hanging by my door. All have been for keeping my head warm, dry, or protected from the sun. If head protection wasn’t called for then my hat was left at home, because I was (and still am) likely to just misplace it. One sunny afternoon 40 years back, while working as a dude wrangler in Yellowstone National Park I let a pretty girl wear my wide brimmed hat while we rode horses. That evening my face was burned lobster red. After that girls had to furnish their own headgear. Except for baseball type caps, which just seem to grow around here, I’ve never built an assortment of A LIFETIME OF HATS any kind of hat. If one disappeared it was replaced. Way back in 1973, a friend and I got it in our heads to ride horses from Bozeman, Mont. through the mountains to Jackson, Wyo. The second day out while leading my horse in a terrible rain and windstorm, my hat blew off into the horse’s face. He went nuts and bolted. In trying to hold onto the reins, I was whip-lashed into a rock filled ditch. My partner caught up the horse and said, “You should have seen that hat go! It never hit the ground the entire time it was in sight.” He was totally uninterested in my lumps and bruises. Winds like that make stampede strings on hats handy. As soon as possible I bought another Stetson. I still have it. HAT I like well-worn handguns, Left: The Military Historical Tours group gave Duke this ball cap during the trip he made to Iwo Jima especially if I’ve owned in 2008. The trip was a life’s dream come true. Middle: Suzi Huntington once gave Duke this fur hat and he’s never far from it during those Montana winters. Right: Duke bought this Stetson in 1973 after them since new. The wear another hat blew away in a windstorm. He still has it. It does look a little disreputable doesn’t it? simply means I probably have gotten a considerable amount of pleasure from life while using them. The same goes for hats: I don’t mind dirty, dusty, sweated, soaked and/or frayed. That means they were on my head while going about interesting pastimes. That western hat I bought back in 1973 is ere’s some irony. My most practical Montana winter a good example. Its blemishes range from beer foam to blood hat was given to me by someone living in Southern and other bits of some critter’s internals, put there because I’m California at the time. That was Suzi Huntington, not the most careful of knife users when dressing game. One who’s the editor of our American COP magazine and wife friend’s wife actually suggested I leave that hat outside when of Editor Roy. We were at a Thunder Ranch get together coming into their ranch house. I don’t think she was kidding. in Texas one December, when an unusually fierce wind A couple of my prized pieces of headgear are indeed basewas blowing from the north. I don’t know how Suzi came ball caps. I have a Thunder Ranch one that I take better care to have a rabbit fur hat with her but when she placed it on of than most of my hats because it also says “staff” on it. Clint my frosty head she made a fan for life. It gets plenty of use Smith has asked me a couple of times to help with classes there around the place here every winter. at the school and so he gave it to me. I’m very proud of that hat. I have several original and replica steel military helmets Another baseball cap of mine shows plenty of dirt and hanging up in my office and gun vault and sometimes it sweat stains because I wear it so often. It also says “Iwo Jima gives me pleasure to do a “clown photo” with one for these Reunion of Honor, 2008.” Such a baseball cap was given to pages. Some readers like those pictures and some think everyone who made that year’s trip to the island to commemthey’re silly. Regardless I’ve not done my last helmet photo. orate the 63rd anniversary of the battle. Visiting Iwo Jima was At the same time I’m glad I’ve never had to wear one of one of my life dreams come true. those things for real. The respect I have for people who My oddest hat is what I call a Norwegian fisherman’s hat. have done so is immense. It is brown leather and looks like something a deck hand on a Aside from ordinary wool caps of the type I lose so often North Sea fishing trawler would wear. That’s probably exactly — to Yvonne’s exasperation — I’ll probably never buy what it was because I found it under a bed in a hotel room in another hat. I’ve got a lifetime’s worth still hanging around Oslo, Norway when there in 1993. my office on deer antlers and such and there’s a lifetime of memories connected with them. PRIzES H Lifetime Supply * 44 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER2011

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