This is truly a special day. Just over two months ago I was having lunch with a friend about firearms related subject matter. It was at a decent place, and reading this, he’ll remember instantly the occasion. We were watching the construction of The Streets of West Chester Phase II development from our window and were enjoying the progress of capitalism as it marched toward new destinations. In my own life, I had just accomplished a major technical achievement, something that many thought was impossible and the two and a half years I spent slugging that triumph out had put a new line of thought into my mind forever. To celebrate the moment I put a major investment into a new stage of my own personal development and decided that I would put an emphasis on a career change. Of course nothing is sudden in these kinds of things. The business world like a good marriage dictates that decisions are fast and solid but that movement often takes time—so you often ease into things instead of crashing through the front door. So this new career would entail a phase-in period rather than a sudden change and it all started with something that I had been thinking about for several decades but just couldn’t find the time to commit to it—or the money. However, I had promised myself that if I survived the technical achievement I had been working on that I would treat myself to that long desired intention. Prior to that lunch I had just ordered a new Mernickle gunfighter rig knowing that it would have to be hand crafted and take months to complete. But I was excited that I had finally bought it—along with other items that went with it. All in all it was a sizeable investment for me that signified a definite change of life. One book had literally closed and an entirely new one was starting, and I was very excited about it which my friend can testify to.
It was on December 15, 2015 that my Mernickle holster arrived and it is a thing of extraordinary beauty. Bob Mernickle and his family starting with his wife Sherrie and two daughters Stormie and Shandrianna are in my opinion the best holster manufacturers that are out there, particularly when it comes to Cowboy Fast Draw. To have a Mernickle gun fighting system is to have the Lamborghini of shooting sports. When I get involved with something very specific, like the Western Arts often are I do a lot of research into who I think is the absolute best and I work with them exclusively until I think they have fallen from the top. In my bullwhip work, I bought my whips from Terry Jacka in Australia. With this new phase in my life I am looking to build a new skill set to compliment the old one, and to advance that intention, I needed the best Cowboy Fast Draw rig that I could get, so I ordered one from Bob Mernickle. The day before it arrived one of his daughters, Stormie wrote me to confirm its delivery and I knew that all was right in the world.
As part of the technical achievement that I had worked through and all the pulling teeth it took to get there, no amount of money can give you back the years you lose whenever you do something that takes so much work and effort. There are no banquets in your honor that can justify the personal expense—not for me anyway. Success isn’t measured in the opinions others have of you for bringing them the magic of capitalist enterprise—but it’s in what it does for you personally. This Mernickle holster and the Ruger Vaquero that goes in it represents something much greater to me which was confirmed over quite a long period of time. It is probably the opposite reaction that people in my position would justify for the start of a new book in their lives. The typical reaction might be condos, boats, and more exotic vacations when a plateau of professional achievement is reached, but that’s not enough for me. I need to push myself and to smell battle in the things I’m doing—so complacency and reflection are not enough. I need to go from one impossible thing to another in order to feel alive and entering a very competitive sport that is the fastest individual feat that a human being can perform is precisely what makes my heart swell.
Prior to this epic life-changing event I was happy with my melee weapon work for personal exercise and self-defense. Bullwhips allowed me to practice in my own back yard and compete each year in the Annie Oakley Western Showcase in Darke County, Ohio and be one of the few in the world who could put out flaming candles with those flexible weapons using pin-point accuracy. But that technical work that I had been doing along with my political endeavors here and elsewhere showed me a strategic undercurrent emerging that needed a gunfighter—quite literally. This led me to re-think some of my favorite childhood influences, such as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress and gave me an even stronger appreciation for the cowboy arts of America’s foundation.
I have been thinking a lot about the Cowboy Way as defined by America’s evolution and the romance of the Old West mythologies which are much more sanctimonious in hindsight than they ever were in the moment—and it became quite clear to me that the gun represented laissez-faire capitalism in our culture and that was something that needed to be emphasized, and protected. As I look back on the countless westerns that have been produced in America they all have a common thread that revolves around the use of guns to regulate a frontier society which embodies the morality of pure capitalism—which is essentially at the heart of the gun debate in our modern era to remove them from private possession. Guns on the hip of a gunfighter represent the type of individual protection of private property that is very specific to a culture that is operating without the parental oversight of a federal government. America had the unique experience of being able to function in a vacuum of time, when railroads allowed quick travel, guns made the playing field of human domination equal, and the innovation of one’s own endeavors could make them gloriously wealthy, or proportionally poor. The Old West was a very competitive place, and most people ended up dirt poor, diseased, or crippled for life. Gambling and prostitution were everyday occurrences in most frontier towns and to this very modern time still has an appeal to people in American culture because those things no matter how destructive they were personally, represents an extraordinary level of personal freedom that was unique on the world stage—and still is.
The Cowboy Way emerged as a way to self-regulate behavior as government was not all that present in Old West towns such as Deadwood, South Dakota. Each year presently hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists venture to Deadwood for the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally essentially to feel the breath of the Old West and laissez-faire capitalism on their faces. If you look beyond the decadence which is also present in Las Vegas and Times Square, New York, or even Key West, Florida—you can see a society of people too tightly cranked up looking to come unhinged for their own psychological balance. Towns like the old Deadwood featured lots of prostitution, and gambling which were hopeful attempts by individuals to acquire private property and live well for themselves. This isn’t at all unlike the world of Henry Morgan—the pirate of Port Royal where indulgence in debauchery was rampant to an extreme. But the reason for it is more fascinating than the cost. Many people died and lost their way in such environments, but those who did succeed brought wonderful treasures to the human race under capitalism. The desire for such recklessness in personal living is that individuals ultimately want to be free of government regulations and they’ll go to extremes to shake them away. In such an environment guns are needed to protect oneself from predators who want to shortcut the work of capitalism to get something for as little effort as possible. In Deadwood specifically are the stories of Wild Bill Hickok who was a lawman, a frequenter of prostitutes, and one of the best known gunfighters from the Old West period. He once killed Davis Tutt in a dual at 75 yards over a dispute of Hickok’s watch. The dual was likely over a woman—not so much the watch, but either way it was over possession of perceived property and the gunfight was emblematic of protecting that property. The gun in most western mythology is an affirmation of economic value, not raw brutality. It was in Deadwood that Wild Bill was shot in the back of the head during a poker game while holding the famous hand, Aces of Eights, which so many references within the motorcycle community refer to presently.
The governing principle of these laissez-faire capitalist societies was the Cowboy Way, or at least the way Hollywood interpreted the brutality of frontier life to find meaning in it all—which there was plenty. A code of conduct enforced by the gun emerged and it was for a time the best answer to America’s morality of capitalism. The political left attacks cowboys and gunfighters specifically because they are quite well aware that there is something unique in the history of Old West towns like Deadwood and the historic mythologies of Wild Bill Hickok that might fuel the fires of capitalism and stop the long global march of socialism that is currently migrating unhinged everywhere in the world except for rural pockets around the United States. For instance, you will NEVER see Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota lecturing those people about morality and equality. John McCain has attempted to appeal to that demographic class, but has not been very successful—because the Washington Beltway doesn’t understand it. But I see it quite clearly. The strategy to move capitalism in the other direction against the current spread of socialism is through the kind of marketing that gave rise to such mythologies and the real life actions of Wild Bill in the first place. And behind that effort is the magic of the gun and the advantage of a very good fast draw rig.
Yes, it’s very exciting to enter a new book full of stories and adventure that have not yet been experienced. The old one was great, but sometimes sequels are better than the originals. Life should be like that, each and every year should be better than the previous one. While my previous stories were mainly about motorcycles and bullwhips, these new ones will be more akin to Wild Bill Hickok. Not the gambling or the women, but the gun fighting—there is magic in that—and promotion of an economic system that the gun represents–laissez-faire capitalism. After my success at the near impossible the obvious next step is to build on that with a means to expand that capitalist reach. While the intentions may not be obvious at first, it is clear that by wearing that fabulous Mernickle holster the weapons that will be drawn from it have the best chance of re-selling American capitalism to the most people under the best conditions—which of course unlocks prosperity within our national GDP that would have been previously unheard of. And that is why that holster to me is one of the most beautiful things in the world and why I have been so excited to get it. This is going to be a lot of fun.
Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman