Well, found my 2017 calendar. (Okay, it is a little expensive, and I already have a Gunsite 2017 calendar that I picked up in Tulsa. But I’m taking a flyer on the CIA one because the thumbnails of the art look incredible: I’m seeing this described as more of an art book that you hang on the wall. I’ll do a follow-up once I get it.)
The Grim Reaper finally caught up with Vesna Vulovic (or Vesna Vulović). She was 66 years old, and had managed to outrun him for nearly 45 of those years.
If that sounds callous, well, Ms. Vulovic had an amazing story. You might even remember it if you were an obsessive reader of the Guinness Book of World Records when you were young.
Ms. Vulovic was a flight attendant on JAT Flight 367 between Stockholm and Belgrade on January 26, 1972. She had actually swapped places with another girl and wasn’t originally scheduled to work this flight. As we see so often in movies and television, this never ends well…
Ms. Vulovic is believed to have fallen 33,000 feet, which (according to Guinness, at least) is the longest documented fall survived without a parachute. She was badly injured, but Ms. Vulovic was the only survivor of Flight 367. It is generally believed that the plane was blown up by a terrorist bomb in the forward cargo hold.
John Glenn obits to come tomorrow, after everyone has had a chance to write and correct them. I’m sure the NYT obit has been in the can for a while now – it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of the credited writers has died or left the paper – but sure as god made little green apples, there will be at least one correction.
Cuban geopolitics is a little outside of my area of specialization (though I did stick a toe in those waters when I was taking “Modern Revolutions” with Dr. Sanchez back in the St. Edwards days). If I see any smart takes while I’m out and about I’ll try to link them here.
While I’m thinking about it, can I put in a plug for Stephen Hunter’s Havana? Not that it’s completely historical or anything, but I did think it was a fun book. (And Castro is a pivotal character in it.)
At the weird intersection of gun crankery and entertainment history:
There are two things I enjoy doing when Mike the Musicologist and I go to Tulsa (well, three, but the shopping is really the whole point of the trip, so it doesn’t count):
Visiting with folks from the Smith and Wesson Collector’s Association.
Visiting the NRA Museum table. Especially if Jim Supica is there.
I didn’t see Mr. Supica this time, but we hung around the table for a bit and I picked up a few postcards, one of which contained the following odd bit of history.
I kind of knew Sammy Davis Jr. was a gun owner and collector (probably from reading his Wikipedia entry). What I didn’t know was that Mr. Davis was a serious fast draw practitioner. Serious.
Photo by way of Gabby Franco’s blog, also linked.
That’s one of Mr. Davis’ Colt Single Action Army revolvers. The rig was custom made for him by the great Arvo Ojala, holster maker and consultant to the stars. Mr. Davis was fast enough that he did his own gun work for many of the TV shows he guested on.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Martin apparently were not the only fast draw artists in the Rat Pack: according to the back of the postcard (which, sadly, I’ve dropped in the mail and don’t have in front of me), Mr. Davis and Frank Sinatra had a fast draw competition with a new car as the stakes. And Mr. Davis won.
“I was beaten by my friend Mel Torme, who also collects Colts.” !!!!
(And Dr. Brackett too? The earth was full of giants in those days: or, more likely, a lot of these folks learned fast draw as a way to get roles in the endless parade of TV westerns.)
I’ll leave you with a short NRA “Curator’s Corner” video about the Davis gun.
“Well, if he was such a hot stick, why wasn’t he the one who broke the sound barrier?” Answer: because he got crosswise with his superiors for doing some unauthorized low-level flying, so they put him in the chase plane for Yeager. When Chuck freakin’ Yeager says, “I want you to have my back on this one”, well…there’s your sign.
I regret that I never saw him perform: somehow, it just never seemed that he came anywhere near me in Texas. (There’s video of part of his routine on the NYT page.)
I did read, and liked, Forever Flying. There’s a story in there that I sometimes pull out and tell to younger technicians who have messed up and feel bad about it.
The story goes: Mr. Hoover was flying back from an airshow and stopped to have his plane refueled. He took off again, and very shortly after takeoff, the engines quit. By dint of superior airmanship, he managed to land the plane: nobody on board was killed or even injured, but the plane was pretty much a total loss.
When Mr. Hoover removed the gas cap, he found out what the problem was: as I recall, the guy who filled the plane put in the wrong type of fuel. (I want to say he put in jet fuel instead of aviation gasoline, but don’t quote me on that: I don’t have the book in front of me.)
So Mr. Hoover hikes back to the airfield, and the guy who filled up the plane is staring off into the distance looking like the whole world has come down on him. Because he realizes he screwed up Bob Hoover’s plane.
And Mr. Hoover comes over, puts his arm around the guy, and says, “Son, I just want you to know: nobody was hurt. The plane got bent, but we can replace that. I have another plane coming in tomorrow morning, and when it gets here, I want you to be the one who puts fuel in it…
…because I know you’re never going to make that mistake again.”
By all accounts I’ve read and heard, he was a pretty kind gentleman, too. 94 is a good run, but the world is still a smaller, lesser place today.
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