IN 1972, I went to Beverly Hills to attend the presentation of the Weatherby Award, which was given annually to the most accomplished big-game hunter Roy Weatherby could think of. It was a black-tie affair held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which was where I was staying, and I got there around noon. Since I had some time to kill before I put on my tux, I decided to visit Kerr Sport Shop, which was just a few minutes away on Wilshire Boulevard.
Housed in an unprepossessing building, Kerr’s was the Abercrombie & Fitch of the West Coast, supplier of fishing tackle and hunting gear to the stars. It was founded in 1933 by a champion skeet shooter named Alex Kerr and closed its doors 50 years later. But in the interim it was an institution. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby bought flies there. Roy Rogers and Elvis Presley bought guns.
So, dressed in slacks, a tie, and a blue blazer, I began the short walk down Wilshire Boulevard, and before you could say “I want to call my lawyer,” a Beverly Hills police cruiser slid to the curb next to me and an officer motioned me over to the car to chat. Who was I? Where was I going? Where was I staying? What was I up to? I gave him the facts, and he let me go with a warning to be more careful.
Undaunted, I went on to Kerr’s, where I found that the only thing I could afford was a leather case for magnum-sized cartridges. In the course of the purchase, I asked the salesman why I had been rousted by the law and he said, “You were walking. No one walks on Wilshire Boulevard. If you had been waving a gun you couldn’t have been more suspicious.”
I wore in when I waded into the Botswana bush for a lion someone else had wounded, and when I faced Death by Buffalo in Zambia.
As for the leather case, it’s been in use for just over 50 years. It’s battered and wrinkled and stained, but then so am I, and it will still keep 10 big cartridges right where I want them. I believe it’s my longest-serving piece of hunting equipment.
Very early on, I learned that you should always keep your ammo where you can get at it fast, and keep it in the same place, so the case has always reposed on my belt, in front, just a bit to the left, since I load a rifle left-handed.
Where has it been? Where has it not been? For years I hunted almost exclusively with two 7mm Weatherby Magnums and a number of .338s and .340 Weatherbys, so the case has been to Africa ten times, New Zealand once, Sweden, Germany, all of the Rocky Mountain states, Texas, Alaska, and much of Canada, including the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I wore it when I waded into the Botswana bush and killed a lion that someone else had already wounded, and when I faced Death by Buffalo in Zambia. When I took it to Sweden to hunt ailg (moose to you), it shared suitcase space with a tuxedo, since I was obliged to attend a formal dinner after the hunt.
I put a little neat’s-foot oil on it every decade or so, and I trust that the case will handily survive me. I only hope that its next owner has as much fun with it on his belt as I’ve had.
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