|Character Building! by Forty Rod
Okay, so you’ve decided black powder is” the only
way to fly.” Good choice, but you’re not through yet. You still
have to choose your guns, equipment, accessories, and who you’re going
to be. You can go about this several ways, but I’ve always built
my character around my guns and let everything else grow from that.
You need to be a bit realistic. Black powder
was used as far back a hand held rope ‘matches” and tong held embers, and
is still found until WWII in some instances. Percussion caps started
being used in the mid-1830s and were the most favored type of ignition
until after the Civil War when cartridges started to gain in popularity.
Even then “cartridges” didn’t mean a brass cased center fire pre-loaded
“bullet launching system” as we know it today. Early cartridges were
paper (plain or nitrated), cloth and foil. Many had separate ignition,
such as the familiar percussion caps and a wide selection of other ignition
systems. Early cases were copper and were rim fire.
Choose your guns carefully. You’re likely
to have them for quite awhile. Got them all picked out? Ideally
they should be from the same era within a few years. I’ve always found
it strange that a “cowboy”, be he (or she) representing cowboys, gunmen,
ranchers, gamblers, or whatever who has a CW vintage Colt, Remington, or
Starr in his holsters, but a ’73 or ’92 Winchester and a trombone action
O love the feel of a ’60 Colt Army, but the percussion
system was WAY outdated by the time my present character came into being.
Conversion? You bet. It’s the best of both worlds.
Okay, you have your guns, and I’ll assume you have
period leather. Now comes the hard part. What does your character
do for a living? Many don’t really care all that much, but for me
it’s part and parcel of the game. I can’t see myself spending the
rest of my life being a “Cowboy Action Shooter”. Not the way I shoot.
I’d starve inside of a week. Nope, I had to have an occupation.
I started our as a CW Army vet going west, became
a cowboy, took up ranching in earnest, then pinned on a badge…all of this
over ten or twelve years. Then I got smart. Now I’m a trader,
traveling from place to place in a large circle through the Rocky Mountains.
Why? Because, frankly, I’m too old (and have
become way too smart) to continue chasing cow-critters and bad men all
over the country in all seasons and weather. I can live off my trade
goods by trading for what I need or using what I have. For instance,
I wear a derby. I had it in stock, but most folks wouldn’t be caught
dead west of Chicago wearing a “hard hat”. Besides it was too big
for most heads. One day my 4x4 blew away and I pulled it out of the
wagon and started wearing it. I added a beaded band and a hawk feather
that I took in from a Snake woman in trade foe ribbons and buttons.
My boots are up-to-date made in Lincoln City stovepipes. My shirt
is a homespun I got in a trade from a Mormon housewife in Ogden’s Hole
for a bolt of sky blue gingham and a pack of needles. She knit me two pairs
of socks, and threw in a dozen hen’s eggs, too.
My wife, who travels with me and drives one of the
wagons, wears a Navajo blouse in cool weather and a Chicago frilly dress
blouse when it’s warmer. She has Indian trade moccasins, but when
the ground gets rough or it gets too wet, she switches to high top lace
up ladies’ shoes.
We’re building our characters out of whole cloth
to fit our guns, but we have a story line to follow.
My guns? Why, I carry a pair of Colt
single action Army six-shooters, a Winchester rifle, and a modern, hammerless
double shotgun. I’m looking to pick up a long-range rifle in trade
soon, a Sharps maybe, or a Ballard, now that the “big shaggies” are almost
gone. After all, I have to keep up with the times, and it’s only
about ten years until the Nineteenth Century will be over.