The Swan Song: Col. Charles Askins, Jr.'s Last Column

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posted on June 17, 2023
Col Charles Askins The Swan Song F

From the August, 1987 issue of American Rifleman. This column has been reprinted as part of American Rifleman's 100th anniversary celebrations.


As these lines see print this Old Indian will be in Zambia. There is the matter of some buffalo that must be accounted this trip. But I must admit that after 30 safaris, which have included all the major species and most of the fauna, I’ve finally gotten pretty much a belly full. Syncerus caffer, who offers more sport than any other, and can and will get you into some awkward cul-de-sac unless you are moderately careful, is the exception.

In over 60 years, I’ve hunted on every continent save Australia, and while big game has been the logical target, the truth is I am more a wingshot than an ardent nimrod yearning to claim a 120-lb. tusker. Give me a brace of smooth-running pointers, a likeable companion, and a dozen covies of the glorious bobwhite, and I am as near heaven as I ever want to go.

Editors, taken by and large, are opinionated, prejudiced and arbitrary. They have had precious little hunting experience—ask the next one you meet how many times he has shot on safari—and all are given to tampering with your copy and garbling your meaning. They are little Caesars who exult in their position, take every advantage of it and rub the staff man’s nose in the dirt. For 50 years my life has been made exceedingly unpleasant by the machinations of these two-bit sadists. Thankfully, however along the way there have been two editors who are quite the exception to the rule and they know who they are [Contrary to others’ claims, Bill Parkerson and Ron Keysor were the two].

Looking back over almost 80 years, I reflect that life has been pretty good fun. My career is simply told. I was a forest ranger, a border patrolman and a soldier. The few years in the Forest Service were pretty dull, the decade in the Border Patrol was lively and fun-filled. We had a gunfight in the El Paso District on an average of once every 10 days for the entire decade. I wasn’t in every set-to by any means, but I did occasionally get involved, and it made time pass wonderfully fast. While I was in the Border Patrol, I was also in the Texas National Guard, and when World War II brightened the horizon I was delighted to sign on. Altogether, with Guard duty and the Regular Army, I managed 33 ½ years of military service.

After all is said and done, when I look back over eight decades I find little to deplore. I turn in my suit with the sense that if I had it all to do over again I’d not change an iota of those 80 years.

Charles Askins contributed to American Rifleman from 1926 until his retirement in 1987.

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