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View Full Version : "Hell I was there" by Elmer Keith



DSW
09-20-2021, 06:57 PM
https://castboolits.gunloads.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=289023&d=1632178328&thumb=1&stc=1ed

I inherited this autographed copy from my father. The stories are classic.

JohnH
09-20-2021, 06:58 PM
Read that one about ten years back. It is a very good work. An autographed copy, what a treasure!

ohen cepel
09-20-2021, 06:59 PM
Yes, it is a very enjoyable read. I have several of Skeeter's books I need to make time for soon.

slohunter
09-20-2021, 09:13 PM
Had that book when it first came out. Great reading, made the mistake of lending it out.

JSnover
09-21-2021, 08:33 AM
Great book! "Sixguns" is pretty good too.

Char-Gar
09-21-2021, 10:57 AM
I began to read gun literature about 1954 and Elmer Keith was a staple. By 1960 he was starting to wear thin on me, due to his massive ego. I bought the subject book as soon as it came out and sure enough, his ego was there as well.

Addendum: I have never been impressed with people, who continually tell me I should be impressed with them. I am just funny that way.

JoeJames
09-21-2021, 11:15 AM
"Hell I was there" was more entertaining, and "Sixguns" was more informative.

dverna
09-21-2021, 01:30 PM
I am an outlier....again. Have read some of his articles but never any of his books. I know the guy walks on water and I tend to be critical of people like that. Being right on many things does not translate to being right on everything. It must be envy...LOL.

Had a similar issue with Mr .270....Jack O'Conner.

I just went on Amazon to order the book, and it is way too pricey to cure my itch to learn more about Skeeter.

Bazoo
09-21-2021, 01:41 PM
I’m looking for a copy myself. He didn’t walk on water, but he lived a life most only dream about. It’s a much different opinion that forms about guns and life and bullets when survival is part of your daily life, instead of just going to work to make more money so you can buy more guns.

I didn’t care for jack oconner, what I’ve read of him.

FLINTNFIRE
09-21-2021, 01:52 PM
I liked his writing and skeeters and oconner along with cooper , none were right on everything , just like no one here is right on everything . As to ego thats funny as egotists generally do not like others with a ego .

DSW
09-21-2021, 04:07 PM
I began to read gun literature about 1954 and Elmer Keith was a staple. By 1960 he was starting to wear thin on me, due to his massive ego. I bought the subject book as soon as it came out and sure enough, his ego was there as well.

Don't discount the fact that if it were not for him there would be no .44 Magnum.

TNsailorman
09-21-2021, 10:41 PM
Elmer was largely responsible for the .357 magnum, the .44 magnum and the .41 magnum. Elmer was not a technician, he was a hands on guy. His education was from the world of hard knocks, including his knowledge of firearms. He blew up or severely damaged a lot of revolvers with his experimentations. He pushed the envelope until something let go. He did not have technical equipment to test things, so he tested the only way available to him. He was very opinionated and did not let other people influence his opinions too much. Most of this critics grew up in a far different era than Elmer. He would not be too happy in theirs and I don't believe many of his critics would have last very long in Elmer's days. I respected Elmer and I miss the old timers like him. We are not likely to see their kind again. my thoughts anyway, james

slohunter
09-21-2021, 11:49 PM
There was only one Elmer Keith, wished I could of met Him, ego and all!

smithnframe
09-22-2021, 07:04 AM
I have all his books………several autographed 1st editions! He is still my favorite gun writer!

JSnover
09-22-2021, 07:47 AM
Keith's ego wasn't built on thin air. His early life involved a lot of pain and a number of tragedies.

Bent Ramrod
09-22-2021, 01:24 PM
I don’t see any particular ego issues in Elmer’s public writings. He wrote about what he’d tried, what he’d found out, and what he thought were mistaken notions in others, and why.

I was a scientist myself in a previous life, and found Keith to be an instinctive scientific investigator and experimenter. He didn’t have a laboratory with instrumentation, and had to make do with what he had, but no position he took on anything lacked the back-up data to support it. I’m not a great shot, but I can see myself how somebody with better eyes and acumen than me could hit stuff at a quarter-mile with a revolver. I can occasionally get close enough myself to see how it could be done.

His more private correspondence is a little different, but since the bulk of what I’ve seen involved his tiff with Jack O’Connor, it was Godzilla vs Megaron in egos anyway. He usually used his African hunting buddy (and quondam publisher) Truman Fowler as his cutout for his beef with O’Connor, and then he would congratulate Fowler on his latest put-down of Jack. Both he and Jack backed up their opinions with real-life experience, but leave us face it, Jack O’Connor started out a college professor who supplemented his income with articles, and later had a rich magazine underwrite his guided hunts all over the world, while Elmer Keith started out as a subsistence hunter and never lost that mindset, even though his circumstances eventually improved somewhat. When you get one chance at a game animal or you don’t eat, your ideas on what to use are going to be different from the guy whose guide gets you into the ideal position for a shot, and can always rustle up another quarry if the first one gets away.

My Dad was a Depression-era kid who never lost that sense that all the good times could disappear again overnight, even though he did very well in life. Those early experiences stick with people.

I always liked Elmer’s explanation of why cowboys on the trail carried guns. “We rode mean horses and herded meaner cattle.” For somebody who’d grown up watching TV with Roy Rogers and Trigger and a few placid Jersey cows, that was pretty illuminating.

TNsailorman
09-22-2021, 05:39 PM
My father also grew up in the hard times and he was lean and weiry and he resembled Randolph Scott in build and facial features. He went through some hard times himself and worked hard to make sure none of his children had to go through them. He worked hard and hunting and fishing were his hobbies (if you could call them that). You put your hand into his for a grip test and you would very quickly realized you had just stuck your hand into a hydraulic press. I believe pound for pound (he never weighed over 170 lbs.) he was about the strongest man I ever was around. He would leave the house just after sunlight and except for lunch, never came back in until dark. He was always busy at something that involved manual labor. He cut trees with an ax and dug up his potatoes and did his garden work with hoe and spade, not a John Deer. He did this until he was 69 and had a really bad heart attack that completely paralyzed his whole left side. He lived 10 more years and died at 79. To me he was an amazing man and my hero. james

starnbar
09-24-2021, 09:03 AM
Elmer was largely responsible for the .357 magnum, the .44 magnum and the .41 magnum. Elmer was not a technician, he was a hands on guy. His education was from the world of hard knocks, including his knowledge of firearms. He blew up or severely damaged a lot of revolvers with his experimentations. He pushed the envelope until something let go. He did not have technical equipment to test things, so he tested the only way available to him. He was very opinionated and did not let other people influence his opinions too much. Most of this critics grew up in a far different era than Elmer. He would not be too happy in theirs and I don't believe many of his critics would have last very long in Elmer's days. I respected Elmer and I miss the old timers like him. We are not likely to see their kind again. my thoughts anyway, james

Douglas Wesson had a pretty good part in the 357 development to take it away from the Colt 38 Super too.

Char-Gar
09-24-2021, 11:08 AM
Don't discount the fact that if it were not for him there would be no .44 Magnum.

Remember there were a number of people working with hot loaded 44 Specials at the time. Elmer was not the only one doing so and putting pressure on the gun makers. They had an organization of sorts called The 44 Associates". Elmer played an important role, because he had the biggest pulpit, but it is an overstatement to say that without him, there would be no 44 Magnum. People today give him all the credit, because he gave himself all the credit.

Char-Gar
09-24-2021, 11:10 AM
Douglas Wesson had a pretty good part in the 357 development to take it away from the Colt 38 Super too.

Phil Sharpe had a hand in the development of the 357 Mag as well.

rintinglen
10-02-2021, 11:21 AM
Phil Sharpe and Col D.B. Wesson are responsible for the .357. Keith had only slightly more impact on it than I, and I was born 18 years later.

JoeJames
10-02-2021, 12:11 PM
It took me about 30 years to get past the mental picture I had of a little bitty feller in a great big Stetson, and all that implied. But I took a chance on "Hell I was there", and I was pleasantly surprised. He knew what he was talking about, and I pushed all my pre-conceptions aside and enjoyed it. Same for Sixguns.

Murphy
10-02-2021, 07:48 PM
A friend and I were discussing Elmer Keith a few weeks back. His book "Hell I was there" is a great read. I never read much of his writings in my formative years as a hand gunner. Then something dawned on me. Given the time period Elmer lived and grew up in, maybe there were a lot of Elmer's? We just never heard of them and the powers that be in the gun rag world decided he was as good as any? Who knows? Just some food for thought.

Murphy

JoeJames
10-05-2021, 09:05 AM
A friend and I were discussing Elmer Keith a few weeks back. His book "Hell I was there" is a great read. I never read much of his writings in my formative years as a hand gunner. Then something dawned on me. Given the time period Elmer lived and grew up in, maybe there were a lot of Elmer's? We just never heard of them and the powers that be in the gun rag world decided he was as good as any? Who knows? Just some food for thought.

Murphy

Speaking of good writers - one was Roy Dunlap. I accidentally ran across his book: "Ordnance went up front". His time as a US Army armorer in WW2, extremely interesting - discusses Allied and enemy firearms, and goes into detail over the M1, M1 Carbine, and BAR.

JSnover
10-05-2021, 10:14 AM
"A Rifleman Went to War" (Mc Bride) is another good one. He had a lot to say about allied small arms used in the trenches in WW1.

Bent Ramrod
10-05-2021, 11:59 AM
That is the issue. You can have all the “experience” in the world, but if you don’t leave a record of it, it’s gone as if it never was.

Elmer was disciplined. He set himself the goal of writing 5000 words per day, IIRC. That was after a full day of guiding, ranching, hunting or whatever. Some Internet authorities don’t do that much in a year, even including the flame wars they get into with other Internet authorities.

And he was modest enough to admit that whatever position he enjoyed in the world of shooting was partly due to the fact that the Chauncey Thomases, the Capt. Crossmans, the Major Askins, the Col. Whelens, the Gen. Hatchers, and all the other leading lights of his own youth had by then left the range.

Dave Brennan, who ramrodded the late, lamented Precision Shooting and Accurate Rifle magazines, was somehow able to get a lot of accuracy gunsmiths and benchrest champions, most of whom likely never wrote down anything more elaborate than a match entry form or a Brownell’s order form, to write lengthy articles on their techniques, processes and their discoveries along the way. There were also a few stalwart souls who cleaned up Elmer’s typing, spelling and grammar and turned it into writing for the ages.

Those were the combinations that left us with the stuff we nitpick over. Nowadays, I’m finding more and more magazine articles, and even some books, seem to be written by ad-men and edited by computer checking algorithms. That, plus the dearth of any really revolutionary arms developments, makes a lot of the modern stuff a thin, pastel version of the old writings.

Bazoo
10-05-2021, 12:08 PM
https://www.loc.gov/audio/?fa=partof:american+memory%7Ccontributor:keith,+el mer