April 15, 1972 was a red letter day in my life. It was, first of all, tax deadline day. As a young cash strapped Naval officer I had filed my 1040 and the money was socked away. April 15th was also the day I left the regime of Reveille and Taps, departing Naval Air Station Corpus Christi a civilian. A footloose bachelor I planned a leisurely drive home through the Midwest go visit friends with whom I had joyfully misspent my youth.  

On the 14th I said goodbye to those I would leave behind, picked up my DD-214, mustering out pay, and travel money, and settled my BOQ bill. Up early on the 15th I broke my fast in the Open Mess with a last hearty Navy meal, a bowl of fresh citrus fruit, a plate loaded with scrambled eggs topped with a liberal dose of Tabasco Sauce, steaming chipped cream beef on toast, home fries, juice and milk. As the sun broke over Corpus Christi Bay, I was driving north on Interstate 37, heading into a new phase of my life. 

I turned east outside of Dallas onto Interstate 20 humming along with the soothing sound of Mozart playing on my cassette tape recorder. I was also humming down the highway and not paying much attention to my speedometer, the road level billboard, or Texas Department of Public Safety Officer Tommy Tucker hiding behind it. 

The flashing lights and siren broke my reverie and I pulled over. Trooper Tucker was polite, noticed my NAS parking sticker and remarked that he was a Navy veteran. He said with a wink and a smile he would take that into account when writing up my ticket. True to his word he cited me for “Failure to Obey Traffic Sign” a mere $97.00, rather than the $250.00 for “Speeding-exceeding limit by 15 to 29 miles per hour.” I was also allowed to pay by mail rather that appear immediately in traffic court. I thanked him profusely. I guess it pays to be a veteran when stopped by a veteran. 

A few years earlier my brother Steve found himself in the same predicament coming home from New Mexico. In his case he was escorted to the chambers of a Judge Sandoval, probably a relative enjoying a patronage job, and relieved of a hefty portion of his precious cash reserve. So much so that the rest of his journey was marked by carefully conserving gas, sleeping in the car, subsisting on Snickers, and worry.  

The next day I reached Washington, Missouri, the Corn Cob Pipe Capitol of the World, and home of my college roommate Craig Duncan. Washington  produces 12 to 14 million corn cob pipes annually, the world’s entire commercial output. Saying Washington is the Corn Cob Capital of the world was no brag, just fact. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., authors H.L. Mencken, and Mark Twain, along with politicians Herbert Hoover and Fiorello La Guardia are said to have favored Washington’s “Missouri Meerschaum.” 

After Mrs. Duncan served us a fine Missouri country dinner Craig suggested we go the movies to see the newest cinema hit, The Godfather. I enjoyed the movie and next morning headed north to Iowa City, Iowa, to check in with college buddy, Bruce Vliet. Arriving in Iowa City around dinner time Bruce suggested we dine at his favorite Dive Bar. As we wiped our greasy chins clean Bruce suggested we go the moves and see The Godfather. I could not refuse as he paid for our patty melts, fries, and IPAs. 

Next was Cleveland to visit college crony Bill Kaseberg studying at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He rustled us up a homecooked dinner and then mentioned a special treat for me, he had tickets for, what else, the hit flick, The Godfather.  

My final stop was to pay a call on my then girlfriend. Her parents they suggested that we relax at the movies and see, yet again for me, The Godfather. By the time I got back home I had seen the movie enough times to  know parts of it by heart. Among them were when Caporegime Clemenza and his button man Rocco Lampone, conduct a wild goose chase, which includes buying Italian pastry for his Mrs. Clemenza,  to lull the traitor to La famiglia Pauli Gatto into a false sense of security. Clemenza has Gatto, who is driving, pull over so he can relive himself Lampone, sitting in the back seat, “makes his bones” by pumping three shots into Gatto’s brain. Clemenza surveys Gatto’s body slumped over the steering wheel and matter of factly  orders Lampone to, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”  

Lately two other scenes have come to mind. The first involves a lesser mafioso soliciting Don Corleon’s support to start dealing drugs. Asked what he need he relies, “I need, Don Corleone, all of those politicians that you carry around in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes.” Later the same issue is raised in a meeting of the New York City family Dons. Corleone is reminded that, “…if he has all the judges and politicians in New York then he must share them, or let others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well” 

My extensive shooting research library/archive draws a lot of requests for information, usually for information about partially forgotten or long lost shooting performances,, general shooting history, or shooters from the dim past. My base is 120 linear feet of book shelf  packed full of histories, National Match programs, miscellaneous bulletins, and NRA, ISSF, DCM/CMP and government publications. On another set of shelves  hold American Rifleman, Tournament News, and Shooting Sports USA going back to the late 1920s and National Smallbore Outdoor Championship bulletins from1956 to the present.  

After many years of research I have become familiar with the contents and can usually readily find information sought. I have a good success rate and am only too happy to share the shooting knowledge stored, like so many nickels and dimes, on my shelves. After all, it is only right that I let others draw water from my well. 

In the light of The Godfather quotes it  has occurred to me that, just maybe I have become the Godfather of shooting history knowledge. 

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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