Al Capone

by Otto Ringle

One morning last summer, I pulled out of my garage and headed for the post office to pick up the daily mail, when my good friend, Bubba the cop blocked my way with his police car. I thought for certain Bev Worcester had sent him after me for making mistakes about her dad in this column!

Remember, when I completely omitted him when writing about the history of the Post Office in Walker? And again, when writing about John Carlson, I said Carlson was Walker’s longest serving mayor. When he passed away he was, however, Bev’s dad Marion (Alex) Kennedy served two years longer! Sorry Bev!

Anyway, Bubba got out of his car and headed for mine. Nervously and very apprehensively I erroneously opened the car window on the passenger side, as Bubba wrapped on the window on my driver’s side in an effort to show me a picture of a very old, barnacle-covered pistol. With an extremely strong feeling of “Was-that-a-gun-a-mine-from-my-shady-past?”

I rolled down the window separating Bubba’s always friendly face and my very worried mannerism. With his usual, congenial tone of voice, Bubba announced, “Andy Erickson found this washed up on the rocks below the lighthouse down at the City Park!” Still very nervous and apprehensive, I nevertheless very emphatically replied, “Well, it’s certanly not mine! I don’t like guns!”

Bubba laughed and went on to say that it was a 25-caliber, single-shot Stevens pistol. The serial number was illegible, but Andy had done a little research and found out that it was manufactured between 1920 and 1935. My nervous, apprehensive sounding voice quickly changed to one of excitement, as I very enthusiastically replied, “Maybe it was Al Capone’s! It has been rumored that Capone had a hide-away cabin on Ottertail Point in the late 1920s and that he carried a pistol, which could have been a Stevens!”

Bubba looked just as excited as I was, as I continued, “There are a couple of other possibilities also — a gun like that could have been used by one of those roudy, boisterous lumbermen that we used to have in Walker in those early days. In fact, workers from Tom Walker’s lumber company stacked their logs down in the area where the City Park is now. You probably remember the old sawdust burner that used to be there. The lumbermen would cut up their logs, burn the sawdust in that burner, and either load up the logs on the B&NM Railroad, which was not far away, or they would tie the logs together in log-booms and float them across the big lake, pulled by the old steamboats that were on Leech Lake in those days, to the Mississippi, where the logs would be floated down river to the mills in Minneapolis.”

At this point in our conversation, Bubba continued to be interested, so I went on, “Actually, those railroad men were no angels either! They, like the lumbermen of those early days in Walker’s history, also could have carried a 25-caliber, single-shot, pistol for protection from the railroad bums! Or, another possibility would be the fishermen that came to our area at the same time as the railroad! Some of the old-timers say, the fish were so prevelant and abundant in Leech Lake, you could shoot ‘em with a pistol instead of using a Shakespeare ugly stik and a fat-head minnow!”

By now, I had the feeling that Bubba thought I was pullin’ his leg, as he quickly concluded the conversation by saying, “Gotta run, have a good day!”

Just for kicks, when I returned home, after picking up the daily mail, I googled the 25-caliber, single-shot Stevens pistol and found the following words, “According to gun enthusiasts, there is an elegance to the single-shot pistol not reflected in revolvers or semi-automatics. They are sleek, simple-in-action, easy-to-tune and nicely balanced. On the range, the basic acts of breaking the pistol open, extacting a spent shell, loading a fresh cartridge and again bringing up the gun gave a marksman time to settle his nerves, control his breathing and focus on cleanly breaking the next shot.

No American single-shot pistol embodied those qualities better than the 25-caliber single-shot pistol produced by the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company from the patent date of 1864 to the discontinuance of the Offhand 35-Model in 1942. It was a good, solid run of 78 years!”

Could it be possible that those words — “sleek, simple-in-action, easy-to-tune, nicely-balanced”, were appreciated by Walker’s early lumbermen, railroadmen, fishermen, or even more exciting, to think that “Old Scarface” himself may have used such a weapon to settle his nerves and control his breathing, so he could focus on cleanly breaking his next shot?” I doubt if there was anybody who disliked history as much as I did, at “old” Walker High School, or anybody else in the “new” WHA School — but sometimes it’s kinda fun! However, at my age, it’s no wonder I oftentimes get my facts wrong — especially about Marion (Alex) Kennedy! Isn’t that right Bev?

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