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Issue # 42-3


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From The Trenches
Issue: 37-4

No collector is simply a collector

My sister Lisa once told me of an icebreaker she's used when hosting gatherings at which some people are strangers to one another. The gambit is to have everyone say three things about themselves, two of which are true and the third is false. Those gathered have to guess which is the false one.

The upshot is that people learn conversation-worthy things about each other, and suddenly the room is abuzz with shared interests and backgrounds that otherwise might never have surfaced.


It strikes me, however, that many noncollectors see Civil War collectors as one-dimensional, single-minded fanatics. They might expect the two truths and one lie to be:

1. I collect Civil War artifacts.

2. I really like Civil War stuff.

3. I am the heir to the throne of Moldavia.

. Not exactly a toughie to pick out the lie unless the collector is a bit delusional and tends to prance around wearing a tiara and an ermine cape.

But the fact is that Civil War collectors are far more multifaceted than the general population might think. For instance, Bill Gurley, who played an integral role in this issue's front-cover article about Trans-Mississippi bullets might list, "I invented Omnibalm Skin Relief Cream" as one of his three things. Those who said, "False!" would be wrong.

I'd known Bill for nearly a quarter century before the conversation veered outside of the Civil War realm, and I discovered that he is the pharmaceutical wizard behind the Omnibalm line. (An unsolicited testimonial: Omnibalm is the bomb.)

In the same vein, Bill's collecting cohort Meigs Brainard, author of this issue's cover article, might say, "I'm an accomplished musician" and "I can render an entire roomful of people helplessly rolling on the floor with laughter." His third entry would have to be the lie, because those two are true. (If you ever get the chance, get him to tell you the chili story.)

The Picket Post's Tim Garrett is another musician in our ranks---he's a popular singer, guitarist, and songwriter in the central Virginia area, and you can find some of his compositions at reverbnation.com/timgarrett. You can also catch his act every Thursday night at Tru Luv's Modern American Bistro in Fredericksburg.

In fact, creativity looms large in this field, for I know other Civil War collectors and dealers who are carvers, painters, poets, and glass blowers.

We've also got climbers, divers, and race car drivers. There are pilots and priests, foot soldiers and brigadier generals, dog breeders, Golden Gloves boxers, interior decorators, politicians, podiatrists, professors, and undercover narcotics agents.

In short: Scratch the surface of a Civil War collector and you'll find a great deal more.

With that in mind, I asked some of the article authors in this issue to send along a list of two truths and one lie. The answer key to which of the three is the lie appears at bottom.

The first to respond was artillery specialist Pete George, who sent along this:

1. I'm related to Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon.

2. I have walked in a place where I'm 100% certain no

human being had ever set foot before me.

3. I was a psychological counselor at a Crisis Intervention Center.

Stan Smullen's three lively entries were these:

1. I worked in the pit crew for the Corvette racing team at

the Daytona 24-hour race.

2. I did time in a Turkish army prison for assaulting a policeman.

3. I crewed on a 39' sailboat crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.

Gordon Dammann chimed in with:

1. I am an Antietam Battlefield Guide.

2. I love to read Nora Roberts novels.

3. I coached football and officiated high school and NCAA football.

The publisher stepped in with these entries:

1. I was invited to play onstage with jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

2. I drove 600 miles to a Civil War show and found out I was a week early.

3. I was asked to work as a courier for Mossad.


1. I skied the Matterhorn.

2. I'm related to Elvis.

3. I have a published novel under a pseudonym.

The remarkable aspect of these listings isn't that one in three is a lie. It's that the other two are true. They serve as irrefutable proof that collectors are a diverse, multi-talented group who cannot be pigeonholed as mere collectors and are not defined by their collections.

They're also defined by the other wacky stuff you didn't even know about them.

Here are the lies. Pete: 1. Pete is not (as far as he knows) related to Gen. Gordon. Stan: 3. The boat was 39' but only went from Bermuda to Newport, Rhode Island. Yes, the Turkish jail story is true. Gordon: 2. His wife is the Roberts readers. Steve: 2. He didn't, but we know a dealer who did. Mine: 3. My novel made it out of the slush pile at a major New York publishing house but did not achieve print. Thank goodness, for it was total schlock.

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