(MN) Fond of firearms


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Drizzt
March 9, 2006, 08:00 PM
Fond of firearms

Collector moving on to other interests

Mickey Tibbits
The Free Press
KIESTER —
This small southern Minnesota town lost some of its local charm when Dale Wolfe recently sold the corner gas station.

Wolfe, 78, decided it was time not to retire but to move on to other interests, after suffering three strokes and a heart attack over the years.

The guns and arrowheads are gone that covered every inch of available space in East Side Motors, better know as the Garage of Guns, for the last 58 years.

“The walls were covered all the way around,” Wolfe said. “I hung them up when I got out of the Army.”

More important, locals who participated in the 5 o’clock “happy hour” formerly held at the service station must now visit his garage to share a friendly drink and stories with this interesting character.

If anyone has had a full and interesting life, it is Wolfe. He has numerous hobbies and collections. Starting out with air sleds, he brought the first snowmobile to Faribault County and later sold more than a hundred from his Kiester location.

Wolfe has a collection of buggies and sleds that went along with his horses. He recently sold his last two quarter horses. When his friend, Eugene Jacobson, built a horse-drawn hearse now owned by a Wells funeral home, Wolfe etched the buggy’s glass. He built a white Cinderella wedding carriage and drove it with a high top hat. He recently sold it to a local veterinarian.

In his collection of cars, tractors and machinery that he has restored or built is a replica of a 1900 curved dash Oldsmobile he built with one hand after suffering a severe stroke nine years ago. “It runs 21 mph wide open,” Wolfe proudly added.

He had devised ways to use a drill and other tools with only one hand. “I showed a picture of the car that I was working on to my doctor,” Wolfe said. Shocked his doctor admonished him, asking “You’re not using power tools, are you?” to which Wolfe replied, “Of course not,” with a twinkle in his eye.

An avid hunter, Wolfe mainly uses cross-bows and musket rifles or sometimes just a camera. He has passed on his love of hunting to both his son and daughter. He recently brought home dropped antlers he found in the woods, adding another set to his collection of horns and skulls.

When Wolfe is not hunting, collecting, inventing, building or rebuilding something, then he could be creating stain glass windows. Mostly self-taught through trial and error, Wolfe said, “I never use the same pattern twice.”

Firearms history

A view of his gun collection started with a lesson on what Wolfe termed “the evolution of firearms.”

The first firearms, Wolfe said, were simply hand cannons. Next came matchlocks in the 1400s. Matchlocks, he said, simply had a piece of slow-burning rope that you would light ahead of time and then light the gunpowder.

The wheel lock was the next step in firearms evolution. Invented in the 1500s, the idea of this mechanism is similar to a modern cigarette lighter. When you spin the wheel with your finger, the flint pressed against its surface throws off sparks to ignite the gunpowder to fire the gun.

Pill locks and flintlocks were used in the 1600s. The flintlock uses the “flint and steel” approach. The idea behind flint and steel is straightforward. If you strike iron or steel with flint, it creates a spark which ignites the gunpowder.

Finally in the 1800s, percussion guns were used by the frontiersmen and during the Civil War. They were musket guns. The percussion cap was the key to making reliable revolvers, Wolfe said.

“At one time I had 800 different firearms,” he noted. Now, however, his son and daughter have most of them and the remaining guns are securely stored in an alarmed building.

In addition to examples of matchlocks, wheel locks and flintlocks, his gun collection includes a set of matched dueling pistols, English boarding guns, horse guns, and derringers. He has most of the different types of Colt pistols used in the Civil War.

Wolfe has a derringer similar to the one used to shoot Lincoln. He also had a gun supposedly owned by Jesse James.

Wolfe also has a palm pistol. The Chicago or Minneapolis palm pistols, Wolfe explained were used by gamblers in the late 1800s because the seven-shot rotary action revolver could be concealed in the palm of a hand and operated by a hinged lever.

The Minneapolis palm pistols were made by the Minneapolis Firearms Co. and marked as “The Protector.” Wolfe has another variation of this gun that he calls a “knuckle buster,” which “you could use the other end to hit someone if you missed shooting at them.”

The largest gun in Wolfe’s collection is a .58 caliber matchlock wall gun that is 185 pounds and 8 foot long made in China. The gun was built to defend the Great Wall of China and made to extend out over the parapets of the wall.

There are several small guns in his collection and several novelty items such as a gun disguised as a knife and another hidden in a belt buckle.

Among his favorites is a presentation gun with inlaid silver, gold, ebony, jade and ivory, a miquelet rifle made in Morocco in the 17th Century.

Wolfe is especially proud of his Faribault County rifle, a gold-plated rifle with local scenes carved in the stock and a map of Faribault County. He said it is one of 10 rifles that were custom made.

“I’ve always collected guns,” Wolfe said. “I grew up with firearms. My dad always carried a gun or rifle with him on the farm.” He explained, “In those days we ate whatever we could hunt.”

Wolfe bought many of his guns when he was stationed overseas during World War II and when he served in the Korean War. He also traded guns and fixed guns through the years and is a state firearms instructor.

“I’ve kinda lost interest in my guns,” Wolfe said. Asked what he intended to collect next, Wolfe quickly responded “women.” Laughing, he admitted that this new “hobby” was not going too well. “I’ve had the same sweetheart, my wife Charlotte, for 51 years,” Wolfe said.

http://www.mankatofreepress.com/features/local_story_066005218.html?keyword=topstory

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loadedround
March 9, 2006, 08:29 PM
Read your post twice. What a man!:)

sturmruger
March 10, 2006, 11:43 AM
I know this phrase is overused, but what a Great American!! I bet he is a good Grandpa.

IllHunter
March 10, 2006, 11:53 AM
For a life well lived, so far...

Janitor
March 10, 2006, 12:06 PM
Most excellent.

What a full life he's led (built an Olds with one hand?!?!?!?!) - Great story - great photograph.

And you have to love a small town paper that can write so much about a gun collection in such detail and never once uses any of the words: "evil" "assult" "blood/streets", or even "children". Just a trip down memory lane with an outstanding individual.

If you enjoyed reading about "(MN) Fond of firearms" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!