Month: November 2010

The Honored Dead

So we had an election this week here in the United States which pundits are eagerly shaping into Larger Significances, but I don’t buy it. This is the third election cycle in a row driven by one emotion—throw the bums out—which rather implies to me an electorate driving around, hopelessly lost, but too stubborn to stop and ask for directions. And if you know that taxonomy of that cliché, you know that the choices basically boil down to comedy movie (e.g., the end of the British Empire), horror movie (e.g., the end of the Inca Empire), or comedy-horror movie (e.g., the end of the Roman Empire).

It’s appropriate that, in popular culture right now, the monsters du jour are those favorite allegories of hegemonic dissolution and concomitant alienation, zombies. The lively deceased turn up every time an empire collapses—all those seances and spirit mediums in Edwardian Britain, all those skeletal dances of death and mementi mori in the waning Dutch golden age. It’s so prevalent that I find myself wondering where, exactly, the late Romans hid their cache of zombie stories. (It’s fun to imagine that one of the literary casualties of the dark ages was a Catullan Nox Vivum Cadaverum.)

So that’s where we are—driving blind towards a possible dystopian rendezvous with brain-eaters. Now, based on all the zombie movies I’ve seen, the the one essential accessory you’re going to need is a shotgun. So might I suggest this beauty?

That’s an Ithaca Sousa Grade shotgun, the style based on a prototype made for John Philip Sousa himself in 1917. Sousa Grade guns—the highest-end model the Ithaca Gun Company offered—were available to the public at prices running from 500 to 700 pre-WWII dollars. The hand-engraved scrollwork was incredibly intricate and extensive. The inlays were all gold; in addition to the usual dogs-and-ducks hunting motifs, there was this fanciful addition on the underside of the trigger guard—

—a buxom mermaid, courtesy of Bill McGraw, Ithaca’s master engraver. Custom-ordered and hand-built, only a couple dozen Sousa Grade guns were ever made. As such, they’re expensive—not the most expensive antique shotguns out there, but expensive enough. This particularly lovely single-barreled example—

—was sold by the Maine-based James D. Julia auction house for $22,425 last spring.

Sousa wasn’t just a celebrity endorser, but was an avid trapshooter, the first president of the American Amateur Trapshooting Association (later absorbed into the current ATA), and an inductee into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame. In other words, the March King would have himself been a crack shot against a zombie horde. So if you come face-to-face with his rotting, reanimated corpse, I think he would appreciate the tribute of being dispatched with his own gun. It’s only fair.