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Gun Shop Story: “What barrel length?”

A good story followed by rambling thoughts:

As I have time, I make regular rounds of local gun shops as do most all firearms aficionados. It usually doesn’t take much of an excuse to head out on these rounds but most recently the reason for shopping was to pick up some ammunition in .44 Remington Magnum.

I was looking in particular for jacketed hollow points, not semi-jacketed or half-jacketed but full-jacket hollow points, preferably between 200 and 240 grains.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to explain to my salesman why I desired such particular construction due to his quick questioning in an attempt to ‘define the needs of the customer’.   By way of explanation, I offer the following recount of the conversation:

Sales: “Hi! Looking for anything today?”

Me: “Hi. Yes. I’m looking for .44 Magnum ammo…”

Sales: “What barrel length?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Sales: “What barrel length is the gun you will use it in?”

Me: “Twenty inches.”

Sales: [Momentary Vapor Lock :grin:] “Sorry?”

Me: “Twenty inches.  It’s for my lever action.”

Sales: “Oh, O.K.”

I went on to explain that I wanted full-jacketed hollow points because they wouldn’t deform as easily in the magazine tube when stacked nose-to-end.  Then, both of us being on the same page, we were able to locate some suitable ammo for me to purchase.  Fiocchi 200gr JHP’s to be exact.

When I asked why the barrel length mattered to him, he told of some new ammo from Speer they had received designed especially for short barrel lightweight revolvers.  Looking at it, the bullet profile seemed normal but the hollow point cavity was so deep that it looked like it was almost drilled through the base of the bullet.  He said this was to reduce weight and therefore recoil while also giving reliable expansion at velocities expected from short barreled revolvers.

Here’s the data from Speer:

Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection – 44 Magnum

Part Number Cartridge Bullet Wt. Bullet Type Box Count Bullet Coefficient
23971 44 Magnum 200 GDHP-SB 20 0.145
Velocity(in feet per second) Energy (in foot pounds)
Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards
1075 994 933 513 439 387
Trajectory if sighted at 25 yards Test Barrel Length in inches Usage
25 yards 50 yards 75 yards 100 yards
0.0 -1.1 -4.5 -10.2 4V 1
Usage Key: 1 = Personal Protection | 2 = Training | 3 = Hunting

By comparison, and roughly equivalent to the .44 SB Gold Dot load, is Speer’s .45 ACP +P [200 gr @ 1080 ft/sec; 518 ft/lbs].

Speer also catalogs a .44 Special load (200 gr@ 875 ft/sec; 340 ft/lbs) and a .44 Magnum hunting load (210 gr @ 1450 ft/sec; 980 ft/lbs)

My thoughts, so far, on the short barrel ammo are:

  1. The Gold Dot line has a well earned reputation for performance and the Short Barrel ammunition line will assuredly continue to uphold that reputation should it be called to defend against predators.
  2. Buying a lightweight  magnum short barrel revolver involves some compromise.  Obviously, increased recoil impulse in trade for ease of carry.
  3. Buying a lightweight magnum short barrel revolver involves diminishing returns with regard of performance if you have to reduce the potency of its chambered cartridge in order to shoot it comfortably (or in this case, less painfully).  Does a hot .45 ACP really equal a .44 Magnum?  Although, I can’t fault Speer in the least.  By producing the SB line, they are facilitating actual utility for those who purchased the Ultra-Light Magnum Snubbies only to find out “Ye canna break the laws o’ physics!”
  4. My rifle weighs more than any handgun but also has ten times the barrel length of a 2″ snubbie. (But then again I don’t wear it on my belt…)
  5. Clint Smith is right when he says “Guns should be more comforting than comfortable.”
  6. On my next outing, I think I’ll have to get some  Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P!

Slow blogging…

This week, I have been clearing brush (trees, blackberry, wisteria, and other belligerent vegetation)  in preparation for building a fence.

I’ll play ‘catch up’ here in a little bit.

Wayback machine: Taking API 250 at Cooper’s Gunsite

Stumbling across the interweb, I came across this piece written in 1992 by Barry Needham about his first visit to Gunsite to take the API 250 General Pistol course.  This was at the time when “The Guru”, Lt.Col. Jeff Cooper, was at the helm.

It’s a good read with some great personal insight towards what the experience of studying under Cooper was like.  You’ll also learn the definition of “Tricyclephobia”.

Massad Ayoob: The Mirror Image Match

Massad  Ayoob posted a piece on shooting a complete IDPA match (along with several of his buddies) using the non-dominant hand.  Maybe next time when they do it they could also have an even number of stages with half the courses of fire and target placements be a mirror image to the other half.  That way they could notice some of the (unintentional) ‘bias’ of stage design too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Southpaw; thus, speaking as a member of the minority of next-evolutionary-step hominids: Good for Mr. Ayoob.  I know Mr. Ayoob’s purpose for his ‘mirror match’ was done for ‘tactical’ reasons (imprinting skills, overcoming the injury of the dominant hand, etc.) but as the only thing made for the ‘Sinistre’ are toll booths, I say, “Welcome to my world.”

Not to say that I disagree with the premise, I’ve shot complete matches right-handed before.  Actually, I did it for about three or four months, (unsupported even – Cowboys call it ‘Duelist’ style) about 10 years ago following the injury of my left hand.  While it was braced and healing, I continued to shoot matches  just about every weekend with lots of dry fire practice during the weekdays. I remember how odd it felt at first, but also how quickly I adapted to shooting with my right hand.  Then it felt odd that felt so natural.  The Man Upstairs did a fine job of designing the human body.  Not only do we have an amazing ability to heal but an outstanding ability to adapt.

In the years since then I’ve tried to make a habit of training ‘to both sides’.  I didn’t retain the ‘natural feel’ when shooting right handed but doing so now doesn’t feel unfamiliar either.  I partially accredit this to being left handed to start.  Being forced to adapt on a daily basis to a right handed world may have given me an advantage in this regard.  That’s the way I choose to interpret the experience anyway.  I’d like to say I have an advantage in something for having to deal with single sided safeties, can openers, scissors, cork screws, books, pie servers, ice cream scoops, and nearly ever other darn tool I’ve ever had to use.

SkyNet Update: Matrix + Terminator = Robot Feeds on Corpses

No joke.

EATR bot scavenger will feast on the dead

EATR bot scavenger will feast on the dead

The picture above isn’t quite accurate.  Take a look at this other diagram of the EATR:

EATR schematic - note the hopper and the...

EATR schematic - note the hopper and the...

The feature I’d like you to notice is the chainsaw.  How else would it be able to dismember bodies to bite size pieces able to be fed into the hopper?  Just take a moment to visualize this little critter in action.

Fox News has the Story:

Robotic Technology Inc.’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that’s right, “EATR” — “can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable,” reads the company’s Web site.

That “biomass” and “other organically-based energy sources” wouldn’t necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they’d be plentiful in a war zone.

First off, whose dead are we talking about here? I was under the impression that we recover our fallen soldiers whenever possible and intern them on US soil.  We certainly don’t leave them where they fall for RoboChow.

Second, do we really need ‘biomass’ fueled bots?  Wall-E was solar powered and he kept plugging along for two thousand years!  Although, what a different movie it would have been had he been powered by the CPT Waste Heat Engine used by the EATR…  [Come on kids, the movie is about to start!  Wait, this isn’t Wall-E, it’s Hungr-E!  Aaugh!!!!!!!]

In The Matrix, robots used people for power because the sun was blocked out by the upper atmospheric dust cloud of a nuclear holocaust (intended to STOP the machines!).   Thanks to the developers of EATR, we now know why they chose humans as a power supply.  Thanks guys!!

New Project: Wild Bunch Holster

I have an idea in my head for a Wild Bunch Holster.

For y’all not into Cowboy Action Shooting, a Wild Bunch match (or side match) is where 1911’s are used in SASS competition instead of single action revolvers.  These matches came about due to the movie ‘The Wild Bunch‘ by Sam Peckinpah being a favorite amongst the founders of the Single Action Shooting Society.  They favored it enough to call the SASS Board of Directors ‘The Wild Bunch’. In fact they often refer to it as one of the Hollywood Westerns that the game was founded on and it’s also the reason that Winchester Model 1897 shotguns are allowed as a main match shotgun.

I always thought that was a bit odd as the movie isn’t really a western.  It’s a good movie and I like it but when I think of a defining film for the Hollywood Western genre, Silverado really captures it all.   [No offense to Tombstone, it’s a spectacular western, but is necessarily darker in tone and we’re talking something to base a game on here.]

Anywho, after the Bianchi Holster Mutilation piece, it felt good to haul out the leather working gear and make something.  That’s what got me thinking about other projects, which led to the WB holster idea.  Not so much because I need one but because I don’t have one.

The SASS regulations for WB holsters are:

  • Holsters and magazine pouches must be of traditional or military design and made from traditional materials, (e,g, canvas or leather).
  • The holster must cover the entire length of the barrel and completely cover ejection port. No open front speed holsters allowed.
  • If a holster has a flaps or strap they need not be closed during competition.
  • No metal or plastic “competition” type equipment allowed.
  • No shoulder or cross-draw holsters may be used during competition.
  • Magazine pouches must be worn on the opposite side of the body from the handgun.
  • Magazine pouches must be worn vertical.
  • Magazine pouches can hold either 1 or 2 magazines.
  • At least 2 inches of the magazine must be covered by the magazine pouch.
  • All other SASS regulations pertaining to these items apply.

Rather than military pattern, my vision is for a classic western holster with not too much drop, pattern stamping in saddle tan and maybe with a concho.  I’ll make a sketch or two and see what comes of it.

Must Read: “I Still Hate You, Sarah Palin”

Please read and forward to your friends and congressmen this article from the Nat’l Review Online by David Kahane.  Here’s an excerpt:

Yes, my friends, it’s once again time to quote Sean Connery’s famous speech from The Untouchables, written by David Mamet — the lecture the veteran Chicago cop gives a wet-behind-the-ears Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner, back when he was a movie star) while they sit in a church pew. “You want to get Capone? Here’s how you get him: he pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!” If you just think of us — liberal Democrats — as Capone you’ll begin to understand what we’re up to. And we just put one of yours in the morgue.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but maybe now you’re beginning to understand the high-stakes game we’re playing here. This ain’t John McCain’s logrolling senatorial club any more. This is a deadly serious attempt to realize the vision of the 1960s and to fundamentally transform the United States of America. This is the fusion of Communist dogma, high ideals, gangster tactics, and a stunning amount of self-loathing. For the first time in history, the patrician class is deliberately selling its own country down the river just to prove a point: that, yes, we can! This country stinks and we won’t be happy until we’ve forced you to admit it.

In other words, stop thinking of the Democratic Party as merely a political party, because it’s much more than that. We’re not just the party of slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition. Not just the party of Aaron Burr, Boss Tweed, Richard J. Croker, Bull Connor, Chris Dodd, Richard Daley, Bill Ayers, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and Emperor Barack Hussein Obama II. Not just the party of Kendall “Agent 202” Myers, the State Department official recruited as a Cuban spy along with his wife during the Carter administration. Rather, think of the Democratic Party as what it really is: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party.

Well said.  Be sure to read it all.

RFID: Little Brother enables Identity Theft

via Drudge:

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he’d bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car.

It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker’s gold.

Zipping past Fisherman’s Wharf, his scanner downloaded to his laptop the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians’ electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he’d “skimmed” four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet.

“Little Brother,” some are already calling it – even though elements of the global surveillance web they warn against exist only on drawing boards, neither available nor approved for use.

Putting a traceable RFID in every pocket has the potential to make everybody a blip on someone’s radar screen, critics say, and to redefine Orwellian government snooping for the digital age.


But with advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won’t be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California.

ID theft combined with total loss of privacy.  Marvelous.  I think most people who saw the movie “Minority Report” have probably forgotten the plot by now but I bet if you asked, they will remember the scene in the shopping mall where retinal scanners recognized everyone walking into a store, announced a personalized greeting and suggested products.  That was pretty profound when the movie came out.  Nowadays it’s much closer to reality.  The movie was set in the ‘mid 21st century’.  It looks like we are ahead of schedule.

Self Defense vs. Self Preservation

Arizona recently came came close to passing a law ending the need for concealed carry permits.  I think most ‘2nd Amendment Absolutists’ would agree that this would be a step towards MORE freedom.  Just the word ‘permit’ is offensive to me.  I adhere to the licensing requirement because I am a law abiding citizen but resent it.  Having a supposed higher authority (govt.) decide whether or not to allow me to exercise my right to keep and bear arms inherently reduces that  right to the level of ‘privilege’.  Privileges can be revoked.

Which leads me to an article from azcentral.com interviewing a concealed carry instructor:

Daniel Furbee has made a living for years teaching people how to use guns to save their lives, but says that if an Arizona Legislature bill that allowed individuals to carry a concealed weapon without a permit passed, not only would it have ended his business, it could have ended the lives of some gun carriers.

Or cost them their freedom [emphasis mine], or livelihood, or all of the above.

How bass-ackwards is that? A quick look at OpenCarry.org’s website confirms that Arizona is a Gold Star state where residents and visitors can carry openly without a permit.  Are one group more likely than the other to commit offenses?  No.  Overwhelmingly, the same folks who choose to accept responsibility for their own safety, also accept the mantle of responsible firearm use.  Furbee continues:

“If that bill had passed it would have done it for this business and the others like it,” Furbee said. “People wouldn’t have needed a permit any more . . . and wouldn’t have needed us.”

Exactly.  Government forced patronage of businesses such as his isn’t a ‘need’; it’s a requirement.  A requirement for those who comply with the ‘permit’ process.

There is no reason to suspect that Mr. Furbee isn’t a competent instructor, he does advocate knowing the law, understanding the consequences for defensive use of a firearm (or even displaying it), training to increase competence with the tools of self-defense, etc.  However, in this case I think his concern is based more on his own financial welfare than anything else.

Rest in Peace Joe Bowman

On the return trip home following his performance at the SASS 2009 ‘End of Trail’ Championship, Joe Bowman passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 84.  He was shooting until the very last day.

Joe Bowman - Gentleman Sharpshooter

Joe Bowman - Gentleman Sharpshooter

Funeral services for Mr. Joe Bowman were held Monday the 7th of July, 2009. I was glad to have had the opportunity to attend. Easily over a hundred people were in attendance to honor the life of a truly great man. His wife (Betty), children (Jan Bowman, Mark Bowman II) and his brother (Mark Bowman) were in attendance as were many friends from all walks of life. Members of the cowboy action community were present, many in costume (and wearing only one spur – a signature of Mr. Bowman’s performance outfit), to celebrate the life of a legend. Some long time friends gladly crossed the country to attend, notably including John Bianchi (Bianchi Leather, the Bianchi Cup) and Raj Singh (Eagle Grips). Michael Fifer (President of Ruger Firearms) and James Drury (the Virginian) both spoke eloquently of their respect and friendship for Joseph Lee Bowman, the Straight Shooter.

Dr John Morgan of Sagemont Church (Houston, Texas) led the service.  It was easy to see that Pastor Morgan knew Joe well from years of friendship and he shared a few personal stories of times spent with Mr. Bowman.  Stories like being given a Red Ryder BB Gun with the sights removed – the iconic tool of the Straight Shooter to teach instinctive shooting.  At one point the Pastor dialed Mr. Bowman’s answering machine and played the message over the speaker system for all of us to hear.  I know all present were glad to hear Joe’s familiar voice and charm again, although many shed another tear upon hearing it.

Overall, the service was an honest celebration of the life of a not only a great man, but of a friend.  We miss him dearly but can’t help but feel grateful for having known him.

For those who never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bowman, many will recognize his name as a Western performer specializing in fast draw, fancy gun handling, instinctive shooting and marksmanship. Often he would display his skills with a lariat and bullwhip too. Many folks will remember the slight of hand magic that was a staple of his act; he was never without a deck of cards. For me, the true ‘magic’ was watching his skill with his nickel plated, stag handled Ruger six guns. His Rugers started life as .357 caliber Blackhawks (‘Old Models’ or ‘3 Screws’ as we call them now) rechambered to .45 Colt and had the top straps welded up and re-contoured to Colt-style fixed sights with matching front sight blade. Mr. Bowman’s engraving style is very distinctive and when nickel-plated catches every ray of light, reflecting it back and sparkles like a jewel.  I remember the speed from which they vanished from the holsters, how they glittered in the sun as they spun every which way, twirling and jumping, and most of all how they never missed.

Example of Mr. Bowman's custom work on a Ruger Single-Action

Example of Mr. Bowman's custom work on a Ruger Single-Action

As a spokesman for Ruger firearms and a driving force behind the production of the New Model Vaquero a promotional flyer lists a short bio:

Joe Bowman is a slice of the Old West come to life – a fast drawing, straight shootin’, larger-than-life Texan, who is one of the best men with a gun – anywhere. Joe’s accolades include two nominations for The American Handgunner Outstanding Handgunner Award, A Combat Infantry Badge, four Battle Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Joe carries a special Texas Ranger Badge presented by the Governor of Texas, and he was appointed Ambassador of Goodwill for the state of Texas by four different Governors. Joe has been on longhorn cattle drives and served as a gun coach for movie and TV westerns. Robert Duvall engaged Joe’s shooting and western knowledge for his renowned role as “Gus” in Lonesome Dove.

Joe’s talents extend far beyond shooting. Roy Rogers commissioned him to make two different pairs of his famous “Boots of Roses” with sterling silver and gold trim. Joe has made gun leather for Johnny Mack Brown, Jock Mahoney (a famous actor and stuntman), and Sammy Davis, Jr. In fact, Sammy bought 2 pairs of Joe’s famous customized Ruger single-action revolvers*.

Years ago, Bill Ruger, Sr. asked Joe to star in the highly acclaimed national safety TV announcement for Ruger “old model” single-action revolvers…

*I had the lucky opportunity to hold one of those revolvers belonging to Sammy Davis, Jr. After the passing of Mr. Davis, Mr. Bowman re-acquired one revolver of the pair he had built for Sammy. He had it with him at an event to promote the Ruger New Vaquero and allowed me to inspect it.  The action was slick as glass. According to Mr. Bowman, Sammy Davis, Jr. was quite talented at fast draw and practiced diligently.

(Cell phone cameras aren’t great, but I have the pics)

Sammy Davis, Jr.'s custom Ruger built by Joe Bowman

Sammy Davis, Jr.'s custom Ruger built by Joe Bowman

Sammy Davis Jr.'s custom Ruger built by Joe Bowman (side)

Sammy Davis Jr.'s custom Ruger built by Joe Bowman (side)

I would add that Joe Bowman was your friend, even before you met him. My acquaintance with him began thanks to Cowboy Action Shooting. I had seen him perform a couple of times before we spoke and I knew of his talent. In the mid-90’s at the Plum Creek annual match hosted by the Tejas Pistoleros, I was making some headway as a young shooter. I had noticed him walking the shooting line, visiting with the shooters and watching the goings on. He stopped at the stage I was going to shoot just as I was called to make ready and I remember being nervous that he was watching. He must have noticed something resembling talent in me because after I shot he approached and greeted me. After complimenting me on the stage, he asked me pointedly, “Why do you hold your head like that when you shoot?” To which I replied, “I don’t know. How am I holding my head?” He informed me that I was leaning it far over to left. I thought about it and realized that I was. I am a cross dominant shooter; I have a right dominant eye but am left-handed. Usually, this is actually a blessing. Shooting handguns off the left side and long guns off the right makes for some very fast transitions between the two when on the clock. However, without noticing it I had developed a habit of rolling my head over to the left, bracing my cheek on my shoulder to get a line on the sights. Mr. Bowman told me how not keeping the head level interfered with my ability to track between targets and created problems I had to overcome in able to shoot accurately. His solution was simple: hold my head up straight and move the gun over to line up with the eye. That little piece of advice really helped me fine-tune my shooting ability.

We talked quite a bit more that afternoon and then that evening we shared a table at the awards banquet. I learned a lot that evening from him. For every question I asked, he had a ready and well-reasoned answer. Another thing that I changed as a result of our talk that evening were the grips on my guns. He taught me the need for a repeatable grip with a ‘physical index’ as to where the gun was pointing. To illustrate his point, he took a cola can from the table and explained, “Because this can is round you have to look at it to know where the mouth of it is.” Then he squeezed the can’s sides crushing it to an oblong shape with mouth at one edge. “Now with it thinner on the sides you can tell by feel where it’s pointing. Most pistol grips are too round.” He continued by drawing on a table napkin a teardrop-like shape resembling the outline of deer print. It was the cross section of the grip of his revolvers. They were wider and rounder at the front and tapered back narrowing to the backstrap of the frame. The next day at the range he offered me the chance to handle his personal six guns; he let me try the actions too. They were, of course, slick as glass. I made mental notes on how the grips felt and after returning home from the match I broke out the wood rasp and sand paper and modified the factory grips on my Vaqueros to match. In case you are interested, Eagle Grips markets ‘Gunfighter Grips’ for single action revolvers that were designed by Joe Bowman. Many SASS competitors consider them mandatory equipment.

We crossed paths several times in the years after that and always the gentleman, he asked every time about my family and how my shooting was progressing. Once, another friend recruited me for a one time ‘performance’ at a western themed corporate party. Being an experienced shooter, I was assigned to work the shooting gallery. The ‘gallery’ was a free-standing tent with Dixie cups hanging on strings from the ceiling along the back. In front there were a couple of tables with Red Ryder BB guns that had been modified to shoot corks. My job was to assist the guests operating the guns, periodically gather up the corks, tease the guys and cheer the ladies, and so on.

About the time dinner was called and the guests left, Mr. Bowman came around. I hadn’t realized he was there until then and we greeted each other and chatted for a bit. At one point he asked me how the guests were at shooting. I told him that most had probably never handled a BB gun before let alone a real gun but it was a good opportunity to teach, and that I was enjoying that part. Being a teacher himself, I think he appreciated that. Then I almost took it too far. I got a little cocky and knowing that I was speaking to a master of instinctive shooting I said, “But none of them are doing it right way.” I then snatched a loaded cork gun off the table, levered the action and shooting from the hip, launched a cork at a cup in the back of the tent… and (thankfully) hit it! In my mind, I panicked a bit, thinking I might have over stepped by showing off in front of the master but he just smiled, placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “Yep. That’s the way to do it.”

Beyond being a showman, he was a hero. He was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II. He was a patriot and loved his country dearly. He was a man of sincere Faith, and even though he was a performer he was a man of humility. You could tell at his shows that he was there for you (not the other way around). He was exceedingly generous, giving both his time and gifts to friends and those in need. It is reported that he never turned down a charity benefit. He was also 32nd degree Mason. He was an instructor for the Houston Police and the FBI. He performed worldwide, at times for royalty and other times for our service men, traveling as far as Kuwait to do so. There are many, many more accomplishments, stories and accolades that will be told for years in fond remembrance by those fortunate enough to have crossed trails with Mr. Joseph Lee Bowman. I count myself blessed to be one such person. Those who knew him were better for it.  Rest in peace, Sir.

Joe Bowman on horseback

Joe Bowman on horseback


Joe Bowman’s Website

Must See Video featuring Joe Bowman

Jim Shepherd of The Shooting Wire has a fine feature piece on his friendship with Joe Bowman.  It was posted on July 1st, 2009 but is not yet in the archives.  I will update this post when it becomes available


Houston Chronicle Obituary

Washington Post Obituary

New York Times (made the front page)