DRIVEN correspondent Eric Kater recently accompanied the editor on an excursion to Millbrook, New York, to get equipped for fall.

Read on for his report from the field:

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”

Hemingway’s advice came to mind when my editor rang me up to accompany him on a trip to posh and horsey Millbrook, New York, to check out Safari Outfitters, which sounded like the sort of place Papa would have felt right at home in.

I wasn’t sure I was right for the job, given that I had difficulty seeing myself bagging any animal, whether bird or beast.

Hemingway was, of course, a legendary sportsman, a man who lived and literally died by the gun.

As we sped north on the Taconic State Parkway, appropriately in a new Range Rover, I found myself channeling the great man to get myself in the spirit of the assignment.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we double-checked our NAV system to see if there’d been an error.

There was no sign of the place, and we were sitting in a small strip mall for God’s sake.

We inquired at a dry cleaner and were sent upstairs.

Our disappointment evaporated upon stepping into this opulent sportsman’s mecca, for amidst the zebra skins, leather Chesterfield sofas and hunting paintings, we found an eclectic collection of rifles and shotguns ranging in price from $1,000 all the way up to a jaw-dropping $250,000.

I suddenly felt shorn of manhood thanks to my gun-less existence.

While speaking to the Niles Wheeler, the natty proprietor, I glanced down at a shotgun resting on the counter that struck me as particularly beautiful.

I swear I heard the spirit of Papa Hem whisper in my ear, That’s your gun, boy.”

I knew when picked it up I would not leave the shop without it.

 

A local old-timer had come in and sold it that morning, a 1921 John Wilkes 16 gauge side-by-side shotgun, recently restored in its hometown of London.

It’s proved to be a bang-on purchase.

So this seems like an appropriate time to recall one of Hemingway missives to F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“Everybody loses all the bloom; we’re not peaches. That doesn’t mean you get rotten—a gun is better worn and with bloom off. So is a saddle—People too, by God.”

Amen.

 - EK