Ten years and counting
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Ten years have passed
• Rocky start
• I’ve got a secret
• Firearms enter the mix
• I am not an expert
• Meadowlark Lemon
• Friends past and present
• And then I got sick
Ten years have passed
Today is special because it marks the end of the first 10 years of this blog! We began on March 2, 2005, with a report titled Hunt with the Sheridan Blue Streak air rifle. A lot has happened since then.
In the beginning I was “advised” by some internet “experts” that web logs (blogs) are supposed to be very short pieces. Make them too long and they bore the readers. I tried to write just 500 words per report, but it didn’t work out. I couldn’t get enough thoughts into only 500 words, so I forgot what the experts said and just wrote until I was done. Before long, I realized that to do a decent test I would need to serialize my reports, and that is where parts 1, 2 and 3 came from.
At first we didn’t have many people commenting on the reports, but that changed in about 6 months. We started getting as many as 100 comments per report, and there have been a few reports that have topped 400 comments! Look at some of the other shooting sports forums and blogs and you will find that even 25 comments is considered a lot.
I’ve got a secret
In the beginning, I didn’t want anyone to know who I was. When I wrote The Airgun Letter monthly newsletter, I put a lot of peoples’ noses out of joint because I was telling my readers the truth about airguns instead of the party line. Some people didn’t like that.
We had a forum in those days — the Airgun Forum. It was so active that it was one of the hottest spots on the internet, other than the porn sites. We regularly got 1,500 comments in a single day! The ISP that hosted us didn’t even charge us for all the extra bandwidth we used (we couldn’t have afforded it), because they used our website to demonstrate their capability to prospective large clients.
When we shut down The Airgun Letter and the Airgun Forum (the former because I became the editor of Airgun Illustrated, a newsstand magazine, and the latter because the amount of constant attacks/hacks that often wiped out all comments), we did it suddenly and without warning. That was my decision. I didn’t want to listen to endless discussions of how we could salvage things and carry on. But the way I did it, made us more enemies.
I am the one who shut things down. Edith wanted to explain everything to our readers and go out gradually, but in the end she accepted my decision and we just shut it down. James Kitching then contacted us to purchase the rights to the Airgun Forum, and we told him we didn’t want to sell. But we didn’t mind if he copied our overall look and our yellow background with black print that is the easiest combination to read. From that, the Yellow Forum was born.
All of this activity hurt my reputation, so when Pyramyd Air asked me to write a daily blog, I agreed only if my real name was not used. I wanted to be able to just talk about airguns without any personalities getting in the way. Edith thought up the name B.B. Pelletier, which everyone thought was clever. It would be several years before I learned I had taken the last name of the first man to be executed by the guillotine!
Though I’d started writing the way I do with The Airgun Letter, I refined my writing style as this blog grew. I remember not thinking much about it and suddenly one day several years ago we found that we had over 10,000 registered user accounts. Today the number is over 60,000.
Firearms enter the mix
I had an idea that I tried, and it worked. I would write about shooting firearms from time to time, for a change of pace but also to illustrate some things in a different way. That started pulling in firearms shooters who found the blog fascinating once they got here. Kevin Lentz came to us that way, I believe. And so have hundreds (if not thousands) of other readers.
Some folks thought that our “anything goes” policy of not staying on topic in the comments was risky or simply too disorganized. More than one reader has said, “I’m outta here!” because of that policy. And some of those who left changed their handles later and came back, after discovering that this formula works. Sure, it gets boring when 2 or 3 readers dominate the comments, talking about non-airgun things. I get bored, too. But that’s what a scroll bar is for. We’re not the Thought Police.
I am not an expert
I’ve said this many times and still people don’t believe me. I’m not an expert on airguns. I do know a lot of things, and some of the things I know are wrong. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll see that I am getting smarter through this blog. I try to make my mistakes publicly, so everyone knows what doesn’t work. And, I’ll poke fun at myself as I do.
If I had the experience of an Elmer Keith or a Harvey Donaldson behind me, I would know it and I’d shut up about this; but the fact is that I ain’t them. I’m not even close. As far as I know, nobody else is, either — at least not in the world of airguns. I watched an episode of Pawn Stars where they made a big deal about a Giffard CO2 pistol coming into the pawn shop. There were so many errors in that segment that I talked the entire time it was on. Then, yesterday, I saw another episode where a guy brought in a Daisy Buck Jones BB gun. More errors! So, as little as I do know about airguns, it’s lightyears ahead of the so-called expert advising Pawn Stars.
The same thing happens when I talk to various industry representatives. I end up telling them the history of their own companies; because, to them, where they work is just a job; where to me, this stuff really matters. What I’m saying is that, while I am no expert, I know a lot more than most people, and compared to some of them I look like an expert!
I have long admired the former Harlem Globetrotters center Meadowlark Lemon. They call him “The Clown Prince of Basketball.” I remember when I was younger, watching the Globetrotters play and Meadowlark handling the ball — keeping it away from all 5 members of the opposing team while keeping up a loud patter that was uniquely his. I know it’s staged, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of one man doing what he does best — keeping the whole show moving. I always wanted to be like Meadowlark, except not as a basketball player.
This blog allows me to realize that dream. If I can keep you excited about airguns while learning something at the same time, that’s me handling the ball like Meadowlark! I know it’s a poor comparison, but I really do think this way.
Friends past and present
Over the past 10 years I have seen many readers come and go. I believe Kevin, Volvo, Slinging Lead, Fred from the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of New Jersey and RidgeRunner have been here the longest. But I still remember Turtle from Puerto Rico, Milan (from Bosnia?), Herb (who still drops in), Wacky Wayne (who went from knowing nothing about field target to being a major competitor), Big Bore Addict, Mr. B., Rickyb…and the list goes on and on.
And then I got sick
In 2010, I was very sick and spent 2.5 months in the hospital. I had 8 operations while in there and 3 after I was released. I was fed intraveniously for 3.5 months. Through it all, the folks at Pyramyd Air stuck by me and asked what they could do to help. They never pressured me about the blog.
My wife, Edith, wrote the blog for a long time when I was unable to. And you readers gave me encouragement and several nice gifts when I came home. Recovery took over a year and I’m still unable to do some of the things I used to, but you guys stuck with me through it all.
If you get something from reading this blog — great. That’s what I want. But I think I’m the biggest beneficiary. I learn stuff from you guys and use it later in my writing like I knew it all along. You’ve made me a wise man through association.
Today, we step off into the future. Who knows what will come? One thing is for certain, though — for 10 years and counting, I’ve had the best job in the whole world!