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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Side of Jeff Cooper

I had heard of Jeff Cooper and read his column in Guns N Ammo, but had never met him. However, towards the end of his life I got a truly unique experience. As he aged, he lost strength and his doctor suggested he attend physical therapy. It just so happened that he walked into my wife’s clinic and they struck up a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. You see, Jeff (many people call him Mr. Cooper or Colonel, but our relationship was different…) was anything but a soft man—opinionated and hard-assed would be understatements. Luckily, my wife is a bit of a hard-ass, too, especially when it comes to her patients. She knows what’s best for them and has a knack for figuring out how to motivate them. For Jeff, she had him do “rifle presses” instead of “chest presses” and allowed him to bring his rifle into the clinic to do them!

Once he endured her exercises, I got a chance to sit down and talk with him. Of course we talked about guns, but we also talked about his adventures, his life, and my life. He was just as interested in the things I had done. At one point our conversation turned to World War II. It turns out that while Jeff was on the ground as a Marine, my grandfather was in the air above him. The simple fact that my grandpa was a decorated fighter pilot made Jeff think more highly of me. I have a written account of my grandpa’s firefights, along with the video from the trigger-activated cameras on his Hellcat. I shared both with Jeff. He was so moved by them that his last two columns included references to my grandpa.

So here’s the other side of Jeff Cooper from my point of view: sure he was opinionated, and sure he should be revered for how he has influenced every person who handles a firearm today, but he was also a deeply thoughtful and caring man who recognized the best in people. He didn’t pull any punches and told you how he saw things. I received my first paycheck as a writer and even though it was small, I showed it to Jeff. He took one look at it and said, “Well, I guess you’re a writer.” If Jeff Cooper says so, that’s good enough for me!