BARRANTI LEATHER Co.
SINCE 1986

New Years Nightmare, or Jug Johnson goes to DC

By Doc Barranti



My good friend Tank Hoover wrote a story of my visit to the nations capitol, and the events of New Years day at his home in Poolesville. While entertaining, it was far from the whole story. I’m not exactly calling Tank a liar (which I wouldn’t do to his face or otherwise) but it’s all a matter of perspective! So, I feel it is my duty to set the record straight, as well as get a few things off my chest!

Our trip began early on News Years eve, as we loaded the truck for the four hour journey. Once loaded, the four of us; Michelle, Ethan, Frankie and myself hopped onto the PA Turnpike and headed east. I have to say that four hours is just about on the edge of Michelle’s tolerance for driving. Baby is a wonderful woman, fantastic mother, great cook and best friend, but her maximum driving distance is six hours; any further, and she would rather fly. Knowing I’d be pushing the limit, especially if we hit traffic, I snuck in an extra decade on the Rosary that morning for luck.

Frankie, the youngest, is a lot like his mother, and grows restless on long trips, but I am doing my best to get him used to driving so he can accompany me on future trips out west. He can actually spend the better part of a day out in the woods hunting with me, so he is getting better. Frankie brought along some games and music to keep himself entertained, and he made the drive without issue.

My 14 year old son Ethan is a veteran traveler. In fact, Tank has traveled with Ethan and knows the sort of traveling companion he is! Last summer, Tank, Glenn Swaggart, Ethan and myself drove all the way to Raton, NM; a 24 hour trip from Pittsburgh…Ethan slept for all but about 5 hours total! I knew the short trip to DC would be a piece of cake for him and, true to form, he slept for more than half the drive!

The drive was uneventful, except when the GPS wanted me to turn right when the man in me knew I should just keep going straight. My mother always used to say “All roads lead to Rome”, and fortunately in this case, she was right! Thanks Mom! We arrived at our destination, unloaded our gear, and then ventured out on foot to take in some sites. To be honest, I’d much rather be horseback in the mountains than walking around some big city, but DC lit up and still decorated for Christmas is pretty darn cool. After walking for what seemed like 20 miles, we headed back to the hotel for the night.

New Years Day found us doing some more sightseeing in the morning, and after that we prepared for our trip to visit Tank Hoover, his wife Camille, and daughter Samantha. This is where my story and Tank’s go askew…

The drive along River Rd was a pleasant one. When we were about 30 minutes away from Tank’s, my cell phone rang. It was Tank. “Doc! How far are ya?” I gave him the arrival time according to my GPS. “Great!” said Tank. “Would you mind stopping at the grocery store? We need just a few things for dinner!” “Sure," I said, "What do you need? Milk? Bread?” “Nah,” came his reply, “but can you pick up a half dozen New York Strips and some shrimp? Nothin’s too good for my pard!” I laughed and told him he was pretty funny, but he assured me he was being serious. “Say Doc! You like chocolate cake?!” Now, many of you here on the forum have seen cakes baked by Tank’s daughter Samantha. She is quite the baker, and being a bit of a sweet tooth, I just imagined one of Samantha’s masterpieces of culinary confection! I immediately replied in the affirmative, that chocolate cake would be fantastic! “Good,” said Tank, “how’s about picking up one of those too?!”

I ended the call just as we arrived at the grocery store, and after a quick pitstop for supplies, we finished the drive to the Hoover Hacienda. Tank, Camille, Samantha, Ruger and Cooper greeted us all at the door, and Tank helped carry in the groceries. I grabbed a box which I brought along with a few things for Tank, and after introductions, Tank and I headed to the gun room. I opened the box and produced one of my No.5-DA holsters which I built for his new 4” S&W 29, and a holster in progress that is a gift from Glenn Swaggart and myself to Tank. He couldn’t stop grinning as he turned the leather over and over in the baseball mitts that he calls hands. “Thanks, Doc! These are great!” I told him it wasn’t a big deal and that Glenn and I had been planning this for a while. I excused myself to use the facilities, and told Tank he should unpack the rest of the box because the leather tools I brought for him were in it. As I returned to the room, I saw Tank unwrapping something that I had forgotten was in the box; the 6.5” Flattop 44 magnum that I got from Dick Thompson! One of my prized sixguns which I had forgotten I had tucked away in the box to show Tank. I mumbled something under my breath and Tank looked at me with big eyes. “Just like Dobe Grant and Skeeter in that story! The bag of jerky and the old Colt SAA!” Tears were forming in Tanks eyes. I was speechless! All I could do was force a smile as I thought to myself; all I said was ‘you jerk, I’m just showing it to you,’ not ‘I didn’t have any jerky for you!’

At that point, Tank started violently shaking my hand saying this was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for him. My mind raced in horror as the scene unfolded before me. As much as I can’t stand to see a grown man cry, I worried more about how he would handle the embarrassment if I told him that I really didn’t mean the old sixgun as a gift. Tank set his new prized possession on the table and started looking around his gunroom for something. Digging under a stack of oily rags and old newspaper, Tank produced two dust covered holsters. “Been saving these for you” he said with pride as he handed me the old shucks. The first was an old Bucheimer that had seen better days. This shuck was cut for a 7.5” Colt New Frontier, and though rough, was still serviceable, and would be a nice addition to my leather collection. The second holster was a classic floral carved Lawrence Challenger model for a 4” N frame. This holster was the ‘economy line’ of the Lawrence company, and was only offered in either plain or floral carved. Despite the dust, I could see the shuck was still in fine shape for it’s age and would make a fine field rig for one of my S&Ws. I thanked Tank for the holsters but I don’t think he heard me as he spun the cylinder and dry fired the old Flattop which just 10 minutes before had been mine.

We headed back upstairs and joined the women in the kitchen. “Would you like a drink, Mike” asked Camille? She pointed at the counter giving me the choice of beer, wine or an unopened bottle of some fine single malt Scotch whiskey. I grabbed the Scotch. Tank pulled on a beer as I poured myself a Scotch on the rocks. With a shakey hand, I raised my hand towards Tank and we toasted Charlie Smith, the father of our good friend Chuck Smith, who had passed away a few days before. The glass emptied quickly and I reached for another. “Easy there, Doc! We still need to cook the steaks!” said Tank. “I was thinking that maybe you should cook the steaks since you can do it so much better than me” he added as he twisted the top off another beer. As skillfully as a woman, he had Tom Sawyered me into doing the grilling…I topped off my Scotch.

Dinner consisted of steak, shrimp, asparagus, salad and a Dutch oven full of Sixshot Spuds, and everyone ate their fill. We sat for the next few hours into the evening chatting and laughing, but my mind kept replaying the earlier episode over and over, like a recurring nightmare. What could I have done to change the outcome? Could I have just told him the truth without hurting his feelings? Should I have just spoken up and not worried about what he thought? I had no answers other than what was done was done. The Flattop now resided with my good partner, Tank Hoover. Fitting, because he holds the previous owner in the same regard as I do, making this a very special sixgun indeed.

Later that night, we said our goodbyes. Camille and Samantha were wonderful hostesses, and we can’t say enough good things about them. I shook Tank’s big mitt again before I climbed into the truck. “Damn, Doc…I don’t know what to say!” I was thinking, “Me either, Tank…me either!”, but I said “don’t give it a second thought!” I had to swallow hard after the words left my mouth. As we drove back to the hotel, Michelle said what a good time she had. She turned and looked at me and saw the tear that had formed in the corner of my eye. “What’s the matter? Miss you friend already??” I forced a smile and said “Baby, you have NO idea!”