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Number Number 1,125, September 12, 2021

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Remembering Neil
by Carl Bussjaeger

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

I wrote a very brief post on the passing of L.Neil Smith, but I wasn’t too sure about doing a full-blown eulogy. I figured the rest of the world would handle that, and there are plenty of people who knew him better than I did. But last week’s TLE finally prompted me to do a little remembering. The quotes are approximations; some of these memories are decades old.

The first time I met Neil in person, he—as I came to learn was characteristic of him—went to a back room to retrieve guns he wanted to show off. Naturally, I had to reply in kind. I brought out…

“Good god, what is that?”

Semi-inspired by Neil’s novel Pallas, I’d bought an LAR Grizzly in .45 Win Mag when I had the chance. But that was the first time Neil had seen one with a two inch compensator.

On another visit, I found Neil perusing shotgun catalogs. “Don’t you have enough shotguns?”

“Boys are noticing Rylla. I need the perfect coach gun to be cleaning when the boys come to see her.”

I think that was the same visit when Neil gave me something that may be unique: a signed copy of the first draft of The American Zone. On 3.5" floppy. I still have it. After reading it, I hesitantly offered a critique, and some suggested… improvements. I mean, who was I to tell L. Neil Smith how to write?

When the hardback was published, I rushed to buy it. I’m sure everyone is quite aware of Neil’s habit of inserting not-so-thinly-veiled real people into his novels, so I was thrilled to see I’d made it into the final version. Sorta.

“Neil; Bussjaeger .04 Hypersonic? I’m generally associated with larger bores.”

“I know,” he smirked. I just had to show him that compensated Grizzly. On the other hand, I guesstimated the muzzle energy of a .04 steel projectile at hypersonic velocity and was rather impressed.

And it was purple. If he really wanted tweak someone, he should have made the Hunter & Jordan .500 purple.

On what turned out to be my last meatspace meeting with Neil, we had a minor disagreement. He and Cathy took me to a restaurant, and Neil insisted on paying for my meal. I wasn’t—at the time—broke, and thought I should pay my own way. Neil would have none of that. We settled it by agreeing that next time, I could pay for their dinners.

There was no next time. Somehow I never even made it back to the right side of the Mississippi, much less to Fort Collins. Which I regret, for much more than just the unpaid debt.


Carl “Bear” Bussjaeger is a Firearm policy and law analyst at The Zelman Partisans.

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