If one were to visit South Dakota, he would have to see Mt. Rushmore. A trip to Wyoming means a visit to Yellowstone National Park. It’s just natural to relate certain places with an impressive sight.
So it was among outdoors persons when thinking of Washington County and Southwestern Pennsylvania. I must admit, among reminders of our homefront, football would take center stage. After all, what area of equal size can claim the equivalence of Joe Montana, George Blanda, Dan Marino, Joe Namath Jim Kelly and Jonny Unitas? All of them great quarterbacks from Southwestern Pennsylvania.
It’s been some time now, and the store isn’t there anymore, but there was a time when George was young that a Bentleyville sports store was well-known a long way from here. More commonly known as Buck Trews, hunters and target shooters gathered at the Bentleyville store like Gnus at a watering hole. I would hate to estimate how many groundhogs were shot at the store or how far away they were. Yes, those were the good old days, and if one just listened he or she could learn the ABCs of shooting and hunting.
I was there when a young fellow approached Buck, who was lounging in that famous chair made of Elk antlers. The red-haired youngster asked the old man a simple question and received a brief but friendly answer. The fellow had asked Mr. Trew, “I am going to buy my first true big-game rifle and have whittled the choice down to either a 243 or a 270. Which one would you recommend?” Buck smiled and replied, “The 243 is a good round for children. There aren’t many rounds better than the 270.” If by now you haven’t realized, I was that red-haired young man. I have followed Buck’s advice and haven’t regretted it one bit.
It would be hard to talk about the Bentleyville sports shop without mentioning the two brothers, Jack and Barry. Southwestern Pennsylvania is and was a hotbed of great shooters. But the best of them was Barry Trew. Barry had the good fortune to have a father that owned a sports store and a friend who was a great tutor. Bob Moore of Claysville saw a bright future for Barry in the shooting world and spent many an hour coaching the young man. Barry ended up an All-American in shooting and was the first to shoot a perfect 300 in 3 matches in a row. He later shot for the army team and was invited to the Olympic trials. His son today carries the torch for the Trew name and is a top shooter for the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Shooting Team.
How can one forget the gunsmith who lurked downstairs? I spent many an hour downstairs, where Dick Mellon had his gunsmith shop. At the time, I felt privileged because I was one of the few who Dick would tolerate in his work room. For years when anyone said the word gunsmith a picture of Dick appeared in my mind. Over the many years that I have known him we have agreed and disagreed, but isn’t that the way things are supposed to be?
One day, while we were discussing the existence or non-existence of brush rifles, Dick spoke up. The best brush rifle of all is the .220 Swift. Maybe he had gone berserk, but after a pause he said when carrying the Swift the shooter will be careful and miss the brush. He made his point. When discussing magnums, he often said they are hard on the stock, hard on the barrel, hard on the action and hard on the shoulder – another truth from the dean of Washington gunsmiths. Much of this is written from the memory of S. Richard Mellon.
P.S. I cannot, to this day, drive through Bentleyville without glancing to the side expecting to see Buck Trews.