Phil Spangenberger finds an old friend dating back to his experiences at a Wild West show in Brazil.
- Written by Phil Spangenberger
- Published May 24, 2011
As the stagecoach gently rumbled through the soft dirt, I cradled my sawed-off scattergun, ready for trouble.
A shot suddenly rang out from behind the coach. “Outlaws!” the driver shouted, as I turned rearward to face the coming riders. A half-dozen bad hombres were rapidly galloping after us, firing their six-guns wildly. I quickly raised the shotgun to my shoulder, took aim at the bunched up riders and fired a 12-gauge blast, tumbling one man out of the saddle.
Sound like something out of a dime novel? Well, just about…except this was a scene acted out several times a day as part of Montie Montana Jr.’s Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World show, performed in, of all places, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
This live-action program was brought south of the equator as the featured performance during America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. Besides performing for the show as a fast and fancy gun twirler (called Don Felipe, el Pistolero Rapido, by the Brazilian gauchos), I also played a number of parts, including leading the U.S. Cavalry to the rescue of a besieged wagon train and riding shotgun guard on the “Deadwood Stage.”
Fast forward to 1999 and the sale of Stembridge Gun Rentals, Hollywood’s then leading firearms rental house. My amigo, Al Frisch of Hollywood Guns & Props, was helping to dismantle the 9,000-plus gun collection. I stopped in from time to time to help identify firearms that I recognized or that I had worked with during gun coaching stints for several different movies. Among the famous firearms I helped Al and his crew identify was the Uberti replica Colt Walker revolver used in John Wayne’s 1969 film True Grit, now permanently housed in the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.
One day, while perusing some longarms, I pulled a well-worn, sawed-off scattergun out of the rack and said to Al, “Here’s an old friend. I used this in a Wild West show in Brazil back in ’76!” Although this 18¼-inch barreled shotgun was not that different from several other shortened sidehammer doubles in Stembridge’s vast arsenal, this one was easy for me to recognize because of the unique silvered metal pistol grip cap that had replaced the original hard rubber one. I had packed this 12 bore daily for more than six weeks during the show’s run in South America . . . a Westerner doesn’t forget an experience like that!
A couple of weeks later, as a token of appreciation for helping Al and the crew locate a number of famous Hollywood movie guns, they “reunited” me with my old scattergun sidekick. Although it is far from being a particularly valuable shotgun, I wouldn’t part with it for the world. Shucks, I rode the Deadwood stagecoach with this old piece of hardware . . . and it helped me win just a little part of the Wild West of legend.