When you begin shooting or hunting with a muzzleloader, you'll find that the first thing you need is a possibles bag. This bag, along with your powder horn, carries the things you need to shoot the gun. The shooters of the 17th and 18th centuries called it a possibles bag, because it carried everything you might possibly need for the day's outing. The example at the right is a suede bag you can purchase from Butler Creek for about $50.00|
A possibles bag is a highly individual, highly personal piece of equipment. Because the possibles bag is so unique, we have an opportunity to personalize our own, to reflect our individual style and needs. In short, you can make your own!
In 1973, I was shot in a hunting accident. A fellow named L.C. Smith and I were out hunting squirrels with .22 rifles. The wind picked up about 9:30 a.m., and we left the woods. Driving back toward Alexandria, Louisiana, in L.C.'s International pickup truck, I saw a flock of crows dropping into a cornfield. L.C. stopped the truck and I opened the door and stood on the running board, trying to decide if we could get close enough for a shot. Below me was a ditch full of water.
I heard the driver door open, and I felt the springs on the truck relax as L.C. got out. The next thing I felt was a horrible charley-horse in my leg and I was falling into that ditch. I was in water about two feet deep, and I couldn't stand up. The cramp in my leg hurt like hell. I got my head out of the water, and breathed deeply, taking stock of my situation. L.C. came around the truck and I looked at him and said. "Give me a hand, here. I have a cramp in my leg, and I'm about to drown."
L.C. grabbed my outstretched hand. "I think I shot you."
We gently felt the back of my leg, and found a small hole in my pants leg, and a small hole in my real leg. It started hurting like hell! He drove me to the hospital, where we were met by an overworked emergency room nurse, who told us we couldn't park right in the door. I told her that L.C. would move the truck as soon as someone looked at my gunshot leg.
The nurse produced a gurney, and L.C. helped her load me onto it. In the ER, I met a doctor, who asked me if I hurt. "Damn right, it hurts."
He prescribed IV Demerol. Let me tell you something. If it was legal, I would budget a part of every paycheck for Demerol. That is some good stuff. In just a few minutes, I was mellow, intoxicated, and feeling no pain at all.
The doctor said that we should get those pants off so he could see how bad the wound was. I unzipped my pants and started to pull them down. In horror, I noticed a nurse with a pair of scissors, cutting away at the pants leg! Those were brand-new, $5.00 Levis! I hollered that I could take my own pants off! She quit cutting at the knee, but the damage was done. The pants were ruined.
I learned later that the bullet had shattered my femur about two inches above my knee, had plowed on through and was stuck in the muscle in the front of my leg, about an inch above my kneecap. The doctors decided to leave it there, and I carry it today. For years, I could predict the weather by the amount of throbbing in that knee.
I took those pants home with me, and in 1980, I bought my first muzzle loader. I needed a possibles bag, and the new but ruined pair of blue jeans was in a sack somewhere in the closet. I found them and looked carefully at them for use as a shooting bag. Blue jeans have a lot of pockets, close to the top of the pants. I was able to make a small bag, retaining a front pocket, a back pocket, and the watch pocket.
Into the front pocket go the round balls and lubed patches. Into the back pocket goes a wiping rag. Into the watch pocket go the percussion caps. The main pocket of the bag contains ball starter, powder measure, worms, vent picks, extra patches, cleaning jag, cotton cord. From the belt loops you can hang a capper or earplugs, or both.
This bag is easy to make. I recently made a new one out of a pair of jeans that had seen better days. I cut out the pockets I wanted to keep, retaining the top and one inseam of the jeans. Then, with needle and thread, I sewed the bag together, inside out. The retained inseam was pressed into service as a strap. Total time of the project, under one hour. Total cost? Zero. I already had the needle and thread.
Is this bag historically accurate? I'm sure someone, somewhere made one before I did. Levi Strauss and Company has been making jeans since 1873. While the gold rushes and the mountain man period were pretty much over by that time, this bag could be interpreted as an example of a late 19th Century, po-folks hunting bag.
It must be tough being rich, and having to buy your stuff!