So a lot of people keep asking me the following question: Is Old Man McGumbus, the guy who gets arrested on Shelter Island every week, is 104 years old and a World War II veteran a real person?
The answer is yes, he is real.
Now one thing you have to understand about McGumbus is that he isn’t ALWAYS arrested, but he frequently gets the attention of Shelter Island authorities every week, which is why I write about him so much.
I first met Old Man McGumbus when I was 16 years old, working as a swimming instructor for The Shelter Island Sailing and Hunting Club in 1996. Back then, McGumbus was in charge of the advanced weapons clinic that the club runs there, and was teaching kids how to fire various types of guns, including semi-automatic and automatic machine guns. He was also in charge of putting on the Fourth of July fireworks display that the club holds.
As a former World War II vet, Old Man McGumbus was a flamethrower operator, and when I first met him, we talked for a long time about his passion for flamethrowers. You’d be amazed to sit with this guy and discuss the history behind the flamethrower, and its various uses during war. I remember him saying, “By far, shooting flames from what is basically a giant water cannon was a great way to not just terrify the enemy, but to also destroy them. It’s also an incredibly satisfying weapon.”
One thing about this guy that I remember the most was how much respect he commanded when he walked into a room. Even the richest member of the Shelter Island Sailing and Hunting Club spoke to Old Man McGumbus with utmost respect.
During my final summer as a swim instructor there, Old Man McGumbus was celebrating his 100th birthday, and I attended a party held for him under a white tent. There were a lot of people there, including politicians and councilmen, and I remember there being a gift pile for Old Man McGumbus. It was kind of wild to see so many guns wrapped with red bows around them. There were AK-47s, M-16s, rocket launchers and there were also at least 100 bottles of Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon, which is his favorite drink. I remember that evening him firing several grenades down the beach into a pile of propane gas tanks that caused a lot of fantastic explosions that night. Unfortunately, things got a little out of hand and he got a little drunk and got into a huge fight with a member of the club who is a high level executive for BMW. Personally, I thought it was kind of funny at the time.
Also that evening he announced that he was retiring from his job as head weapons instructor and was forming a new magazine called, Grenade Launcher, Bullets and Machine Gun Magazine, which is a joint venture between himself and a few private investors. The magazine is still very much in existence today and I recently read that they are planning on expanding to Europe and Asia.
Old Man McGumbus is a character, that’s for sure. When we worked together he once asked me if I’d be willing to quickly run to his house in order to get his leather helmet and lucky flying goggles that he needed because he was planning on taking his authentic P-51 Mustang for a spin around the island. I agreed and when I walked into his house, I was amazed by how incredible it is. First off, I was greeted by an absolutely stunningly beautiful Brazilian housecleaner, who he apparently hires five days a week to clean his home. He lives in an old colonial styled house on three acres of land and inside of his house, I found pictures of him standing with various presidents. The Congressional Medal of Honor was worn around the neck of his black lab named Bullet, and there were two life sized-statues of Chuck Norris and Rambo in his back yard. I remember also laughing a little bit at a few pictures of him when he was in his early 90s, competing in one of the first Ultimate Fighting Champion fights ever held inside an arena in Mexico. He apparently beat a 240-pound Russian guy named Meesha Kiev by choking him out.