Range Day

“You should go to the range this week.”

These are words that will always get my attention. When they come from Action Girl, they can almost bring tears to my eyes. This is how I know she loves me.

Things are finally getting warmer here in Maine and the snow banks are slowly creeping back into the woods. All this makes me itch to get my rifles back out after a long winter’s hibernation and spend some quality time making loud noises and punching holes in pieces of paper. Hey… the paper had it coming.

The problem that I’ve encountered lately is defining the time that I should get to go and play. Since I’ve left the Monday through Friday, nine to five world and put most of my energy into caring for the kids and working on the house, it’s been really hard to set aside time to go and do the things that I love. Don’t get me wrong. I love being with my three year old and one year old every day. It’s something that is invaluable and immeasurable and I am unbelievably lucky to have the opportunity. It’s just… sometimes Dad needs some downtime… or rather, Dadtime.

Going off to play does make me feel a little guilty on some level though.

It makes me think of a public service announcement that ran on TV when I was a kid. The ad showed a father going away on yet another golf trip as he left his wife and kids alone and sad looking in the dooryard, one child asking him why he wouldn’t stay. The message was something like, “Did you ever think of having fun with your family instead of being selfish? Dick!” (I’m assuming here that his name was Richard)

I know that I’m hardly in the “absentee dad” category and that I do indeed, get to go have some fun sometimes but it does run through my mind when I’m going off to enjoy myself by myself. Just a few more years of this and maybe I’ll have a little companion who will want to come with me.

Target shooting, one of my very, VERY favorite things to do, has become exceedingly difficult to get around to for several reasons. The first thing that makes it tricky is the fact that I live on an island, and though blasting away with .22’s at the dump might have been perfectly fine a generation ago, those days are most defiantly gone for good. I need to get to the mainland if I’m going to justify owning firearms, and that takes time.

There is no such thing as a “quick trip” to town.

luggage

Pack up your bag, walk to the dock, get on board, find a seat and wait. Dock, disembark, walk to the parking garage, find the car, toss everything in and NOW… you’re ready to start. It takes a long time just to get rolling and if you forgot something back home, say… your car keys, you get to use some very colorful language and toss all your plans out the metaphorical window.

When I worked on the mainland every day, I could decide to go shooting during lunch and simply bring a rifle along with me in the morning. Now if I want to go, it’s a special trip and I have to set aside a big block of time and these days, those are few and far between.

So, with taking care of the kids and desperately trying to get a few things done on the house, I just don’t get to go shooting much. That, and the small fact that winter in Maine will make just about anybody think twice about sitting at an out door bench for an hour while you try to feed frozen ammunition into your frozen rifle with your frozen fingers. Some how, frostbite always seems to suck the fun out of any occasion.

This morning, with the help of Action Girl handling the kid wrangling and the lovely spring weather if not full of the scent of tulips and daffodils, at least holding off the rain, I headed out with a bounce in my step. I’d done the right thing and called several friends to see if they wanted to come along, but being the middle of the week, all replied that they just couldn’t make it. I enjoy taking others out to shoot but this was just fine. Time alone at the shooting bench is a wonderful thing.

As I steamed into town working on the first of my two coffee thermoses, I chatted with a few friends and enjoyed the notion that I would have the whole morning off. A rare and blessed thing. The obligatory stop at the local doughnut shop to pick up provisions and I was ready to start the morning right.

The drive there is an easy one and if not exactly beautiful and pastoral, it is at least quick. By the time the first chocolate glazed was reduced to crumbs on my shirt and lap, I was pulling in and switching off the car. It was still early and all the ranges were silent, but not for long if I had anything to say about it.

I’ve been here many times before, alone and with friends, but it’s always more relaxed when I’m there on my own. No one to wait for when setting up targets. No botching a shot because you flinched when the person on the next bench fired just a half second before you. No worrying if you’re going to bean the guy to your right with a hot and freshly emptied shell casing when you pop the breach open with the enthusiasm that comes over you after a perfect shot. None of that for me today!

The last and best thing about shooting alone is music. I don’t know who invented the “ear bud,” but to them, I shall always be thankful. In addition to looking slick, cool and coiling up in your pocket, the little buggers also nestle beautifully under a set of ear protection, thus saving your hearing from the sudden concussion of rifle fire so you can crush it under the din of your favorite music.

music-protection

It was a Motown morning for me as Dianna Ross and Supremes joined me for a while during target practice.

After an hour and a half, I stood seventy-five yards away from a well holed paper target and just to the left of a sizable pile of empty brass. It was a great morning. Just as I was picking up, our range safety officer happened by to check on things. He’s a nice old gentleman and I’ve been privileged to chat with him on a few occasions. After our initial greeting his eye fell to the bench as his eyebrows arched. “So, what do we have here this morning?” I pulled the bolt open and handing it to him.

“It’s my Grandfather’s Mauser K98k. His brother brought it back from Europe for him and he had it sported into a deer rifle. I don’t usually care for sported combat rifles but this is a top notch job and obviously, it’s got the family history going for it. It’s actually my favorite rifle to shoot. I can’t wait until my kids can come with me to do this.”

He looked on approvingly as I cleaned it in preparation for its ride back home and we talked about shooting. He told me about how he used to go with his son when he was younger and how much fun it was. “He doesn’t like shooting any more though. It’s too bad. I have quite a collection to pass on but no one to pass it on to.”

“Oh…” I groped for a way to ask without being prying. What would cause that? He solved the problem for me and volunteered the answer.

“He joined the Navy and that was fine. He still liked to shoot and we had a lot of fun when he was home, but then he joined the Navy Seals and well… lost his taste for shooting after that.”

I can only imagine what might have happened to cause that change and to be honest, I’d rather not imagine too hard. I’ve never been in the situation where I had to shoot at another human being and I hope to God, I never will. I have the same hope and prayer for my children. I looked down at my rifle and thought about the young German soldier to whom it must have been issued. I wonder what happened to him? I wonder whom he shot at or if he ever even had the chance. Whatever his story, it was lost to time. The rifle was mine now and I was in charge of its use.

As I drove back to my island home and awaiting family, I thought about how enjoyable it was to have some time to practice a hobby that I enjoyed so much and then about my range-friend with his futureless collection. I truly do enjoy the sport but what he told me was sobering.

One of my Grandfathers taught me how to shoot and the other has supplied me with my two favorite guns to take out. I hope that someday I’ll get to take both my children out to enjoy days like this with me but if they don’t, I’ll hang on to my collection for as long as I can. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get the chance, years from now to sit down with a cup of coffee, my Grandfather’s .22 and my own grandchildren. I’ll explain how their Great-Great Grandfather got it for Christmas when he was just eight, and then I’ll show them how to use it. When they’re strong enough, I’ll get out the Mauser too.

Firearms are nothing to be taken lightly and I treat them with the respect they deserve, just like I was taught to. I feel that it’s an important lesson to pass along. Short Stack and Lulu Belle may not want to have anything to do with them, I know, but they will understand how to handle them. I hope they will at least humor their Dad at times and go with him to the range for a sunny morning of shooting.

It’s warm and bright this morning. The wind is barely perceptible and I still haven’t had breakfast. It’s just right for heading back to shoot some more. Not today though. It’s time to work; shooting can come later. Anyway, waiting for it makes it all the more special when I do go.

Maybe next week…

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Computers, Classical Music and “Tough Guys”.

I swear I’ll try not to let this chapter deteriorate into a rant… But it’s going to be hard. The reason it’s hard is because it’s partially about a place I once worked at where I did my best to do my job and got “right sized” for my trouble. I say partially because to illustrate my point, I will be specifically be referring to an idiot who works there. To set the stage for this particular scene, here are the two main characters. First there was me. The second was the idiot VP who I’m sure, thinks he is the hottest shite out there.

First something about me..I like to think of my self as fairly normal in most ways. There is one major difference between me and most of male-dom that puts me on the out side of the main group though. Sports. More than not caring one whit about them, I actively avoid them. They bug the hell out of me. I like watching kids play a game, but when it’s adults (no matter how intellectually stunted they may be) get paid actual money to play with a ball… well that just sets off my bull crap alarm. The last bit that turns me off completely to organized sports is that the players have no connection to their team. If the Boston Red Sox actually came from Boston (or even New England), I might get interested in their games, but they’re not. There from where ever and the second they can make more money playing for the Denver Squirrels or Kalamazoo Kangaroos or what ever, that’s where they’ll go and the fans there will cheer for them like they’re home town boys. Which they’re not. So I’m not even slightly interested in men playing with their balls, and to top it off, I’m an artist, a computer junky, a classical music listener and fairly soft spoken. I’m not a 98 pound weakling. In fact I’m about six foot and 175. I’m not bulky in terms of musculature, but I stay active and like to do things like rock climb and mountain bike. I do not however, exude “athlete” or wear AXE body spray.

The Office Idiot was one of those people who immediately irritated me. Loud, pushy, arrogant, loved to point out faults in others in the office, and sucked up to the boss like a remora on a sharks hooha. He’s a HUGE football fanatic and talks about it constantly. He obviously spends a lot of time at the gym and likes to pretend that he’s Scarface and quotes him often. This is made all the more irritating by the fact that ethnically, he’s about as far away from that as you can get while I’m a healthy chunk Sicilian. He also sports a wicked combover that is just begging for a good breeze and apparently bought all of Bill Cosbys’s sweaters from his “Cosby show” years, and wears them often. 1986 would be proud.

So, I avoided him the best I could. The office was open concept so this was trickier than it sounds, but I tried my best. One day, things were apparently on the slow side for him, either that or he was working hard at not working much. Both have the same probability. He was dealing with the “stress” of nothing better to do by putting a golf ball around the office. What I mean by this is that, in an open concept office with no cubes or offices, he was hitting a golf ball with a putter, around under and sometimes through everyone else’s work space while they, the underlings, were actually trying to do work. Great for moral. The ball came my way and since I was actually being productive at the time, didn’t notice the ball until it bounced off my foot. I tried not to roll my eyes, which took immense effort. As The Office Idiot walked over to retrieve his ball. After regarding me for a second with arched eyebrow, he snapped, “You play golf?”. I replied that, no, I didn’t. It wasn’t really for me. He paused and folded his arms, I assume to make him self look important. Unfortunately for him, his Bill Cosby sweater rather undermined the attempt. “You play

    any

sports?” he barked with incredulity. This is the part where I should have said “no”, but my back got up instead. Having to deal with him on a daily basis was bad enough but to have him question me like this was just… Grrrrr.

I don’t usually bring up guns as a topic, let alone at work. It makes people jumpy, which is unfortunate since they’re so dang fun to shoot. In this case though, I made an exception. “Well, yes. I do actually. I compete in high powered rifle marksmanship.” This stopped him. I love shooting and though I don’t compete in shoots professionally, I do like to try my hand at matches from time to time. Mostly it gives me an excuse to go to the range and talk with other gun collectors.

“I’ve got a set of clubs in my car” he added. I’m not sure what this was supposed to mean. I guess he was inferring that his sport was easier to carry with you. “I’ve got a high powered rifle in my car.” I helpfully added. This was true. I had visited the range that morning before work and in my trunk was my well loved 1916, BSA Lee-Enfield. On top of being a wonderful piece of history, possibly having been used in the trenches of France by a fresh faced Tommy, it also fires a .303 sized bullet that, with the shell case, makes an imposing looking round and a heck of a hole where ever it hits.

303ammo.jpg
Picture via world.guns.ru

There was another uncomfortable pause from the Office Idiot. With out another word, he turned around and walked away. Not a great move on my part but, my God, it felt good to shut him up. I had not made any kind of threat or intimidating statement of any kind, but I had ended the pissing contest in one fell swoop. After all his bluster, all the time at the gym and all the crap he gave everyone around him, it boiled down to the fact that he was the one tapping a little white ball with a stick while I was shooting targets at 300 meters with a battle rifle. Normally, I wouldn’t try to out “macho” anyone, but I must confess that it was a heck of a lot of fun to do, just this once. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ammo to make. There’s a match coming up next month and I have some practicing to get in.

Epilogue: About six months later I was down sized along with about half the office. I doubt that this incident had anything t do with it, but it probably didn’t help my case either. All in all, not being there anymore is a blessing. I’m much happier away from tools like the Office Idiot.

pr0n or prawn?

“So what’s going on with the little shrimp with the fez?” you ask your self. OK, you might not have asked or cared, but I’ll put it here anyway. The picture came from a post I made on a firearms collector forum. One thing that you will get to hear about from time to time is my love of old battle rifles and oddly enough this is where the pr0n comes in.

There are these wonderful rifles that are about a century old and came out of Turkey. Actually, the older ones came from Germany and then went to Turkey for military service. They are Mauser rifles. They are fairly inexpensive. They mostly look like they were used to pound in fence posts in their later lives and… they are a heck of a lot of fun to collect and shoot. They are easily the ugly duckling of the Mauser rifle world but they are affordable and tons of fun.

Well, a friend started a thread on the forum titles “Turkish pr0n”, after all those wonderful email inducements to see skanky people degrading themselves in from of webcams. They changed the spelling of “porn” to “pr0n” to get by the email filters. Now it’s a cliche and most folk’s email programs can spot “pr0n” for “porn” a mile away. In the post, my friend had put a bunch of pictures of Turkish Mausers to show to the other collectors (known in collecting circle as gun porn, since you can’t have any of the pictured guns. It’s just to get gun collectors like me excited). Some of these collectors are older gents and not, shall we say, web savvy. Thus, a few had no idea what pr0n was and asked. A long discussion with many entertaining posts ensued. A picture was made by me. It was the Turkish pr0n. The avatar is now seen popping up here and there and I for one, like it. So, here it is. Enjoy it. I’ll no doubt change it at some point.

Man, I wanna go play today! Perfect range day.
turkprawn.jpg

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