Friday, May 12, 2006

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo

Very rarely do I get the opportunity to do any redneck activities, and sometimes think I would down right enjoy a hootin’ and a hollerin’ barn-raisin’, knee-slappin’ Dixie singin’ good time. Yes sirs and y’alls and all that jazz. I would like more of the southern experiences of Burt Reynolds from “Smokey and the Bandit” rather than “Deliverence.” You know what I mean, watch stock car racing while listening to the in-car conversations between the pit crew and the driver while keeping lap-by-lap score, all the while balancing a jug of firewater on one knee and a shotgun resting on the other. Just the kind of things Opie’s dreams are made of. A couple of days ago, I got my chance and I’ll be a possum’s uncle if I didn’t enjoy myself doing it.

Really, I’m making up most of this, as it was much more civilized than how I’m describing it, but in all seriousness, a really fun way to relieve some pent up angst is to get a couple of guns and start blasting away.

Several years ago, wow, it is actually nearer to eight, I’m guessing, my folks bought me a shotgun for Christmas, a black Mauser 12-guage. I removed the stock and forestock and replaced it with pistol grips, fashioned the barrel with a cooler (the kind you’d find on a machine gun) and decked out the breech plate with a shell holder. I must admit, it looks mean, like something you’d find in a tactical assault squad. Anyway, after all of that work (I even wanted to add a trigger-activated flashlight… but really, that was just too much)… after all that work, I never shot it, not even once. Every now and again, I’d pull it out of its scabbard and give it a cleaning. Living in Southern California, a regular person doesn’t get a whole lot of chances to crank off a couple of rounds from a shotgun. At least a law-abiding person doesn’t.

Finally, opportunity struck. This October, I plan to go hunting with my Dad, his oldest brother and two or three of my cousins. I’ve been wanting to go for years, but, you know how it is, every year something comes up. Last year, both Kara and Natalie got really sick, so what kind of heal would I be if I ran out to go tromping around in the forest? Really, I know, a big one. Meanwhile, in California, if you want to go hunting, you don’t just sling a rifle over your shoulder and head out into the bushes to shoot at anything that moves. You’ve got to jump through a few hoops first. The first obstacle is to get a certificate that says you passed a hunter’s safety education course, and since my hunting license and deer tags have to be sent to Sacramento for the lottery by June 1st (too many hunters, not enough space, ergo, they hold a lottery to see who gets the best hunting areas), I had to pass the class before I could get the license, et al. I found the nearest, soonest class available and it happened to be three counties away at a shooting range in the Angeles Forest.

I thought it would be a good opportunity, while I’m there to sign up for the class (you have to sign up in person for some weird reason), I’d ask Dad along to see if we could knock off a few rounds at the range. I mean, after all, it’s a 75 mile drive from my house, Thursday was half off admission…and the two of us were running out of excuses not to. After all, my brother Jason has been itching to go shooting for months, but since he’s a sucker with a regular nine-to-five, he had to take a rain check.

Dad and I had some father/son bonding moments you could find on the cover of Saturday Evening Post, albeit with pistols in our hands, and that Christmas-morning look on our faces of joy. We blew away our fair share of little metal targets… well, at least trying to anyway. I can’t speak for Dad, but I would of had a tough time hitting the ground even if I dropped a bullet, and it isn’t like a 22 makes a sound that attracts a lot of attention. We would have been hard pressed to find a smaller gun at the range (it could take down a charging hamster, I’m sure), especially compared to the small hand cannons blasting holes in the atmosphere a couple of stalls nearby. However, for me, it was the fact that we did it at all more than how big we did it. And I got to spend some time with my dad, doing something I know he enjoyed...and as I'm getting older, I'm finding that to be more and more important to me.

I’m just glad I don’t live in the wild west, as I think I would be one of those apologetic towns folks, the one with the round brown neutral-colored hat, neither black nor white but somewhere inbetween: “Whoopsie! I didn’t mean to kick over the spittoon on your boots. Sorry, my bad. Let me clean that up for you. No, no, no need to stand up and reach for your gun. I’ve got a towel right here. It’s coming off, look.”

The real treat of the day, second of course to the afore mentioned tear-in-the-corner-of-your-eye moment of solitude with my father, something we don’t do often enough, was that I got to shoot my shotgun. It had been years since I’d fired a 12 gauge (or any gun for that matter), and the first shot was quite exciting. I was grinning like a fool when I pulled the trigger. About 200 rounds later, we packed it up and headed out.

Of course, being the sentimentalist that I am, I saved one of the shotgun casings as a fond reminder of the day. Seriously, if you’re stressed out and some tension is building up in your shoulders and back and you think that you might punch the next person you see in the nose, head to a shooting range and unleash.

Ah, guns, is there anything they can’t fix?

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