Even at my advanced age, the Squire of the Stately Manor likes to experience new thrills. Sunday, your intrepid blogmeister accompanied the Divine Miss Vicki, rock star of the airwaves, to the Stoughton Conservation Club to experience our first trap shoot.
Well, almost the first. In my case, I had squeezed off three shots during my daylong hunter safety course this August at the North Bristol Sportsman's Club. Because I missed all three chances then, I envisioned abject and shameful failure at Stoughton, hoots of derision from school children, the scorn of red-blooded Americans everywhere, and a lifetime of regret.
I reckoned without our hosts. David Bruce (pictured at left) and Ken Heim would not permit failure, try as I might to achieve it. Before either Miss Vicki or the Squire was allowed to squeeze off a shot, Ken and David walked us through the fundamentals. Place gunstock firmly at shoulder and against your cheek, look down the barrel at the bead but if you can see the rail you're aiming too high, move the shotgun left to right but not up and down, catch the orange disk (called a "bird") at its apex when it is ever-so-momentarily stationary, but lead it slightly before firing.
Ken was one of my hunter safety instructors and David said he'd been shooting trap for 45 years, so we were in good hands.
Darned if I did not destroy, to my immense surprise, the first clay bird that hit the cool blue sky over rural Stoughton. Exploded it, demolished it. A daylight, orange fireworks display. Even these two days later I can feel the surge of adrenaline. Even now I can sense the elation I felt that Sunday morning.
"Pull," he said
Darned if I didn't destroy the next five birds as well. I began working the pump action on my .20-gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster with the authority of a touring pro as I replaced each well spent shell with a fresh load.
It was the first time I had fired this classic gun, having bought it used from noted turkey slayer Charlie Esser. It was a great home garage project to remove Charlie's turkey camouflaging and restore the gun to its original walnut stock and forearm, thanks to many applications of Birchwood-Casey oil. Turns out the Remington 870 had just the right choke to concentrate the shot for best trap-shooting accuracy. Indeed, trap shooting mimics the flight of a game bird flushed from its cover; a shotgun named "Wingmaster" ought to be just the ticket. (Here's one review.)
Vicki got off to a rough start until Dave Bruce discovered that she was using the wrong shotgun load. We switched her from #6 shot to #8 and along with better technique, she was pop, pop, popping the clays with a shotgun she had fired only once prior to Sunday. (Vicki is an expert with handguns.)
We discovered that one did not have to yell "pull." Any loud pronouncement, even the scatological comments frequently made after a miss, caused the voice-activated mechanism to launch another orange disc.
Trap is shot five times each at five stations and I have to admit to poor success at the left and right extremes -- but they're supposed to be more difficult. I did not keep close count but estimate I hit at least two-thirds of my shots. Dave Bruce pronounced that an excellent result for a first timer.
Naturally, the chit chat ran to gun politics and after an exposition from Miss Vicki one of our hosts exclaimed, "It's just like she's on radio!"
After picking up our spent shells we repaired to the clubhouse for coffee, soft drinks, sausage and stories. Only today was I reminded that, perhaps more than once, I did not have my shotgun properly seated against my shoulder -- probably holding it only with my hands. The bruise that resulted from the recoil is pictured below. (It doesn't hurt -- I bruise easily due to medication.)
What is it?
On the spacious and fruitful grounds of the Experimental Work Farm our indentured servants found this fellow emerging from the woodlands, the shape and color of a volleyball, the visual consistency of styrofoam, the size of a basketball. (It's partly covered with leaves.) Would it help you to know that we are now eating it in our spaghetti?
Yes, it is a puffball, a species of mushroom. (Here's a good mushroom website.)
Education instead of incarceration
O.K., a little politics. Has any politician ever gotten a front-page headline more cheaply than Dane County Exec Joe Parisi did in this morning's WI State Journal?
"Parisi tackles racial disparity."
I read the article and I'll be darned in I can tell you how his guilty conscience money is going to change the fact that black people are jailed in Dane County at a rate of six times their percentage of population. That, in itself, does not indicate racial discrimination.
Richard Harris, executive director of Vision Beyond Bars, is right on target when he says,
"In our (black) community, people have lost a sense of shame of having a criminal conviction. ... We're not being responsible with our own kids."
That kind of straight talk will do more than Joe Parisi's feel-good "small ticket items" ever could. (Here's more where that came from.)
Want to change the black paradigm from failure to success, Joe? Come out four-square for Kaleem Caire's Madison Urban Prep!