Sometimes, you have to take a shot
I keep three empty shotgun shell casings on my desk.
For those who know me, that might seem a little strange, considering the fact that Iím not the first person anyone thinks of when discussing shooting sports.
As one might expect, thereís a story behind those shells.
Every once in a while, I get the chance to try something new. I usually take advantage of those opportunities ó at least if it seems like fun.
A couple of years ago, I got one of those chances when I was invited to join a group of businessmen and government leaders for a day of shooting and barbecue at a remote farm owned by Frank Robinson, the owner of Robinson Construction, a large, nationwide general contracting firm based in Perryville, Mo.
I wasnít sure why I was invited, but after asking Frank about it, he said it was just a friendly get-together.
ďI invited you as a friend, not a reporter,Ē he said. ďCome out and have some fun.Ē
I figured, why not?
It was a chilly Saturday in October, and as I followed the directions I was given to Frankís farm, I was pretty sure I could hear banjos.
After only a couple of wrong turns, I managed to find the entrance to Frankís shooting range, which, as you might expect of a gun enthusiast and construction boss, was nicer than most any Iíd ever seen, complete with an indoor picnic area heated by wood stoves, outdoor pavilions and ranges for both skeet and target shooting.
I didnít expect to do much shooting ó I donít own any firearms ó but I figured it was a chance to get to know some of the movers and shakers in the area, as well as fill up on good barbecue and maybe have a beer or two.
I donít have anything against guns. I like to shoot, but I donít like to go hunting, mainly because hunting usually involves getting up way too early when itís way too cold. In duck season, you can add in the probability of getting cold water in unfortunate places. It just seems like a bit too much trouble.
Weirdly, I love fall camping. Itís a conundrum.
At any rate, owning firearms always seemed like a waste of money since I wouldnít use them that often and taking care of them is a chore I donít want.
Shortly after I arrived, another friend of mine, school administrator turned state legislator Rick Francis, found me and asked, ďDo you shoot?Ē
I told him yes, but at that point, it had been about 20 years since Iíd shot at a bird and Iíd never been skeet shooting in my life.
He then asked if I wanted to be on a team.
ďNobody wants me on their team,Ē I replied, relating just how long it had been since Iíd been hunting, and how long since Iíd pulled a trigger.
ďWell, come on anyway. Itíll be fun.Ē
Thatís how I got drafted to fill out a five-man team in an impromptu shooting skills competition.
Rick loaned me a shotgun, handed me a box of shells and pointed out my team, standing ready at the starting point for the eight-station, competition skeet course.
I feel like I would be remiss if I didnít point out that I didnít get a practice round. I stepped to the line barely familiar with the loaner shotgun Iíd been handed, and mere seconds later, took my first shot at a clay pigeon.
I didnít hit that one, but I got the next. Smoked it. Obliterated it. My accuracy varied after that, but I still did better than I expected.
Each member of the team burned through a whole box of shells before we got to the end of the eight-station course. I kept the ones from the clay pigeons I hit.
I still have them, displayed on my desk as a reminder of a fun day in the woods.
Frank found me later and explained the secret of the course to me.
ďIf you aim at the center, all you have to worry about is the timing,Ē he said.
Handy advice, even if it came a bit too late.
In the end, I had a great time, but I still wish Iíd gotten a practice round. If I had, Iím sure I could have doubled my score.
A ď6Ē would have looked so much better on the board.