“Now you can shoot the big gun.” Tex* stated this like it was something exciting to be celebrated rather than an activity that was liable to kill the both of us and any unsuspecting passersby to boot.
That same weekend I had shot the antique .22 long rifle with little success. In Tex’s words “I think the grass around the cans waved in fear a bit.” Once again Tex set up tin cans along a bench near the woods. And once again I readied myself to die. However unlike the last time, I knew that we wouldn’t be firing guns at the same time randomly into the air, like hillbillies celebrating the gunpowder Fourth of July as I had initially pictured. According to Tex that kind of behavior is “unsafe”, he may have given me an incredulous questioning look as if to say “Don’t you know anything about firearms and safety?”
(In case you missed my post about my first experience with guns and cowboy training please click on the following link to read Firearms, Surfboards and Closed-Eyed Terror Part 1.)
I didn’t obviously. Even without the threat of it raining bullets like a deadly version of the song “It’s Raining Men”, I was still nervous about firing the big gun. For one thing, I had watched Tex fire the big .30-30 Winchester. The explosion was enormous, standing fifteen some odd feet away from him and the Winchester, it was as though I could almost watch the sound waves moving towards me before they knocked me backwards. I couldn’t imagine standing next to that gun while it was being fired let alone receiving the kickback associated with pulling the trigger.
Beforehand while we gathered the necessary materials to shoot guns in the basement of the farmhouse, I nervously asked Tex “How much kickback does the big gun have?” This happened shortly after Tex and I had first met, so even though Tex was willing to let a gun wollop me, when push came to scared questioning shove, he wasn’t willing to actually use enough force to emulate what the gun would do. After I took an athletic stance, Tex pushed my shoulder back quickly and hard, I took a step to catch myself, but the experience was manageable.
As my shaking hands held the giant, heavy firearm, Tex once again reiterated the instructions. “Now you put the butt of the gun here, in this soft spot” He then demonstrated on his own shoulder. “I don’t have a soft spot there” I said, feeling around my bony shoulder for a padded section for the gun to kick. “Yes you do” said Tex authoritatively, before he reached over to feel my muscle-less, fat-less shoulder. “Oh, well if you had muscle or something, that would cushion the blow, after that, you pull the lever forward, then back, and now you’re ready to take aim and fire.”
To reassure myself, as I steadied the gun to fire, I thought of Tex pushing me in the basement. “It wasn’t so bad.” I repeated softly as I pulled the trigger. The sound was louder than anything I’d heard in my life, through ear plugs and safety muffs my ears rang. But the pain in my ear drums was nothing compared to the impact of the gun firing. Once when I was surfing, I got pulled out into the big waves far from the beach. A particularly giant set of waves flung me off of my surfboard, the next wave crashed the board down on my head which had just broken the surface after being pummeled and pulled under the water. I saw stars and lost a part of a tooth from the force of my head hitting my jaw. Shooting the .30-30 Winchester was exactly like that; my teeth clacked together and I felt dizzy from the impact and the noise.
I immediately put down the terrifying metal boomstick. “I’m done” I said. Satisfied Tex wrapped his arm around me “You done good Unwashed” he said without irony despite the fact that I hadn’t even made the air around the grass that was around the cans whistle.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who list “shooting guns” among their favourite hobbies.