Firearms, Surfboards and Close Eyed Terror Part 2

“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.

Next Tex will offer to help me set off one of these. "You'll love it Unwashed- cannons are fun." At the very least, I think the kickback would be similar. (Photo Credit: Tex)

Next Tex will offer to help me set off one of these. “You’ll love it Unwashed- cannons are fun.” At the very least, I think the kickback would be similar. (Photo Credit: Tex)

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.

Firearms, Surfboards and Closed Eyed Terror: Part 1

I shot a gun. That’s a sentence designed to strike fear in the hearts of everyone who knows me.  When I was younger, I had grand plans of jetting off to Churchill Manitoba to be a park ranger. My Gran upon hearing this exclaimed “But there are polar bears up there!” To which I replied “It’s ok Gran, they give the park rangers rifles.” Ironically the idea of me holding a firearm was more concerning than my becoming a polar bear’s amuse bouche because my Gran threw up her hands in mock surrender and cried “Oh my god! My crazy grand-daughter has a gun!”

This is the conversation I thought of when Tex*, my hottie, hottie boyfriend, tried to hand me a .22 pump action rifle. My hands shook from fear. I was terrified that I was going to shoot it. I was terrified that it was going to go off accidently. I was terrified of it backfiring. I was terrified of the kick-back. In that moment, I recognized what my Gran had known all those years ago; no one should give me firearms. This fact and my obvious fear didn’t deter Tex, in fact, it made him even more determined to teach me to fire the rifle. For the eighth time that morning, he went over the steps to load the gun.

With a baffling relaxed calm, considering I was convinced that we were both likely to be killed just by my handling the rifle, let alone trying to shoot it, Tex explained the parts of the gun; the magazine holds the bullets, the action moves the bullets into the chamber, the stock was to rest on my shoulder. He also went over basic gun safety; assume it’s loaded especially when it isn’t, point it up and away from people, no touching the gun without hearing and eye protection.

I watched once more as Tex loaded the gun, slid the pump back and forth to chamber a bullet, then fired with an assured confidence that only a cowboy can have, knocking the one of the cans off of the fence that he had set up beforehand as an impromptu target.

The time for stalling was over, it was my turn. The gun was so heavy my hands couldn’t shake; they were too busy trying to hold the rifle up. Carefully I loaded a bullet into the magazine. Tex had put in three at a time, but we had agreed I would only shoot the gun once, so I carefully slipped the ammo in. Then I pulled back the hammer with a heavy sense of doom, utterly shocked that no one had been injured yet. Tex stood next to me, reassuringly repeating the instructions that he covered countless times that morning during my Firearms 101 lesson.

Finally the gun was ready. I was instructed to lift the butt to my shoulder, which would absorb the kick-back. Tex gestured to the sights which I was supposed to use to aim, as though I could hit one of the cans even with my eyes open. However much like when I began ski racing and whizzing around the gates at top speeds frightened me so badly that I would shriek and shut my eyes as I whipped past the blue and red plastic poles, holding the rifle which was trained on the general vicinity of the row of cans, I squeezed my eyes tight and braced my body for both the boom of the shot and the kick of the butt into my shoulder. They remained closed until after I heard and felt the small bag of the gun firing in my hands.

As quickly as I could, I placed the gun back down and stepped away from it, as though it might explode even though it was no longer loaded. “That was great Unwashed” said Tex, hugging me close with tough boyfriendly pride. “Now you can fire the bigger gun!”

*Names have been changed to protect people nutty enough to hand me firearms, no doubt if his identity was leaked, people with butterfly nets might appear to cart him off for trusting me with such dangerous items.