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American Handgunner Sept/Oct 2012 Digital Edition - Page 22

GUNCRANKDIARIES TM eXcUses, ALIBIs, PItHy oBservAtIoNs & GeNerAL ePHUs JoHN coNNor My job description: “Maker of empty brass.” Home, Home On the Range Not so much sometimes . he message from His Illuminated Immenseness RoyBoy was terse as a curse: “Drive 322 miles to [BigUgly] City*. Pick up [XXX] pistol** at FancyPantz Sporting Club & Range***. Shoot, test, group, chrono loads, make copious notes, and ship pistol FedEx next morning, OYT.” “OYT” is his shorthand for “Or You’re Toast.” Thanks, Roy. I’d never been to the FPSC&R before; not my kinda range. The road in was paved n’ striped! Broad paths of machinemade burgundy pea-gravel were flanked by double rows of rocks, the inner row painted white, and the outer row battleship gray — and lacquered! A glass control tower sat atop the main rangehouse, manned by some clean-shaven dude with aviator shades, a headset and microphone, and enormous binoculars. Somewhere close, I thought, there’s a ring-knockin’ Annapolis grad runnin’ this show. Soft muzak, like a chamber orchestra on Quaaludes playin’ the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” wafted from hidden speakers. A mellow baritone cut in with “Brass boy to T Section C-12!” Instantly this ancient dude who looked like Gabby Hayes wearing Walter Brennan’s castoff bib overalls appeared and ran a cordless vacuum “brass sucker” down the spotless shooting line. He had hair like fried steel wool and eyebrows like electrocuted mice. Goggling my battered boots and bristly jaw with his one good eye, he gave me a big 5-toothed grin. “Connor, ain’tcha? Look like yer pitcher in Handgunner. M’name’s Moss.” He vanished through a Hobbit-door, leaving a scent of Hoppe’s Number 9, fried bologna and swamp-butt. I smiled, and then noticed the shooters had wrinkled their noses in distaste. musta been turned up. Sorry, Chauncey, je regrette, Hollings. The shooting counters were smooth as pool tables. Chairs were bright tubular steel with padded seats. There were acoustic baffles overhead, and not a single hole in ’em. Electric target holders glided back and forth over thick, manicured green grass. It was 68 degrees F, blue sky with a polite breeze, and the whole thing put me completely off my game. I couldn’t hit squat nor shoot for beans. It was just so … wrong. Like Another Dimension I ’d never seen so many fresh, vibrantly colored polo shirts outside of a Land’s End window display. Two guys wore “Mitt Romney jeans”; tailored, prefaded, dry cleaned and pressed. The others wore crisp slacks. These guys had hairstyles, not haircuts. They would have names like J. Chauncey Bid- dlesworth IV and Hollings H. Hampton, Senior. Nothin’ against those boys, mind you, but I couldn’t at that instant ever remember having a good time amongst so many un-faded shirts. I dropped my “guest pass,” a forged bronze disc with the club seal on it, into the right front pocket of my bush shorts and it fell through the hole — one of the holes — clangin’ like a manhole cover on the smooth, epoxied concrete deck. I felt eyes on me and envisioned wrinkled patrician noses. Their electronic muffs Rat Canyon Remembrance I missed the Rat Canyon Range; the dancing dust devils tearing away targets and flingin’ ’em like a hurricane hitting a loaded clothesline; the gaping knotholes knocked out of the warped gray planks of the firing line, perfect for stickin’ revolver barrels in to safely park your Roscoe; the overhead so shot fulla holes that when it rained and you were under it, it was raining there too, the only difference being that drizzle was filthy, fulla grit and desiccated bug corpses, so you stood out in the clean rain until the shower passed. I missed the P.A. system, which was just ol’ Rangemaster Robbie’s Navy-trained “Chief Bosun’s voice,” which can rattle your fillings when he lovingly calls out, “Git that muzzle downrange or I’ll shoot ya myself, meathead!” or “Stop shootin’ an’ pull up yer pants, Cooter, I can see yer plumber’s crack from here! Yer gonna catch hot brass in it!” I missed the Rat Canyon range-rats and how they got their range-names****, like “Boot” and “Moon” and “Fiddlesticks”; why there’s a sun-bleached sagging left-foot Tony Lama boot hangin’ from an overhead beam, what’s in it, and why the right one’s interred out beyond the 25-yard line. I felt just awful. Everything was so “right,” it was all wrong. Then a suddenly chill wind whipped my Infidel T-shirt. From the southwest, billows of purple-black clouds with bright-flashing bellies hurtled toward us. Moss materialized at my side, a single-action Army stickin’ outta one pocket and a 1911 butt outta the other. The parking lot emptied in 60 seconds. Last man out was Aviator-shades, who barked “Lock up, Moss!” and jumped in a gray Mercedes. “’Fraid of gittin’ their fancy cars sandblasted,” Moss spat, then smiled. “Wanta do some shootin’? Gonna git fierce quick, but who cares? After, I could fry up some SPAM, heat up some beans, n’ be honored t’ share a whiskey with ya. Got biscuits too.” His bushy eyebrows waggled in the wind, and sand from the un-manicured puckerbrush flats pelted us. We both grinned like monkeys. My assignment got done. Life is good. Connor OUT * *Can’t name the city. If you live there, my condolences. **Can’t name the pistol. You’ll read about it soon. ***Can’t name the club. They threatened to sue. ****Can’t tell ya, no space — maybe next issue. WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER2012 22

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