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GUNS Magazine September 2011 Digital Edition - Page 78

• J O h N C O N N O R • hOME, hOME ON ThE RANGE i was on the phone, concluding arrangements to do some prototype rifle testing at yet another range i’d never heard of in a county with ‘way too many consonants in its name, and i just couldn’t help it. i was tired and maybe a little cranky. i had to ask… the question. “So,” I inquired, trying to sound all casual and breezy, “What’s the quirk?” “’Scuse me?” replied the gun club secretary, “Quirk? Whattaya mean?” I’ve shot on a lot of strange ranges in some very peculiar places, and found that virtually all of ‘em have some kinda “quirk.” The quirk is that one little thing that outsiders don’t know about, and it’s been around so long the regulars don’t even think about it anymore—but they know to avoid it. Range quirks are gonna be a fat chapter in the book I pretend to be writing. I’ve suffered enough learning them, so they ought to pay off some day, right? At one, everybody religiously rolls up their car windows—tight—because of the bad-tempered range mascot dog who likes to jump into your truck, shred and eat the seats, chew the door lock stems down to ragged nubbins, then puke into the ripped-open center console. They do it ’cause they know they have to. I didn’t. At another, there’s a 12thgeneration nest of hornets in the overhead at position 12 on the rifle benchrest line. The nest hangs just about 1" lower than the end of a cleaning rod pulled out of a proppedup Remington 700. Others knew. I learned. In the men’s head of another, there’s one toilet nobody uses—nobody but strangers anyway—because it flushes up. I don’t mean it “runs over.” I mean, it erupts like Mount Vesuvius. It ain’t marked. Of course not! “Everybody knows about it.” Yeah, sure. One has vicious mutant rats the size of dachshunds living in the target locker on the right, so everybody except the outsider knows to only open the locker on the left. Now, an “outsider” knows. 78 –sorta. yard line, and shooting has to be shut down until he’s found, medicated, wrapped in a blanket, and carried back. I learned about that quirk, too. He’s heavy. Never, Ever disturb Pepe Just below The Cotton Curtain, the “rangehouse” in this one place looked like a travel-trailer had broken loose from a truck and crashed into the end of a chicken house in about 1952. Somebody then decided to semi-permanently join ’em in unholy wedlock with duct tape, tin sheets and baling wire. At some later point, the result was deemed to be a range office and living quarters for the groundskeeper. It was the kind of thing you want to ask questions about, but get the feeling it could be a sensitive subject. Over an obviously-occupied critterburrow under one side there was a cardboard sign reading, “Do NOT Disterb Pepe!” scrawled in felt marker. I didn’t ask, and I sure didn’t want to disturb Pepe, whoever or whatever I thought they were skinny badgers— or fat weasels. At yet another club, there’s a range tech who wears an aluminum-foil hat to repel mind-control rays from “The Mother Ship.” When he’s not mining spent shot or running the reloader, he wanders around holding angry, profane, highly animated conversations with inanimate objects. I could deal with that, but all the regulars knew you can’t say the words “space,” “cheese,” or “mother” around him, or he bursts into tears, runs screaming out toward the 100- WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER 2011

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