However, here in Austin, although the schools reconvene around the first week in January, the weather is rather unpredictable. Sometimes it's cold, sometimes warm; sometimes wet, sometimes dry. Martin Luther King Day, this year, was quite pleasant. Dana and I had looked into taking advantage of the three day weekend, but in most of the states, still left on my list to visit, the weather was going to be below freezing, and as Dana 'doesn't do cold', we made other arrangements. Samantha wanted to take advantage of the 'Ladies day' at the gun range.
A stetson and 'gratis' Lucchese boots, does not a gun slinger make, and whilst I may look the part, there are many, many things that give me away! We queued, along with the other customers, who appeared to be settling in for the day, each hauling an arsenal in large packing cases. Still, I felt comfortable with my .22 pistol in its neat padded case. After all, I am a lady!
I filled out the form; name, address, age, and then Samantha added her details. Checking my weapon, and commenting that he was impressed that the safety catch was on, even though the barrel was empty, the man behind the counter told us to take a pair of safety goggles, and earphones, before entering the shooting chamber. Telling me I was, 'all set to go', before giving me the ammunition, may have been a very intelligent move on his part, as once inside, Samantha and I were unable to dislodge the barrel, in order to load the gun.
Quite certain that all was in order before we entered, and attempting to 'unlock' every catch we could find, we were stumped. 'Go and get the man', Samantha, laughingly, ordered. I gave it one more try. Calling over the assistant and saying, 'Excuse me, my gun's broken!' was not a good choice of phrase, especially followed by, 'it was working okay when I came in!' Being that the shots are extremely loud, and the staff patrolling the inner sanctum wear heavy duty ear protectors, was probably my saving grace. Attempting to show him what I meant with perfectly manicured, long, red nails, probably added to the fact that he thought I was a complete incompetent. Hitting the palm of our hands on our heads, in a 'well duh!' exclamation mime, did not fool our helper, as he slowly 'cocked back the hammer', to release the bullet chamber.
Fully loaded, Samantha took the first shot. Her paper man was in position, and ready to take the punishment that was about to be given. With six bullets giving him a monocle, she emptied the chamber of the empty shells, and handed me the gun, as she swapped out the targets. My paper man was not as compliant, as he 'ran' down to the end of the range. In an attempt to bring him back to a suitable shooting length, he returned to virtually hit my nose. Calling the nice young man again to tell him 'my pulley is broken' was not really an option. Almost smiling, my target stopped about ten yards down, and tilted his left shoulder backwards. Lined up, determined not to be mocked by a piece of paper, I took my first shot. Failing to 'cock the hammer', did not seem to be noticed by anyone, except perhaps my target, who appeared to loosen his shoulder a little more. My shots were erratic, but I made sure my paper man would no longer be able to drink soup!
After emptying the chamber, I cleared the metal top of bullet casings and took them to the recycling bin. The young girl to the left was discussing the attributes of her weapons with another employee of the establishment, whilst the lady to the right was shrieking after each shot she made, making me feel slightly less conspicuous. She left the range long before us, and was replaced by a couple who believed in the right to defend themselves. Unloading a variety of artillery, I wondered how they choose what weapon to use for which occasion. I can just imagine asking Dana; 'Does my gun look big in this?' Both were equally proficient in discharging and reloading, then discharging. I had enough trouble reaching up to unhook my target, who had just received a couple of warning shots just past his ear!
With ninety nine bullets discharged, Samantha played Russian roulette with the last one, before we left the area. My target looked suitably ill, whilst Samantha's was positively dead. I had made sure that our 'station' was tidy, by clearing the empty shells between each round. Someone had been employed to sweep the floor! The couple next to us had enough metal on the ground to make a small plane! We paid for our time, and bullets, and I received a lot of dollar bills in my change. 'What now?', I asked Samantha, as I stuffed the notes into my purse. 'With all those dollar bills, you ladies can go to the male strip bar! Just don't put them all into the same g-string!', was the suggestion of the guy behind the counter! We smiled politely, took my gun in its neat padded pouch, and headed to the car. Next stop; Ikea.
Walking into the Swedish furniture store, and asking for directions to the restroom, to wash off the gunpowder from my beautifully manicured hands, was the alternative choice to the 'ladies club'. Unsuccessful in purchasing anything suitable, as I was, indeed, at aiming, we left for the outlet mall, where I was more successful in my actions. A young boy ran into the corner of the counter in a store (that specifically caters for children) and as the staff appeared to be slightly unaware of 'accident' procedure, the child's mother started to get slightly agitated. With blood pouring from his head, I could do no more than to calm down the mum, and point to Samantha's head and explain that she had the very same injury when she was young. It broke the tension, and fortunately the store manager appeared on the scene, slightly more able than her assistants.
We ended a day with a family dinner at the local buffet, and lots of candy floss, which is their speciality!
I don't suppose I will ever receive awards for best shot. I have hit a bulls eye twice. Once was in a darts match, (which in my mother;s mind was the final nail in the coffin of attempting to make me a lady,) and once in an archery competition; although I lost due to the fact that the arrow was in the target belonging to my neighbour! I will not give up, however, as it is part of the adoption into my adoptive surroundings. I don't plan to imitate Annie Oakley or Martha 'Jane' Canary, and certainly wont ever challenge their respective legends.