Night target practice and I commit my first gun crime

PART 2 (best if read after PART 1 – see previous blog)

…back to the story about my first (and probably last) handgun…

I wrapped the revolver in a towel and I stashed it in the trunk of my Plymouth, and it stayed there for several weeks. I forgot about it. Then one day I told my friend Lenny about the gun.

“How’s it shoot?” he asked me.

“Couldn’t say,” I said. “I haven’t shot it yet.”

“Whatddaya mean you haven’t shot it.” Lenny was astounded. We were having a few beers in a local tap, and it was late. He insisted that we go out to my car and get the gun and fire off a few rounds in the parking lot. Fearing the worst (alcohol and firearms), I put Lenny off, but I told him that we could go do a few target rounds the next day before I went to work. Lenny said he knew the perfect place to shoot.

The next day I picked up a box of Remington High Standard Long Rifle cartridges and a packet of cardboard targets from the Coast to Coast store in town before heading out to meet Lenny. I had to be at work at 10 PM and had arranged to meet up with him about 8…yeah, it was dark.

Okay, target shooting is not usually recommended after dark, but we knew what we were doing – sort of.

We drove to a remote spot that Lenny knew about. It was four or five miles off of the highway, down a twisting gravel road. Lenny directed me to a turnoff that I might have easily missed. It led off of the gravel road and up into a cow pasture. Ignoring a ‘No Trespassing’ sign we rumbled over a cattle crossing and then bounced along a dirt path for another half a mile or so.

Finally, Lenny told me to stop and turn off the lights. We got out of the car. There was a half moon, so we had enough light to see. There was a steep embankment rising directly in front of me. It was probably thirty feet high – maybe higher. Fifty yards or so from the embankment and directly in front of the car was a low bench made out of 2 by 4s. There was a burlap bag of sand on the table.

“Where the hell are we?” I asked Lenny.

“Fuckin’ cool, huh,” he said, striding away from me with our cardboard targets in hand.

“What is this place?” I asked as I followed along behind him, “some guy’s private shooting range? Jeez, you want to get us both arrested?”

“You worry too much,” he told me.

Downrange from the 2 by 4 shooting table and near the base of the embankment was a wooden target stand. The stand could be adjusted to accommodate a variety of targets. Ours were fairly small bulls eye targets – not like the elaborate human silhouette targets you see at shooting ranges. Lenny attached a cardboard target to a clip on top of the stand.

I looked around, still worried about the ‘No Trespassing” sign we had so conveniently ignored. We seemed to be alone, the only light came from a mercury vapor yard light from a farmstead a mile or so away. I could see the outline of a darkened farmhouse and barn.

“Hey,” I said to Lenny. “Isn’t that Old Man Hackelman’s place over there?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So, he is one crazy s.o.b. that’s what.”

Everybody in the county knew Earl Hackelman. A card carrying member of the John Birch Society, Hackelman was indeed certifiably nuts. He thought that communists were poised to invade Nebraska and had once done a stint in the state mental institution after sending a threatening letter to a federal judge. In another locally high profile incident, he’d pulled a shotgun on power company workers who dared set foot on his property to repair a downed line. Now we were about to shoot targets on his private shooting range.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. “If Hackelman catches us we’re dead – the guy said he was going to kill a friggin’ judge, what do you think he’ll do to us for trespassing.”

“Forget Hackelman,” said Lenny sounding annoyed. “He’ll never know we’re here – he’s half deaf, and he probably goes to bed at sundown.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s just pop off a few rounds and we’ll leave.”

I relented, and we paced off about twenty five yards back toward the car. I unlocked the trunk and brought out the pistol and loaded it with nine cartridges. When the gun was ready, I flipped on the headlights. The range was now beautifully illuminated.

I took the revolver first, and taking a stance perpendicular to the target (as I had seen shooters do in magazines), held the revolver in my right hand at arms length, and sighted down the barrel at the far away target. Then I squeezed off my first shot. The gun cracked and a smattering of dust flew from the embankment two or three feet to the right of the target. I had missed it completely.

“Pull it left,” said Lenny, obviously an accomplished shooter.

And so I did for the next shot. This time the gun shot high. There was a barely audible ‘zing’ sound as the bullet struck something a bit ‘north’ of the target and a trickle of dirt rained down the embankment a few feet above the cardboard target.

“Crap,” I said. “What’s wrong with this thing.”

“Looks like Harry took you for fifty bucks,” said Lenny laughing.

“Thirty nine,” I said. “I still owe him eleven bucks.”

The banter between Lenny and me might have gone on for some time if it were not interrupted by the far off roar of a fast approaching Dodge Ram Charger,  bucking across the cow pasture, its over-cab mounted, halogen headlights piercing the night. If not for that, Lenny and I might have pissed away half a dozen more rounds  at Earl Hackleman’s gun range. But our time had ran out.

“Jesus,” said Lenny. “It’s Hackelman.”

To be continued.

-Trop

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