Did you know Annie Oakley could cut a playing card in two at thirty paces? In fact, she made special bullets by packing the pellets with sand and beeswax so they'd spread further in the air; better to hit flying targets! I am going to talk about guns, but, please, this is NOT a political thread. In our country, we enjoy a right that many other countries around the world do not, and that is to own a firearm. I grew up without guns in the home, and lived my adolescent years in a community north of Detroit, Michigan, where there was a fair amount of inner city crime. Due to this background, guns have always terrified me. They are used to kill people and have always been associated with crime in my neighboring cities. In fact, just to see one used to send fear through my bones. Uh oh...trouble...someone's going to get hurt, or worse, killed.
The next time I was around guns was in Rawlins, Wyoming working as a ranch hand during "round up" where I had the pleasure of working alongside ten young cowboys (whoo hoo!) and two other women roping and branding calves all day in the hot dusty sun. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life (next to childbirth and bicycling over Alaska's Thompson Pass). Physically demanding stuff. After work, to relax a little, we'd ride out to the middle of nowhere and practice target shooting. Though welcome to join in, I always stood back and watched, afraid to even hold a gun in my hands. It is more than I can handle, it is so powerful, it can kill, how do I know how many bullets are left in the chamber, what if I make a mistake, what if it misfires and explodes in my face? People are always having accidents with guns, killing people without intention. Fear, big time.
Then I got married. To a hunter. There have been guns in our home for over 25 years, locked in a safe. My husband showed me a few things over the years, but I never felt completely comfortable until I took an intense 11 hour course with the National Rifle Association. And let me just say that I have more respect and admiration for this group of volunteers who loved more than anything to dispel fear (I'm always in favor of that) through meticulous, safety oriented instruction in handling and shooting single action, double action and semi-automatic pistols. Lots of book work, handling, cleaning and shooting, followed by a written exam. It was a rigorous course, but also quite enjoyable.
So now I'm a new pistol shooter, and shooting is fun, challenging and takes mental concentration. I like that. But the real reason I signed up for this class after all these years is number one, to obliterate the fear associated with learning how to use this TOOL, and number two, to be able to protect myself in the backcountry where bears pose a real threat. Last fall, my husband and I went on a photo safari in the Brooks Range photographing caribou and musk ox, and it dawned on me, like it has numerous times before that it's just us two, miles away from other people and towns, and should something happen to him, what skills do I have to get us out of danger? I can't tell you how liberating it feels NOT TO BE AFRAID of a firearm anymore. And how confident I feel with new knowledge and skills that I intend to keep in practice.
I'm taking the Bear Class next, challenging another one of my fears. Though I've crossed miles of country on foot and by boat without a gun, with only one bluff charge to date, I don't intend on being chased out of the backcountry because of a little old thing called fear. My medicine is education and that's the least and the best I can do.
I'm looking forward to getting back in the saddle and riding again this spring as well (Bandit, have you missed me?), and thought, hmmmm....I'm going to keep practicing with my new pistol coz Cowgirl Mounted Shooting looks pretty darn entertaining, don't you think? Click to see the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iihCQlPFIMk