I was up early, which is my habit, fully prepared to meet Ralph at the designated time of 7:00. However, there was one small interruption. I received a text at 6:00 from my oldest daughter, Laura, reminding me that her sister, Jenny, our youngest, was going to be interviewed on Good Morning Sacramento, a TV program for the early-risers and commuters. Jenny and her business partner, Chris, have just opened a new shop in Turlock, named Rustic Roots. It is one of those cute little shops that has antiques and older items for the home or workplace. It has everything from homemade soaps to specialty made chandeliers.
Just as the news channel came on they announced they would be interviewing the owners of Rustic Roots. Knowing something about broadcasting, I had the distinct impression this story was coming much later in the program. Sure enough – forty-five minutes later the story on Rustic Roots was aired. It was exciting to see Jenny and Chris in their new shop. Hopefully this will bring them more business, which has already been excellent from the grand opening just two weeks ago. I dutifully recorded the news program, and took pictures of the TV screen during the interview. I then raced out the door arriving at Ralph’s farm at 7:02. Bless his heart; he had brewed a couple of cups of coffee for the two of us!
We loaded up Ralph’s pickup truck and made sure the trailer towing the ATV was secure. For the uninitiated, ATV is the acronym for All Terrain Vehicle. We drove for at least an hour arriving at Camanche Hills Hunting Preserve, which is a private hunters/shooters club. Not long after, son David and grandson Will rolled in next to us. We four hearty souls then entered the restaurant on the club grounds and enjoyed more coffee and a great breakfast. As you might expect in a shooters club restaurant, the walls were totally covered with the heads of large animals, as well as small animals and birds. I ordered the pancake, bacon, eggs combo. When I asked Doris, the waitress, to toss in a second pancake, she gave me that look that says, “You’re not from around here, are you?” She pleasantly informed me that one pancake would probably be all I would want, but if perchance, I changed my mind, she’d bring me a second pancake. Wise woman! The one pancake nearly filled the entire platter!
After eating we assured Doris we’d be back for lunch and to hold our tab. We then paid for our round of shooting before loading up our shotguns in the ATV and heading for the first of ten stations. Skeet shooting is a form of trapshooting in which clay targets are thrown from traps to simulate birds in flight and are shot at from different stations. This particular course also included simulations of rabbits and rats just to add to the overall challenge.
I’m quite familiar with guns and the handling of weapons, but the only time I ever handled and fired a shotgun was during some anti-terrorism training. I had never shot skeet before, so I was attempting to soak it all in. Each of us was provided 10 shotgun shells for each station, times the 10 stations would equal 100 rounds fired per person. We had our choice of either a twelve gauge or twenty gauge shotgun. Being unfamiliar with shotguns in general, and even more unfamiliar with skeet shooting, I was on a steep learning curve. The term used in shooting skeet is “sweep.” You hold the butt of the gun tight against your shoulder while smoothly swinging (sweeping) the gun barrel in the pattern you anticipate the clay target (often called a “clay pigeon”) coming into your view. The added challenge is that there are always two clay targets every time. They are staggered so that they come seconds apart. The idea is that you shoot the first target quickly enough so that you have sufficient enough time to sweep in on the second clay target and blow it into little pieces, as well.
Admittedly, early on it was rough going getting the hang of it, but I gradually warmed up to the whole thing and actually missed only one clay target out of my last twenty. It was a fun time and following a sumptuous lunch, we all loaded up our stuff and went our separate ways.
It was a fun day. I guess you could say – We had a blast!