By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
You never know who you are going to meet when you are unloading weapons from your car.
I unpacked a little Marlin 22-caliber plinking rifle and a Walther P22 pistol for target practice at the shooting range near Laurel Lake. There were two other shooters there and they were packing to leave.
I am not one to prejudge people, but I assume everyone at a shooting range is a member of a local militia planning to overthrow the government or a deranged sniper practicing “one shot, one kill.” These guys kind of looked the part in their unmarked van with military-style canisters of ammo. The larger of the two was covered with tattoos, piercings, and sported a long beard that in 30 or 40 more years he could look a lot like David Allen Coe. My daughter said the other guy looked like Theodore Roosevelt.
They approached me as soon as I stepped out of the truck. Both gentlemen were as friendly as kin folk. But what could they want with me?
“Buddy, you got a light?”
“I don’t smoke, but I will see what I can scrounge up,” I responded. Since I am often in the woods I try to carry a few necessities such as food, fire, and water. This time I seemed ill-prepared.
“Does you truck have one of those pop-out lighters? I’ve been down here for an hour without anything to light a cigarette.”
I’ve owned my truck for 3 1⁄2 years and the cigarette lighter has been used every day. It has never been used as a cigarette lighter. It is a charger for phones, IPods, IPads, and occasionally charges a laptop. I don’t even think of it as a lighter.
I dug the lighter out of the console, where it had been secluded for years. I pushed it into the socket and turned the key to accessories. Nothing happened. Apparently the truck must be running to start a fire. I cranked her up, pushed the lighter, and in a minute we had a red-hot piece of metal. With all the technology available we reverted to the same tool used in a 1970 Plymouth Duster.
He grabbed the lighter and took a long draw. As his craving weaned, we talked about different guns we liked to shoot. We talked about how some guys think they have to shoot a high-powered rifle to have fun when shells can cost several dollars each. You can shoot a 22 for hours and not spend 22 dollars. We talked until I realized it would be dark soon and I had a 13-year-old in the car wanting to shoot.
Before they stepped into the van, one of them reached into the back of the van. He held something small in his hand as he turned back toward me. They gave me a full box of 22 ammo. I asked if he was sure about that. He said the light was worth it.
I thanked them as they drove off, thinking I got the much better end of the deal. Then I got embarrassed by a 13-year-old girl that can outshoot me. She can hit center mass on a target smaller than a Skoal can from 65 yards with open sights. I can’t even see that far.
The lesson I got was not that I’m a poor shot. I already knew that. The lesson was that just because someone looks a little different doesn’t mean you don’t have something in common. I enjoyed talking to the two guys that were probably thinking I looked like a nerd or an undercover cop. And I sure enjoyed their ammo.