I often say I’m like the son my father never had. I love cars, and Dad has some beauties. I love driving my Jeep, and can’t imagine driving an automatic car. I love speed – cars, boats, planes. And another thing … I. Love. Firearms. Always have and after today, I undoubtedly always will.
Until today, the only gun I’d ever shot was a .22 in a string bikini (those photos are in a vault), when I shot a roo out on my friends cattle station in Barcaldine. I remember being in the pool with Jayde and Katrina when the call was put out that we had roos inside the fence, so I pulled on my boots and grabbed the .22 next to the stereo which was playing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’. To make a long story short, I managed to get the roo on my second shot from around one hundred feet. I walked out into the paddock to ensure it was dead. There are humane ways to kill pests on the land – don’t get me started on shooting kangaroos because I will win the argument – and that’s what I did.
When I took my Dad out to a shooting range to gun school for his birthday I was really out of practice (so was he). Dad or Rosco as we call him, has amazing stories about living in the outback back in the day and some of them involve firearms. I’ve injected a few of his stories into my novel set in 1973 outback Queensland because it’s always good to go to the source, like when I go to see my mate Gordon Greber.
This morning was sub-arctic. Even Rosco was feeling the chill, and he’s tough as nails. We were in a group of nine and we started on pistols (two different calibres – the second obviously more powerful than the first). We both thought we’d fall in love with the pistols, but more gun-a-licious fun was to come.
^^ Friendly fire! I call this ‘you have awesome donor lungs and my friend needs a transplant – FREEZE!’
^^ Dirty Rosco.
^^ Smiling assassin … and yep – he’s still a crack shot.
We then moved onto the semi-automatics. We loaded the magazines ourselves, and away we went, moving to a higher calibre after ten shots. I was jubilant I’d brought my Mullum market gloves because it really was *that* cold.
^^ Don’t fuck with me.
(I’m loving Rosco’s growing his hair. Why? Because he can. It’s very Wyatt Earp. All he needs now is some pomade).
It was the shotgun I had the most fun with when we were shooting at clay targets – one of which I actually smashed. I jumped on my teacher, Lloyd and then the other whose name I can’t remember and he picked me up and twirled me around.
We had five rounds of these ^^ There was just enough recoil through the shoulder and jaw to get the adrenaline swirling. The photo below shows Lloyd, myself and another instructor. Tough as nails blokes who I’d love to interview for my novel.
We then moved on for the final activity – black powder pistol and rifle shooting. We had a tutorial where we listened to some incredible stories about the American Civil War and the firearms we were about to use. It’s a tortuously sad period of history, but incredible all the same. The outlaw Josey Wales carried seven of these on his body – one under his arm, two strapped to each ankle, two holstered to his side, one in the back of his trousers and one under his hat as he fired. On a horse. Now that’s multitasking.
We were shown how the powder is poured into five out of the six chambers, and then sealed with a paste made of olive oil and beeswax. It’s a gentle process and an exercise in patience. These men are passionate about history and were more than happy to lend their ear for a chat about the firearms we were shooting with. I fired an exceptionally powerful revolver – the sound and power shuddered through my chest and into to my spine, then down through my pelvis. For some reason it had a calming effect on me. Then I had five shots with a smaller calibre revolver, and as I discovered with the pistol shooting, wearing spectacles can be tricky to navigate. That’s my excuse for no bullseye.
Our team leader, Debbie was an impressive lady and so lovely. She’s a crack shot with pistols – that’s her weapon of choice. All the volunteers at the range were so hospitable and kind – they couldn’t do enough for you. When I was shooting the clay targets, I told Lloyd that I shake because of the anti-rejection medication I’m on (a lot of people think I’m nervous), so he gave me a couple of tips – about breathing, ironically – and I was set. Love your work, Lloyd.
If I was to describe in one word what it’s like when you’re handed a firearm of any kind, I would say ‘responsible.’ Guns kill people and people kill people – it’s a fact of life – and I’m grateful that the Howard government initiated the ‘buy back’ scheme after the Port Arthur massacre. It’s their greatest legacy by far.
Yes, holding and shooting firearms made me feel empowered and in control (and a little bit badass) but you need to treat these weapons with the utmost respect. Yes, I want to get my gun licence – I have for many years. There are a couple of properties I go to where guns are used and I’d like to be a licensed and proficient shot. It’s a long process as it should be, although it’s rarely registered gun owners who carry out acts of violence.
Shooting as a sport never made sense to me, but after today it does. It takes immense strength to hold a firearm steady for extended periods of time.
If shooting was a sport at the Transplant Games, I’d be gold medalling the fuck out of life.
Dad loved the .22 pistol and the .308 calibre of the semi-automatic. But being a Clint Eastwood aficionado, his heart lies with the black powder revolvers of the Wild West. For me, it was the twelve gauge shottie with the clay targets and the .308 calibre of the semi-automatic. Or maybe I developed grandfatherly emotions for Lloyd. Rosco and I had a beautiful day of bullets, mateship, high-fives and vast blue skies.
Far from being pacifists, both Dad and I are both lovers, not fighters, so I implore you to not confuse people who have a penchant for firearms as being pre-disposed to hatred or violence. It’s like putting me into a box where, because I love cars, I’m a dickhead on the road (I’m not).
So while I connect with certain ‘blokey’ stuff, I meditate, drink gallons of tea, make a mean chai, and enjoy gentler pursuits like crocheting, tending my little rooftop garden, playing my harp, swimming and reading. Most of all, I’m kind, compassionate, and have an endless supply of love to give.
Below is my favourite photo from today. Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you ♥
There’s gunpowder under my fingernails, I can still taste the cordite on my tongue, and there’s SO much love in my heart ♥