Rick and I were loaded and gassed up before the last day. One quick peek at a depleted Commercial Row, a trip through the CMP store to snag a late Garand and crate of ammo and we hit the road.
I did manage to maximize my CMP North Store time and score about 14 pens. Or maybe it was 20. I'd been deficient in pen stealing since Rock River secured their stash this year, but now the scales are leveled.
First leg of the trip was all the way down to Effingham, Illinois through the middle of flyover country. I'd never been in Indiana. It's nice. Farms and big grey deer in the treelines at dusk.
Reading the emaciated newspapers on the way down for stories of local governments scaling back and worrying about their cash flow and paychecks, citizens reaming out politicians at town halls, (though Senator Durbin from Illinois is going to skip public meetings, says they're counter-productive), and looking at the faces in the cars beside us. Culture shock, as per usual at unarmed people everywhere, and un-squared away people. Sloppy, fat, unconscious, casually dressed with kind of a wandering look in their eyes. They aren't in a competition mindset. Appropriate, but two weeks with alert armed folks intent on their goals will spoil you.
I need to relax, put on an XXXL T-shirt that says "Bassannany Extravaganza Plus XXIX, Lake Skoggins, Minnesota" and have a 62 oz diet coke.
Got a kick out of folks travelling with dogs in their car. Little chihuahuas sitting in their owners laps, big happy labs slobbering down the side of pickups.
And the farmland stretched to the horizon. Corn, soybeans, rice. It's a miracle of work and planning. God blessed America, mostly with hardworking Americans.
The last day someone named Frank didn't show on target 86 and I shot the day by myself. The two juniors went to the pits and I shot and was scored by volunteer John Meecham, American Indian. Meecham is straight out of central casting. A REAL Amerind. He even had feathers in his straw hat and a knife on his belt. I shot my best day yet at the matches, 194X4 standing at 200 yards, nothing out of the black, followed by a pair of 99 point strings to make 198 at 300 yards prone and then the same old 192X5 I've shot at 600 yards every time. The rifle ran well and the targets were gorgeous, a little dark on the target face early in the morning but it didn't seem to matter. I finished with a 2333X56, (77th place out of 450), for the aggregate of the three 80-shot 800-point matches. A perfect score would have been 2400. Not great but not bad and very consistant day to day. Dropped 67 points.
These scores wouldn't have cracked the top three at Panola.
Funny thing happened in the pits. Even with a partner I tend to get things organized, because it's less work. By myself I had things laid out the way I needed them. I set up the paster boxes so they would dispense pasters one at a time, (the way the box is designed) and all my golf tees, extra shot and value markers, water, food, camera, all squared away. In the middle of firing a string the team next to me ran out of white pasters and one of the guys frantically jumped over to my point trying to find one.
I find it interesting, informative and the source of much meditation when I panic. Getting to watch someone else transit a full-blown white-noise state is as interesting. Guy dug through my box, ignoring all order, picked up three or four different items he didn't need and looked at them, finally found the dispenser of white pasters and TORE IT TO SHREDS TO GET AT THEM. He even dropped the twisted up box pieces at my feet.
At the end of the string I picked up the box pieces and unravelled roll of pasters and kind of held it up in front of him and said "dude!"
He kind of avoided looking over at me for a while after that though I made a point to gently get them talking a little after a bit. I had an empty paster box in the bottom of my can so I rebuilt the white paster dispenser.
People, people, people.
People, of course, are the fun part. 85 year youngster Robert Vangene from Minnesota. Richard Robinson, heli pilot, (ret) from Alabama and his wife. Zach, going to the IDF. Mike and Breda. Joe Wyatt of the Wyatt trophy. Billy Atkins. The California Grizzly juniors. AMU's Lance Dement. My teammates and fellow Texans. You get to be with people at the National Matches in a very special way. We are all intent on a shared goal and have come through the same kinds of experiences to get here. Time slows down. You spend all day after day with folks. It's quite a crucible to share.
And, as I said before, THOUSANDS of folks armed to the teeth, (I had five rifles and appropriate ammunition), shooting months of matches with firearms some folks say civilians shouldn't be allowed to touch. Zero injuries or fatalities.
I'm not giving up my human rights because someone is in a panic. I'll fight.