From the middle of Viale the earth and sky stretch away to the horizon in the four directions letting you know you are at the center. Time stands still until they call the line as hot and you start working through your box of Sierra 80s. There isn't anything except the wind and mirage and the sound of rifles crackling through your plugs and earmuffs. You forget about all previous or possible future lives and just shoot. The team is your family.
We were on point 108. Target numbers alternate black and white. I find white target numbers auspicious. Our juniors were a few points over and Virginia on one side and Colorado on the other. When the targets come up you see the granules of sight black on your front post and then press the trigger straight back. The brass flies off to one side and the target, 600 yards away, slides down behind the berm.
I used to be a runner so I am pouring the sunblock on and the water in. A gallon a match. I was in the port--john line behind R. Lee Ermery who was shooting two points down. Garands. With the Hornady team. We talked about Garands while waiting at the little green houses, entered at the same time and came back out picking up the conversation where we had left off. They BRING your restroom to you here in the center of the earth. On wheels. More data that we are in an important place.
The team was shooting well but not really better than the first six scores at any match at Panola. The last pair of shooters was firing 600 when the word came that we were the first civilian team score up to that point. Justin Utley and Keith Stephens were the final pair. Both of them have won the Texas Service Rifle Championship recently. I figured our final pair would outshoot anyone elses final pair, since the usual practice is to put the worst shooters last. Sure enough they did. We won.
Texas has won the Soldier of Marathon Trophy twice before, in 1954 and the early 60s. Rick Crawford has brought team after talented team up, 21 years worth, but never won it. I'm happiest about the win for him as much as anything. We were the fourth team overall, behind the Army Marksmanship Team, the National Guard and the Army Reserve. Many great shooters along on those teams: Dave Wilson, Alonda Roy, The Rosts, Mont Barling, Gary Shannon, Jose Niera, Richard Schultz, Col Manuel Daniels. I hope we made them proud.
First civilian team. Soldier of Marathon. It's a proud thing to be in Ohio at the National Matches as a Texan. I was very happy laying on the grass at the 600 yardline with a good rifle and the correct windage with Rick, Utley, Keith, Jeff Lin and Wallace McDaniel while Ken Gaby and Dick Curry coached. I might not be able to exactly remember the experience tomorrow like it was today, with the sun shining and the sweat making its way around my right eyebrow, but tomorrow will have its own reality. Tomorrow is Infantry Trophy and the Springfield 1903 match.
Update: Our score was 2895X76. Six shooters firing a 50 shot 500 point National Match course. We averaged 482 1/2 points each.