Up early, with the sunrise at our backs, we sped west toward Camp Perry yesterday morning. The phone rang a couple times during the two hour drive - Robert, already waiting for us on Rodriguez Range, was checking on our ETA and keeping us up to date on the details. "Firing point 22, little end, to the left of the flagpole..." I relayed these messages to Mike- they sounded like clues to finding a buried treasure.
The sky was ominously gray. This is not a good sign on the shores of Lake Erie and it had started to rain sometime between our house and our destination. I worried about men standing out in the middle of a big open field, all holding long metal sticks in their hands but kept my thoughts to myself.
We arrived, fueled by coffee and excitement and were flagged down by a young man walking near the parking lot. I rolled down my window and said hello.
"Hi! I'm Nate! Robert's down in the pits but you're at firing point 22. I'll meet you over there."
Finally, a face to put to the name. Nate is a blogreader who contacted me last week, telling me he was in Camp Perry with the Virgina Rifle Team. He wanted to meet Mike and me and asked if we would perhaps join him for dinner some night. (we never did make it to dinner- but donuts on the range are just as good when there's fine conversation.)
We brought our gear to our spot and waited, eating donuts with Nate who patiently explained the rules and scoring to me. Mike was shooting in the 4th and final relay, after Robert. He was pacing and standing - I think he might have been nervous. It started to rain in earnest and so I walked back to the car to both stave off my shivering and to get my Eee PC out of the weather. Blogging would have to wait. By the time I got back, Robert had joined us. I hugged him - happy both to finally meet him and because he, like an angel of mercy, offered me a rain poncho.
You ever go to a dance and there's an older couple, almost gliding across the floor? Moving precisely, no wasted steps, all muscle memory and rhythm their bodies know this song - they've waltzed together for years and it shows. Well, watching someone shoot with as much experience and expertise as Robert is like that. Makes it look like the easiest thing in the world and the most natural - as if the human body was designed for rifles and not the other way around.
He scored well, Xs abounding.
Mike was up next - he was in a tshirt and jeans, no shooting jacket, soaked to the skin with rain, and using a borrowed Garand. Thankfully Robert was coaching him, calming him - I saw quite a few pats on the back. "Remind him to breathe," I thought. Mike was grinning the whole time, I gave him a thumbs-up. My fingers were turning blue.
Robert came back during one of the preparation periods to give me the score - I didn't know what it meant. "Is that good?" I asked. I was assured that it was. Mike's a good rifle shot and the slow, measured pace of this sport suits him. 10 rounds prone slowfire, 10 rounds prone from standing rapidfire, 10 rounds standing slowfire and he got every shot on the target. No zeros and one X, with a final score of 244.
He's getting a medal next year.