Blogorado After Action Report

Okay, now that I’ve had my first decent sleep in two weeks, I’ve time to post my impression of the inaugural Blogorado, which can be summed up in two words: suh and weet. Seriously, folks, it was a much needed diversion from work and writing commitments, and the perfect way to charge my creative batteries.

I’ve delivered a keynote speech at a number of EMS conferences around the country, and one of the points of that speech is the importance of having a life outside of EMS. For me, that life usually includes what the Atomic Nerds call “ballistic mood improvers,” and spending time with the people of my tribe, the gunblogger community. So it was with no small measure of giddy anticipation that I set out last week for Secret Location, Colorado to do just that.

It seems that every time I go somewhere – no matter how short the trip – my natural instinct is to pack like I’m leaving on a month-long excursion to Nepal, with a Sherpa or three on retainer to tote my steamer trunks of gear. You know that movie scene with the obscenely rich socialite striding imperiously through the airport, trailed by a platoon of Skycaps wheeling carts full of designer bags?

Well, that’d be me, except that I’m too cheap to tip a Skycap, and the only common feature of all my luggage is mud and duct tape repairs. Half of them are camo of varying patterns, and the remainder are schwag bags from EMS conferences dating back to 1995.

And normally, once I pack all that stuff, I count the number of suitcases, multiply by the $20 baggage handling fees imposed by the airlines, plus the overweight surcharge they add on for each bag over 50 pounds, plus the cost of replacing the inevitable lost bag or three, multiply by the standard TSA redass coefficient 0f 2.94875, and finally wind up admitting to myself that I am more Drew Carey than Mariah Carey; I still look like ass, no matter how many wardrobe changes I make.

So instead I throw a few items in my tattered three-suiter, make sure I’m traveling in something that can be worn a second time if need be, and make damned sure my CPAP and laptop never leave my possession.

And then it occurred to me, “You’re not flying, AD, you’re driving. Your choices are limited only by the available cargo space in your truck, and how far a bungee cord will stretch.”

And I’m here to tell you, a Dodge Dakota can carry a lot of guns and ammo.

So I loaded up the truck, Beverly Hillbillies-style, picked up KatyBeth from school, and headed for points north. After an overnight stop in Oklahoma City to visit my uncle and pick up yet more guns, we headed west to the inaugural Blogorado Range Weekend, Tall Tale Tournament and Barbecue Fest.

**********

We arrived Friday afternoon, checked into the hotel, and called FarmMom to ask where we might find the rest of the gang. “No problem,” she assured me, “Just drive 10.5 miles north of town, turn east, go 13 more miles, turn north again, and go another five miles until you see the paddock. Everybody’s out here riding the horses.”

Translation: “Drive to the end of civilization as you know it, and hang a right. We’re at the intersection of The Sticks and Bumfuck, Egypt.

Seriously, the only definable terrain feature other than endless vistas of blue skies is a lonely extinct volcano rising out of the prairie like an enormous termite mound. You can see it for miles.

We arrived at the paddock in time to see Snarky and Christina getting their cowpoke on. KatyBeth and I introduced ourselves to Breda, FarmMom and FarmDad, and Gay Cynic, and I was pleased to see Alan again, sporting his tactical kilt.  A new face detached herself from the crowd and said “Hi, I’m *****.”

“Um, pleased ta meetcha, *****,” I replied, still unsure of who she was.

“Otherwise known as Labrat,” she furnished helpfully.

“Ahhh,” I smiled, “then it would follow that this stoic fellow standing behind you is Stingray.”

The mental picture I had of the Atomic Nerds was waaaaay off. They were much younger than I expected, and sported nary a pocket protector between them. Neither of them glowed, either. In other words, normal.

Invitations were extended to join the horseback riding festivities. I grew up riding, but since it’s been over fifteen years since I’ve sat astride a horse, and there is already one embarrassing picture of me gracing the internet, I opted not to demonstrate what a world-class equestrian I am.

I’m sure the horses were grateful, as well.

Instead, I decided to practice my mosey while KatyBeth joined the fun. I’m pretty good at moseying, actually. I lettered in the 100 Meter Mosey in high school. Placed second in the district Sauntering Championships.

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KatyBeth riding Rebel

As usual, my kid had her typical misgivings about big critters and overcame them, and took a few turns around the paddock atop Rebel, Farmgirl’s gelding. Also as per the usual, she asked the most prescient question of the afternoon, namely, “I know you’re gonna walk, but what’s the horse gonna do?”

Smart kid I’m raising, ain’t she?

Would that Stingray had asked the same question, because not twenty minutes later he discovered exactly what Rebel would do when given permission to go – and that is to run flat-out until told otherwise, up to and including transforming his rider into a ballistic projectile. As we heard the thunder of hooves draw perilously near without appreciable signs of deceleration, all I could think of was Yosemite Sam doing his “Whoa, camel!” routine.

Or, given where Stingray works, the scene from Dr. Strangelove where Slim Pickens rides a nuclear bomb: “Yee haw!”

Either way, it was priceless seeing the gunblogger community’s most renowned poker face etched with more than a little fear and desperation. Even better was Labrat’s dry observation immediately afterward, “Uh, honey, there’s a fence there.”

After darkness fell, we all retired to Memaw’s house for some delicious FarmFam cooking. Brisket, sausage, pork loin, tater salad, you name it… all washed down with liberal quantities of the Atomic Nerds’ delicious home brewed beer.

AEPilot Jim and Old NFO showed up, fresh from an exhausting afternoon setting up the best range evar. More barbecue was consumed, more lies were told, and much more beer was drunk, and much fun was had by all. KatyBeth even managed to entice the World’s Most Kid-Averse Scientist into an impromptu performance of Backyardigans Dinner Theater, and we were all treated to Labrat’s Diabolical Laugh Of World DominationTM.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say she has practiced that laugh before.

And somewhere in there was me reprising my lapdance from here, much to the chagrin of AEPilot Jim, the recipient of said lap dance. While everyone else hooted and cheered me on, I gyrated suggestively in Jim’s lap while he did his best to curl into a fetal position and mentally transport himself to his Happy Place.

Gay Cynic said I was a natural. Still not sure whether I should take that as a compliment or an insult.

**********

Saturday dawned bright and early with KatyBeth sitting astride my chest and patting me gently on the face, saying, “Wake up, Daddy! It’s time to go shoot!” I don’t know whether it was the 16 hours of driving in the two previous days, or my natural ability to sleep through everything but my unit number being called on the radio, but I heard none of the trains or jake-braking semis that plagued Labrat and Stingray all night.

After a quick shower and shave, I strapped on my heater and KatyBeth and I took a jaunt across the street for breakfast at the Secret Location Ptomaine Palace and Pigfat Emporium. KatyBeth’s usual breakfast- bacon, with a side order of bacon – was met with approval by all present, including the High Priestess of Bacon Herself. During breakfast, Katy favored everyone with a recitation of the Four Rules, including an addition of her own which shall henceforth be known as the KatyBeth Rule: “No shooting in the house or hotel room.”

After breakfast, we all trooped to the Top Secret Shooting Range, and everybody started uncasing guns. They emerged from hard cases, gun sleeves, toolboxes, cargo beds, holsters, scabbards, pants pockets and petticoats.

I’ve seen lesser selections of weaponry at some gun shows. Seriously, if we had counted, I have no doubt the firearms count would have been well north of 100, and many thousands of rounds fired. Heck, there were over 30 weapons just between FarmDad’s truck and mine.

Old NFO brought two sniper rifles – an M40 and a genuine M24 – an AR15 or three, a Browning Citori that cost more than my truck, several wheelguns, both his Cylinder and Slide and Ed Brown custom 1911’s, and Gawd knows what else.

Rifle range, with Old NFO's sniper rfiles, and Alan's AR15.

Rifle range, with Old NFO's sniper rfiles, and Alan's AR15.

We had a half-sized steel silhouette set up at 250 yards (effectively simulating a 500 yard rifle shot), and NFO’s sniper rifles let most of us get our Bob Lee Swagger on with frightening regularity. Seriously, it got almost boring, scoring center mass hits at (simulated) 500 yards with every squeeze of the trigger.

I re-discovered something about myself in those two days shooting at that target; I’m a better wing shot than anything else, and I’m fairly accurate with a pistol, if not overly fast, but I’m a better rifleman than I thought. Mind you, I’m no Robert Langham, and I won’t put a scare into anyone at Camp Perry, but I need not hang my head around most rifle shooters. Not only was I able to score hits on that 500 yard target with monotonous regularity with Old NFO’s scoped M40, but I was also able to do so from prone with Stingray’s Garand, and my Mosin Nagant 91/30.

Matt G. and I were taking shots at prairie dogs with Matt’s scoped .22 that we really had no business taking – I’m talking 175+ yards, offhand – yet we were scoring often enough to make it interesting, and even when we missed, we missed close. Give me one of my guns, and I think I could have done even better.

On the other hand, I still suck at hitting a falling clay target as much as I ever did.

Alan brought his National Match AR15, outfitted with optics suitable for picking out the moons of Neptune, as well as a handy assortment of pistols and his Mac 11/9 machine pistol. Fun weapon to shoot, if you’re willing to accept minute-of-horizon accuracy.

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Me shooting the MAC 11/9

AEPilot Jim brought his own AR15, an M14, his Springfield 1911 and several other assorted weapons, not to mention several thousand rounds of ammo. He even had 5.56 tracer ammo, which makes for quite a sight when you’re bump-firing at dusk.

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Jim, letting Snarky fire his AR15, and feeling his twentieth ass of the day.

LawDog and Phlegm Fatale showed up around noon, and unlimbered their share of weaponry, including a couple of nice lever action .22’s, LawDog’s FN .40, Phlegmmy’s Ruger Mark III, and several others I’m sure I’m forgetting. I let LawDog run a few mags through my Hi Standard HD Military .22, after which he stepped away from the line with an insane leer on his face, buttonholed Phlegmmy, and ordered, “Come with me. You have got to shoot this one.”

Later, I handed him Dad’s Smith and Wesson, which he obligingly used to knock down a few poppers. “Nice trigger,” he grinned afterward. “There’s nothing like the trigger on an old Smith Model 10… wait a minute, this is pre-Model 10! This is a five screw Hand Ejector, isn’t it?”

And indeed it was, a fact I had not realized until some of the more astute Smith and Wesson aficionados pointed it out to me.

Labrat and Stingray brung their wedding ring Les Baer 1911’s, a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum, Stingray’s M1 Garand and his M1A carbine, both their shotguns, and an AR15 fitted with the most tacticool accessory evar.

The ultimate in gun-geek street cred.

The ultimate in gun-geek street cred.

Gay Cynic limbered up his Smith & Wesson Model 25-5, as well as sampling a number of handguns and centerfire rifles, to see how much his surgically reconstructed chest and shoulder can stand. I think he proved to himself that he can handle anything within the .223-.243 range without difficulty, and unless I miss my guess, an AR15 pattern rifle may be the next gun to grace his armory. If we keep at it, we may even be able to drag him out of Seattle, teach him to chaw terbacky, and say “Ya’ll” and “fixin’ to” a lot.

Gay Cynic shooting my AR15. Yes, that is his best side.

Gay Cynic shooting my AR15. Yes, that is his best side.

New blogger Salamander joined the festivities and fit right in. Anyone who totes a 1911 and sports a bitchin’ set of knee beards is okay by me.

Braid those, and they'd be even more bitchin'.

Braid those, and they'd be even more bitchin'.

KatyBeth made a friend that day; Farmgirl’s nephew, who informed me that we needed to move to Colorado, so that they could could play together every day.

KatyBeth and Caden, yukking it up.

KatyBeth and Caden, yukking it up.

The day was closed out by the ladies shooting at a cupful of Tannerite with the AR15’s. Breda claimed the honors with the biggest BOOM of the day, which she punctuated with a deadpan, “Did I hit it?”

That night, FarmGirl indulged in a game of Torture the Yankees by feeding Breda and Snarky a generous helping of Scrappy Nibbles… otherwise known to the cognoscenti as bull nuts Rocky Mountain Oysters. After an incredulous “No, really??” by Breda and more than a couple of gags by Snarky, they both agreed that testicles were not bad eatin’ after all.

KatyBeth wondered what all the fuss was about, and whispered, “What are they eating, Daddy?”

“Chicken nuggets, Sweetie,” I answered. “Try one.”

“No way,” she answered, in a stage whisper,  “FarmGirl says those are bull nuts.”

Told you my kid was smart.

**********

The next morning, we were joined by Matt G. and his dad, JPG. They brought a scout rifle in a caliber that escapes my memory, a couple of AR15 patrol rifles, Matt’s old Remington bolt-action .22, a .Marlin .45/70 guide gun, their 1911’s, several more wheelguns and Matt’s Kel-Tec P3AT, and something or other chambered in .35 Whelen.

And those are just the high points.

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Matt G. taking down a few steel plates. In his mitts, a Desert Eagle looks like a Kel-Tec pocket pistol.

Later that afternoon, we amused ourselves by taking turns with Old NFO’s M40, shooting at an oil drum at 950 yards. Swirling winds, at nearly a thousand yards, and we were whacking it with regularity. FarmGirl hit five for five, as did several others. As for myself, it took me a shot to get the windage adjusted right, and even then I had a couple of fliers. I hit it only twice out of five tries – it took me a bit to get used to a really nice custom trigger.

LawDog, Matt and JPG amused themselves for a while by shooting at the 500 yard drum.

With pistols.

Although no holes were found in the drum at the end of the day, they sure scared the hell out of it a number of times. It would seem like an impossible feat, had I not watched Matt and JPG on previous occasions whack an 8-inch steel target with boring regularity at 100 yards with their 1911’s.

JPG whacking the 950 yard target.

JPG whacking the 950 yard target.

At one point FarmDad and I put on an impromptu wingshooting tutorial, and soon Snarky, Phlegm Fatale, Christina and Breda were trying their hand at clay pigeons. I am happy to report that, while Breda may be a competent marksman with just about any weapon you put in her hands – and she ain’t skeered to try any of them – she is tragically mortal with a shotgun.

FarmDad giving Breda a little Browning Citori instruction, with Alan, Snarky and myself looking on.

FarmDad giving Breda a little Browning Citori instruction, with Alan, Snarky and myself looking on.

Don’t feel bad, Breda. Wingshooting is a different skill altogether than rifle marksmanship or pistolry. It takes a while to pick it up. On the other hand, Christina’s lack of shooting experience worked to her advantage, as she turned out to be an excellent instinctive shooter. She was able to break birds with regularity before she was  halfway through her first box of shells.

Stingray and Labrat also proved to be pretty handy with shotguns, with Labrat swinging a nice Citori of her own, and Stingray sporting an 870 Express.

As the day wound down, we all headed back to Memaw’s for more delicious FarmFam cooking. Gay Cynic, Snarky and I piled into my truck, and KatyBeth chose to ride along with her new best friend, Miss Christina, in her car following behind us.

It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise she’d have gone home to tell her mother that Daddy taught her yet another four letter word when a huge buck darted across the road in front of us. He almost made it across, too, with my Dakota’s grill catching him across the hindquarters as he streaked across the road.

“Oh, drat!” Gay Cynic and I exclaimed simultaneously.

Okay, maybe drat wasn’t the word that escaped our mouths, but the letter count sounds about right. We immediately bailed out of the truck to discover my radiator emptying itself of its contents, and the buck nowhere to be found. Christina provided a flashlight, and Gay Cynic and I set out across the fields in search of what we were sure was a wounded deer.

We found him piled up about 150 yards into the field, graveyard dead. LawDog arrived around then, just in time to help us drag the buck back to the road.

Well, make that about halfway back to the road. It soon became rather clear that this was no itty bitty yearling we were dragging around. I think “Breather!” squeaked past my lips a split second before it did LawDog’s, and we stood there for a moment, panting and massaging our lower backs.

“That’s a 150 class deer,” I groaned. “He’ll go twenty inches, inside spread. Maybe 300 pounds on the hoof.”

“Meh, closer to 250,” LawDog judged. “Still a beautiful buck, though.”

Matt arrived around then, and since he looked like he had nothing better to do, I put the Vanilla Gorilla to work helping LawDog drag the buck the rest of the way to the road.

“Did I say 250?” LawDog squeaked by the time we reached the blacktop. “I changed my mind. That buck will go three hundred pounds, easy. Maybe four.”

“It’s the biggest buck I’ve ever dragged anywhere,” Matt agreed. “Texas deer aren’t this big-bodied.”

Eight points, twenty inch inside spread, 300 pounds. Nicest buck I've ever killed.

Eight points, twenty inch inside spread, 300 pounds. Nicest buck I've ever killed.

Phone calls were made to the Department of Wildlife, deputies were summoned to the scene, and I was informed, to my everlasting regret, that I couldn’t keep the head and antlers. The meat, however, I was free to butcher out and bring home. So, we removed the head with FarmDad’s Sawzall, which resulted in the blogosphere’s most famous (and macabre) hood ornament.

The deputy almost fainted when he walked up and saw this.

The deputy almost fainted when he walked up and saw this.

Of course, at some point, we had to field dress and quarter the buck. In that endeavor, I found no shortage of people to spectate offer advice make fun of my plumber’s butt help clean the buck. Here’s a helpful hint, folks: never kneel down over a dead deer, look up at a crowd of gun bloggers, and ask, “Who’s got a knife?”

Seriously, it looked like that scene from Lord of the Rings when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas get surrounded at spear-point by the riders of the Rohirrim. Thanks to the aforementioned Sawzall and a knife of Old NFO’s that cost more than several of the guns I brought, I had the deer nearly quartered by the time the State Trooper arrived.

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Who's gonna dress it? Uh, that'd be you, AD. We'll capture it all for posterity, though.

After we finished quartering the deer, transferred all my gear to the Atomic Nerds’ truck, and towed my Dakota down the road a piece, we hied forth to Memaw’s for the much-anticipated, and much-delayed pot roast. But first, I removed a little something to top Stingray’s fuzzy dice/tacticool AR15 accessory:

Why yes, Breda, they ARE warm, soft, and furry. Oh, wait... did you mean the DEER'S nuts?

Why yes, Breda, they ARE warm, soft, and furry. Oh, wait... did you mean the DEER'S nuts?

Thanks to FarmDad and Old NFO, my truck was on the road again within 24 hours. It would need a new grill, hood, radiator and accessory fan, but luckily the only part needed to make it roadworthy was the radiator. None of the local shops had one in stock, but one could be shipped in by Tuesday morning at 8:30.

Thus, I was forced to remain an extra day in Secret Location, Colorado, where I ate more FarmFam cooking, fondled more guns, swapped more lies, and even got to spend an afternoon thinning out the prairie dog population with Matt and JPG.

*Sigh* I suppose we all must make sacrifices.

That's one less hole for a cow or horse to break a leg in.

Thought you were safe just because you were 150 yards away, didn't ya?

After the repairs to my truck, KatyBeth and I were able to get on the road at shortly after noon on Tuesday. Of course, that meant we had to drive 16 hours straight to get home, but luckily we picked up a friend in Texas who drove us the rest of the way, allowing me the comfort of five hours of much-needed sleep before I arrived home.

I literally dumped my suitcase, repacked it, and hit the road again two hours after I got home, in order to catch my flight to Anchorage for the Alaska EMS Symposium. My lectures were well-received at the symposium, and resulted in a few offers to come back to speak at several smaller conferences in 2010.

Suh-weet!

All things considered, the last two weeks have been the most physically exhausting, expensive, and fun two weeks I’ve had in some time. I met a few online friends in person for the first time, caught up with a few more, and was reminded, once again, what great people populate this online community of gun bloggers.

I can’t wait to do it again next year!