Thursday, July 27, 2006


There once was a Raven from Bluff
who was made of some pretty tuff stuff.
A leg he had lost, what a terrible cost,
to a trappers steel jaws unforgiving.
This diligent bird went forth undeterred,
determined to just keep on living.

Navajo Folk Art Carving

I often think of my old friend "Stumpy" when I find myself feeling emotionally pummeled by life's heavy weight champion of the psychological arena. I became familiar with this dark bird sometime during the late 1970s, and well remember how we met. A friend had loaned me his Thompson Center Contender, a single shot pistol with interchangeable barrels, which provided a wide variety of shooting experiences. Don had purchased a .30-06 caliber compensated barrel for this new toy and mounted it with a 2.5 x 7 power Magnum scope. Being proud of his new acquisition, Don invited me to give it a go. I fancied myself a pretty fair shot, and anticipated the opportunity to show off my well-practiced shooting skills while unleashing the impressive firepower of this marvelous mechanism.

Drawing on my extensive knowledge of local attractions, I drove to the east side of Bluff; just past Saint Christopher's Mission. I knew of a repository some of our less environmentally minded neighbors used when the dump proved inconvenient. A two mile trek to the other side of town can be daunting to individuals with a lackadaisical mind set, so this dump site often seemed attractive. At any rate, from time to time the location supplied me with an abundance of cans and bottles to target. The cliffs also provided a impregnable backstop for stray or ricocheting artillery rounds.

This particular site is where I first learned of the joy of carbonated targets. On one of my more notable visits, some wasteful soul had inadvertently deposited a full, unopened can of soda on top of a trash heap. When I found it in my sights and let go a well placed round, an amazing transformation occurred. The overheated can of sarsaparilla sprang into the air in an exaggerated summersault, spewing forth its contents in a spray of excited foam that put on a memorable, albeit short-lived, show of acrobatic effervescence. A bright light of inspiration sprang forth from my cranium, and from that day forth I have been the first in line when inexpensive, vaporous soda pop goes on sale.

On this particular trip, I stopped approximately 50 yards from the trash heap. That was farther from the dump than I would normally park, but I wanted to give myself room for this long range cartridge. I laid the pistol across the hood of my truck and extracted a shell from the box of bullets Don had provided. I should have anticipated trouble when I noticed only one other round missing. I cracked the hinge plate and slid the shell into the chamber. Clicking the pistol closed, I braced myself and peered through the scope, down the long 14" barrel. Locating a large, nearly buried, lard can resting on a sand hill, I cocked the pistol and settled in.

Gripping the gun tightly with both hands, I leaned into the scope and found what I considered the proper relief between the scope and my eye. I could easily see my intended target. and focused intently on it. I slowly bore down on the trigger, touching off a disastrous chain of events. When the hammer collapsed onto the firing pin, forcing it into the primer and igniting the powder, the high velocity bullet went rocketing down the barrel. At that instant, all hell literally broke loose.

In a mere fraction of a second the pistol roared to life and bucked backwards, breaking my tenuous hold on the grips and smashing the edge of the scope onto the rim of my eye socket. The sound of the blast and the concussion caused me to experience instantaneous deafness, and the scope's impact with the soft tissue and bone above my eye sent me sprawling backwards. A blinding light and overwhelming pain enveloped me. I shook the offensive weapon from my fractured grasp and stumbled backwards, somehow managing to stay upright.

I grasped my aching head and blinked hard, attempting to clear the red fog and outlast the pain. Glimpsing up-range, towards the trash heap, I witnessed a plume of dust rising where the lard can had once been. Enveloped by the dust cloud was an enraged, black-winged visage ascending towards the heavens. Fear spread through me like a volcanic eruption. Stunned and in shock from my recent head-on collision, I was certain I had released the Angel of Death; and he was springing forth to claim his latest victim.

Anger welled up inside of me at the injustice of my predicament. I fell to my knees, scrounging in the dirt for the pistol. When I recovered it, I flopped back up onto the hood of the truck and shook loose another shell from the box. Rattled as I was, I fought to get a grip on reality, and quickly decided I was not going to be taken without a fight. I thought maybe I could get another round off before the demon took me out. If the shot did not kill that Bat out of Hell, the repercussions would most likely finish me off. Either way, one of us would find satisfaction.

Reloading, I glared through the scope, searching wildly until I discovered a winged creature preening itself on the edge of the cliff. I cocked the pistol and sighted in tight. As I stared down the barrel, anticipating another thrashing from the .06, I realized what I was seeing. Standing there crookedly, on one leg, was a very angry raven. It was shaking sand from its blue-black feathers and loudly voicing its frustration at being blasted out of the desert. Recognizing that this creature was probably not a genuine threat, I re-evaluated the option of firing again and elected to let the bird continue its one legged existence.

From that point on Stumpy and I were fast friends. Owing to his dangerous sense of humor, however, Don was disbarred from my circle of associates. Thereafter, whenever I saw that one legged raven, I would wave, honk and shout his name. He in turn would hop around to face me, cock his head to one side and blink his coal black eyes. He probably never forgot the poor fool who one fateful and memorable summer day learned valuable lessons about friendship, ballistics, the long term effects of muzzle blast on one's eardrums, the feeling of blunt force trauma to the head and compassion for other creatures.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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