Friday, April 28, 2006

When it Began

In 1987, or thereabouts, my father became involved in competitive highpower rifle shooting. It has since become a family affair. The current roster of avid competitors is my father Dick Blake, brother Frank Blake, brother-in-law Greg Lewis, and cousin Brig Blake. Other family members besides these compete from time to time. Some families get together on Sundays to watch football, but those families are boring. This is a weird sport full of weird people, and we’d only be kidding ourselves if we refused to be lumped in with them.

In August of 1992 my Dad coaxed me into taking my first foray into competition. I had never participated in an organized match before, so what better place to test myself than at the National Championships in Camp Perry, Ohio? From St. Anthony, where I grew up, that was a 1,875 mile journey. Not a short drive, by any means, especially in a raggedy old Buick with no air conditioning. But it became the absolute perfect way for a father and son to spend time with one another. This was the first of many trips, and hindsight tells me that this time with my Dad saved me in many ways.

Shooting is a great mystery to the women of the family, and it might always be that way. I look at the fabric stores and craft shacks of the world and all I see is a cloud of bewilderment. But I have not tried to understand those things. Likewise the magnetism of wind flags and the smell of burnt powder are lost on our loving wives. But the sport has become a big part of us, not merely due to the technique, the task, and the challenge, but it has also become a metaphor for life: Breath! Where is your natural point of aim? Focus. Control your wobble zone. Don’t jerk! Follow through!

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