I was relaxing with a beer by the firepit in the backyard grotto on Saturday night, chitchatting with a neighbor I just met- a young man named Rowan who lives in a house with a few other young men, just behind (and, we live on a mountain, above) me. We’d had a few beers and were chit-chatting about everything from world politics to Sarah Palin to growing up Ketchikan, (more about that later). His roommate came down the stairs as we were contemplating getting a few more beers or going our separate ways.
“What are you guys doing?” Rowan called.
“We’re going to go shoot shit in the woods,” he replied. “You wanna come?”
Rowan looked at me. “Up to you. I don’t need to go.”
“Can I come?” I asked.
“Sure,” said the roommate.
“The HELLS YES!!!”
A moment later six of us were packed into a pickup truck- four of us in the flatbed and two dudes in the cabin and we were off-
one stop to pick up the guns and another at walmart to pick up shit to shoot- two cases of soda and a few gallon jugs of tropical punch.
And then into the wild.
Ketchikan is not the most urban of landscapes. I live downtown and this is the view from my window as I write this.
There is one main road, two lanes, that is charmingly described as a “highway” on maps, along which are a few shopping centers and the Walmart. By the cruiseship berths there is a small shopping district with tourist-bait shops that all shutter up come winter. That and a few bars is about it. It doesn’t take long at all to find yourself in the middle of nowhere. About fifteen minutes past Wal-Mart exactly.
We wound our way up into the mountains on a gravel road
and pulled into the chosen spot- only to find the cops there. Our driver knew the cop- everyone here knows everyone else- and got out to have a talk with him.
“Well, I know y’all just want to go shooting, but I can’t let you do it here,” the officer said.
“Should I hide the beer?” I murmured. Everyone shrugged.
“Tell you what- go on up the road about fifteen minutes,” the cop said reflectively. “There’s a turnoff to the left right past where there’s the drop off. Go there.”
“Thank you, sir,” said our driver.
And so we did.
We found the turn off, a small dirt track, and came to the perfect place to shoot guns.
I was the only one who had never fired a rifle before. One of the boys started loading it for me, but I demanded to know how to do it, so he let me press the last six bullets into the chamber. Everyone in the company had been handling hunting rifles since they were kids, but everyone was extraordinarily patient with me when I asked questions, and talked me through holding the gun properly, (the stock DOESN’T go into your armpit, turns out!) and discharging the casing.
I managed to hit a single can.
When we’d run through two boxes of bullets we packed up the guns and ourselves, and rode down the mountain again as sunset turned into gloaming turned into dark.