Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shooting and Horses

They shoot horses, don't they?

Actually, I don't think they do anymore. Seems an odd title for a post here, but it will become at least somewhat clear...

Considering the Memorial Day weekend's de facto status as the beginning of the summer recreation season, the pressure is certainly on to deliver weather conditions appropriate to the tasking. Often, the entire operation is an abject failure, but not this year. The Saturday morning Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast looked extraordinary, and even the supplemental sensors failed to detect even a glimmer of a problem. A wide-open day with great flying weather: what to do, what to do.

I had printed a series of pictures ( taken Thursday night at Kil-Kare Speedway where my brother was running a test day with his Nascar Modified and needed to deliver them in person, my past experiences with the US Postal service's distinct lack of concern with the overly optimistic "Photos - DO NOT BEND" stamp on the envelope being that they tend to view it as more of a non-binding suggestion than something to actually, you know, do. As luck would have it, good flying weather has a lot in common with good shooting range weather, and an impulse buy of 80 more rounds for the SKS a couple of weeks ago put me in a pretty good position to combine the photo delivery job with a shooting day.

I've been promising Co-pilot Rick a trip to said shooting range for an appreciable measure of time, so I'd even have company for the trip. A phone call to the farm to arrange for transport, and we were on our way. What little wind there was to deal with was coming out of the north east, so I knew we'd have the long taxi down to the far end of the runway. The ground controller cleared my "to runway 4, follow the Cessna." Maybe the Cessna got the "via Bravo to Alpha" language they've been using lately, but I didn't hear it. In any event, following a Cessna is easy enough.

In fact, what with it being one of the rentals, the trick when following one is usually to keep from running into it as students tend to taxi a little more slowly than I do. They also tend to take a very long time doing their end-of-runway run-up (not inappropriately in a rental, to be fair) so I considered stopping at Alpha 5 rather than going th next 500' to Alpha 6, the taxiway at the very end of the runway. Turned out, though, that I taxied slower than the Cessna, so I figured the pilot to be more experienced and that maybe the run-up wouldn't be a drawn out affair, and it seemed kind of rude to take Alpha 5 in a very transparent effort to get to the runway first. Well, I guessed wrong; it was a lengthy spell at the end of the runway, but at least he pulled off into the back corner of the taxiway and I was able to get around him. We were at least five miles west of the airport before we finally heard him call the tower for takeoff clearance.

The air was clear and calm, and having stuck the co-pilot with the bumpy flight back from Portsmouth a few weeks ago, I let Rick fly this one. Throttled back to 2,200 RPM as part of my new fuel conservation scheme, we still scored 135 knots on the GPS. By the time we got to Darke Co., the wind had picked up a little, but not enough to really matter. Being at least a few degrees out of the east, the runway of choice was 9. That's a good thing, because I have never had a good landing on 27. Even using the other end of the runway, I still managed to catch a gust of wind just as I was feeling my way down the runway, but it only caused a little bounce. I decided to buy gas there since they were only charging $4.55/gallon, which is a bargain in today's market.

I brought the SKS and the Beretta NEOS, leaving the BB gun strength Marlin 22 at home - I figure Co-pilot Egg to be the only one that enjoys shooting that one. My brother had made all new targets, but saved on of the old ones just for use with the SKS. The targets that he makes are cut out of 1/4" steel and are great for .22s, but as you'll see, they are essentially one-time use for the SKS:

Rick with the SKS

Me with the Beretta Neos

The SKS makes a cleaner hole than a unibit!

You still have to de-burr, though!

We ran through the ammo in a little more than an hour, took a tour of the farm, and headed into Greenville for a visit to the Darke Co. fairgrounds where my Dad had one of his young horses running in a matinée race. We couldn't leave without visiting at least briefly with Harvey Six, a name that I prefer to pronounce using a faux Cockney accent to arrive at a gratuitous 'Arvey Six. You know, RV-6.

Harvey Six

We met this big fella too, but due to his failure to be named after an airplane, I've already forgotten his name:

Not so much a race, really, more of a practice session. The young horses have to get used to the starting gate, the noise and distractions of a race, and the proximity of other horses and drivers. It seemed an opportunity to get a few pictures, especially so since my Dad would be up in the timing & scoring booth and we would be able to go up there for some pictures:

The booth is up at the top of the grandstand, the grandstand itself being fairly photogenic in and of itself:

Take a close look at those two pictures. They're the same picture, cropped in different ways. I thought the first one would be a good entry in the annual photo show that I enter, but I didn't know what to do about that awful yellow sky. I didn't want to lose the older guy sitting down there all by himself though, so I was resigned to just living with it. I caught Rick Lee sitting at his computer and asked for a little advice. That advice (paraphrased) was "ditch the old guy, he doesn't bring much to the table, and the bright sky draws the eye away from the seats." That result is the second picture, and by golly if he isn't right again!

Here are a few pictures from up in the booth:

On the way back out to the airport, I diverted through the town of Greenville to see how the restoration is going on their beautiful Carnegie Library, where I spent hours and hours during my annual week long summer stays with my grandparents, who lived right across the street. Can't tell much from the outside, but according to the sign they're just about done:

I flew the homeward leg, and sure enough it was a tad bumpy. Windier on the landing, too, but only a little bouncing.

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