Cold, nasty days like today make me anxious for summer.
The warm sun, the late summer nights and the smell of gunpowder.
That’s right, gunpowder. During the summer, my family devotes a good chunk of our time to an uncommon sport.
This is a sport in which riders shoot two six-cylinder pistols filled with .45-caliber black powder bullets at ten balloon targets while racing their horses as fast as they can go. The five white balloons first, then the five red. Participants are required to wear western shirts, jeans, boots, chinks, holsters and cowboy hats.
During each competition, four out of 60+ patterns are chosen. Each rider has four chances to shoot at their best, knowing that missing one balloon (adding five seconds to their time) could be the difference between first and second place.
To make things even more interesting, sometimes riders pick up level-action rifles or double-barrel shot guns along with one of their pistols. First are the five white balloons shot with the pistol. Then, riders line their horses up with the five red balloons in the “run down,” drop the reins, and pick up the rifle or shotgun to shoot at their last five targets.
Six years ago, my Grandpa and brother started this sport what would eventually entice most of my family members. Now, more than 20 of our family and closest friends caravan all across the nation to mounted shooting competitions. 19 kids, 12 adults and more horses than we can count have been to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and many arenas in Iowa.
It’s safe to say our family is addicted, but it’s not just the sport that we can’t get enough of.
It’s the atmosphere.
It’s the family aspect – not just with my large Travis family, but with the friends we make along the way. While obviously focused on his own success, each competitor also strives to make sure everyone does their best. It’s not uncommon for one contestant to come out of the arena after their run and suggest the most effective way to run the pattern to the competitor who’s up next.
This is why we’re addicted.
Not just because of the inevitable adrenaline rush or the shiny first place buckles.
Six years ago, my family got into a sport that would soon impact our lives. Yes, summer weekends are always spent in arenas filled with gunpowder. Yes, it has taken up most of our summer nights (the wives in our family like to joke that it’s become our family vacations). But I, for one, love it.
I love the time spent with my cousins.
I love the bonding that happens with my uncles over a clean pattern.
I love the lessons learned by a frustrating misfire or a operator mistake (even though some of those lessons can be hard to learn).
I love learning from my Dad, brothers, or Grandpa what the most efficient pattern looks like.
I love the time spent with my family.
It’s so much more than a sport. It’s the family aspect. It’s the life lessons of responsibility, dedication and losing gracefully.
It’s our “thing.” And THAT is why I can’t wait til summer.