For some reason one Sunday morning when I was a kid, my best friend Monte and I decided that we needed to put our lives at risk that day. 

One of Monte’s ‘other friends’ had given him an immaculate clay pigeon, and he told Monte that there were hundreds more just like it laying on the grass at the local shooting range, free for the taking.

“They just scrape them up and throw them away; they are trash,” he said. “We are saving them money and doing them a favor.” 

(Unasked for; by trespassing and stealing from them?) 

It was supposed to be good Karma, or paying it forward; almost a “community service,” if you will. Never mind that neither of us had ever shot a gun in our lives, let alone gone to the range, been hunting, or even watched “Gunsmoke” on TV for that matter. Why would we want these objects? 

But that ceramic shooting target was just so good-looking. It was a shiny black disc adorned with a bright orange ring painted on the top of it, and we had to get more of them. 

The range was closed, as it was Sunday morning; every gun-toting, God-fearing farmer was probably in church on Sundays. Monte and I walked the two miles down the hill from his house to the range and walked in like we owned the joint. “In” was really outside, as we bypassed the deserted office and progressed to find our precious booty. 

Monte’s other friend had not lied; we immediately started finding perfect specimens and carefully placing them in our backpacks. We had been in the field for about an hour and our backpacks were almost full.

Evidently the Lord had a short message that day, because we suddenly noticed several cars pulling into the parking lot back by the office. The grass field that we were in was roughly the size of a football field, and we were on the 50 yard line. 

We could not go back towards the office, because they might take our loot from us, and/or call the cops. So, we ran towards the cliff at the back of the range and looked up. It didn’t seem too high, and there were houses at the top, so there had to be a way through, right? And, it was a lot shorter path back to Monte’s house this way. Sounds good, let’s do this. 

This is where the story gets more interesting, from a “life and death moment” perspective. I really felt scared that I might die at an early age that day. 

As we began climbing the cliff, several of the range patrons had made their way out onto the pads, and they spotted us immediately. “Get out of there!” they hollered, and they proceeded to shoot perilously close to us to get their point across. 

I don’t think they were trying to hit us, but I’m sure they had a good laugh about it amongst themselves.  Monte was climbing ahead of me, and I followed him up, watching bushes explode all around us. As he went up the side of the hill, he was grabbing any clump of grass he could find for a handhold to pull himself up. Most of those handholds proceeded to hit me in the face, as he discarded them downward in his progression to the top. 

Monte made it over the hump. After encouraging me to continue for a minute, he scampered over a fence into some unsuspecting neighbor’s backyard and literally “left me hanging.” 

I got close, maybe 20 feet away from the ridge, but then I realized that there was no way for me to scale this summit. As I rolled, ran, and tumbled back down the cliff into the line of fire, the taunts and the shots continued from the clay pigeon destroyers. When I hit the bottom of the ridge, I started running along the edge of the cliff line through several farms, heading in the general direction of the road we had taken to get down the hill in the first place. 

I tried to use trees for cover as I zigzagged away from the scene of the crime, and I like to think that it was a successful strategy. 

A torn pair of jeans and a backpack full of ceramic dust later, I arrived back at Monte’s house with no bullet holes in me to find him laughing on the porch. “You looked so stupid climbing up that hill, and then rolling all the way back down,” he said. 

If I had a gun I could have killed him.

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