I Can’t Imagine My Life Without Them

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Thursday — since I first joined South Cuyahoga Sportsman’s Association’s Junior High Power Rifle Team in 2015, Thursday has been my favorite day of the week. Most kids would look forward to Friday…the end of the week…the start of two days of freedom from school — as I did too, but nothing meant more than Thursday evening rifle practice.

All throughout high school, I made it my goal to never miss practice. It didn’t matter how much homework I had — I would rather sacrifice some sleep than give up seeing my “range family” and losing out on an evening that gave me enough motivation to make it through the coming school days. Provided of course, my dad was able to drive me. Flash forward four years and a lot has changed. I have missed more practices than I would like. (Transportation from college becomes an issue on a weekday night.) Even so, I have had the chance, with the help of my family and coaches, to introduce a good number of students to the shooting sports who otherwise would never have been exposed to it.

Tonight was the first practice I missed in 2019. It is bittersweet as I am busy with preparations for the 2019 SHOT Show and homework from the classes I will miss. Over the past month and a half I had off from school, I have really forged an even closer relationship with the members of my team — something that I never dreamed was possible. These young men are my confidantes, the people who make me laugh harder than anyone else, and who I call when I just need someone to talk to. Though I am sometimes called “Team Mom” I know they love me for it and I just use it as an excuse to give them extra hugs. 🙂 (Sorry guys!)

It is amazing how much I can miss spending just a few hours with my “range family,” both juniors and adults, though in this post I focus on my teammates. Having someone one’s age to relate to and share experiences with is critical. I am beyond lucky to have more than one. I can have a horrible day, but hearing from one of them, or laughing at one of our innumerable inside jokes completely turns my day around. One of my coaches took this photo around Christmastime. It is the first and only picture I have of all of “my guys” together. I shall forever treasure this photo as it reminds me of the support system I have when I feel misunderstood by many my age. It also reminds me of what I so love about the shooting sports — the community one joins.

Find a family in your passion. Find others who share your ideas, rejoice in your successes and help you through your failures and disappointments. It is not just a friendship — it is a special bond that few truly understand.

Starting A New Adventure: Palma

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

“Whoa…that’s light!” I must admit I was not quite sure what to think when I pulled the Bix’n Andy Rem 700 Benchrest trigger for the first time. Ryan Kelbly laughed as he adjusted it for me – a service rifle shooter accustomed to a 4.5-pound trigger. The rifle was beautiful – even more so than I had imagined. The black nitride bolt of the Kelbly’s Big Bore Panda action perfectly accented the matching McMillan prone stock, just as Ryan had promised it would. I could not stop smiling, Jim Kelbly chuckling from behind his desk.

It is still unreal. I started shooting service rifle at 200 yards in 2015, across the course in 2016. Shooting 200 yards seemed a tremendous distance – only to be considered close when compared with 600 yards. To be entering a discipline where 800 yards, 900 yards, and 1,000 yards are standard is unbelievable. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

When I first contemplated putting together a long-range gun, a coach and friend of mine both inspired and encouraged me to put together a .308 Palma rifle. Hearing about his experiences on the U.S.A. Young Eagles team and those of a friend of mine who attended the 2019 World Shoot led me to write an article for Shooting Sports USA on the U.S.A. Young Eagles team. This only increased my interest.

Thank you to everyone who helped educate me on various calibers and on Palma specifics. I surely do not know everything but I know far more than I did when I first contemplated starting in a new discipline.

Special thanks to Kelbly’s Inc., Krieger Barrels Inc., and Bullet Central – I could not do this without your support! I will still be competing in service rifle in pursuit of the Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge, but am excited to try something new and learn skills in Palma I can apply to service rifle.

Life in the Pits: Fred the Mouse

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Before Covid, there was Fred the mouse. And after Covid, if such a world exists, Fred the mouse will remain. Though I have never personally met Fred, his presence was made known to me in September of 2016 during the annual EIC match held at Solon Sportsmen’s Club.

Organized pit buckets, supplies readily available – everything present and accounted for needed to reface and score targets. I just didn’t count on anything extra. Droppings, scattered across the floor, scattered all over each shelf and across the tops of the buckets (which also served as a scoring disk) laden with stickers, chalk, golf tees, and smaller scoring disks.

I get it. Mice live outside. They get into things. They make a mess.

Such a display as in the pit shed, I had never seen, or care to again. At first glance, one can miss it. Some ignore it, some don’t care. I do not care for it – at all.

That very first match, at the 600-yard line, I broached match director Tim McGrattan about the issue. It didn’t even phase him. Apparently nothing would deter the mice (I imagine there are multiple.), so it has essentially been considered a lost cause.

“Fred.” He said.


“Fred the mouse.” This time it was very clear.

“You named it?!”

“Everything’s Fred.” Tim declared.

Exasperated, I listened to some story about tea parties at the 600-yard line with Fred and made a mental note to bring extra cleaning wipes to any future match there. Solon is a fantastic club to shoot at – great people, beautiful range. I earned 12 of my 30 EIC points towards my Distinguished badge there. I just wish Fred would choose to spend his time away from the pit shed and supplies.

Four years later, he’s still there.

Eight days before the match, I got a message.

“Fred the mouse has been asking about you.”

Now I don’t believe Fred the mouse can speak human, or that Tim McGrattan can speak mouse. Nor do I believe that Fred knows I have a sort of vendetta against him. I should specify. Fred is not one mouse. Fred is the name of each and every mouse who frequents the pit shed. Fred is also the name McGrattan assigns to any creature he sees or hears about. For example, the snake shedding its skin in the pits? Fred. Spiders? Fred. Everything’s Fred. Everything.

I quickly learned that the pit shed was still Fred-controlled, but that it would be cleaned out before the match. WONDERFUL!

Me: “And disinfecting it?!?”

McGrattan: “Want me to just burn it down?”

I thought this was a fantastic idea and held onto that shred of hope. On Saturday, September 12, 2020 – the pit shed still stood. It is 2020 after all. (In lighter news, Solon will soon be moving its supplies to a Connex – a structure not as easily gnawed into by vermin.)

This year, however, I did gain some greater insight into Fred’s life. Range regulars shifted around a few gas cans to expose a gaping hole in the floor, larger than my hand, surrounded by signs of Fred and his party.

I must admit, they were dedicated. Perhaps the entry has been left unrepaired out of respect for their handiwork. Most likely, no one cares as much as me.

Note: It has been realized that the entry point used by Fred the mouse and his counterparts was established by Fred the opossum.