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September 21, 2011

We Had a Blast

We Had a Blast

By Nancy Martin    DSC01462

My husband fusses that he never wins anything.  I think he reached that conclusion after entering the Publisher’s Clearinghouse three times---without winning so much as a wink from Ed McMahon.  A month ago, though, he attended a charity auction. (I declined to go.  To be honest? As soon as he announces there’s a charity event he wants to attend, I start to worry about what the hell I’m going to wear.  I am not a size 4.  I don’t fit into “cocktail attire” anymore, and the thought of putting on heels just gives me a headache.) Anyway, Jeff went stag, and while he was enjoying his Manhattan with the other men whose wives refused—er, declined to attend, the lady in charge drew his raffle number!  He was a giddily astonished winner of the grand prize. (He works like a fiend for this particular organization, so I’d say the karma was on his side.)  Anyway, the prize?

A free weekend at a very spiffy resort within driving distance of our home.  So we went.

A free, very plush room for two nights (oooh, the bathtub!) and free meals plus a free “activity.”  The resort is famous for its golf courses, so I guess they assumed we’d golf.  Lemme tell you, friends, I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a hot marshmallow stick than chase a tiny ball around in the sunshine.  So when my husband gave me the list of other activities from which we could choose, I think he figured I’d pick something relaxing at the spa.

But my eye traveled down the menu of activities and hit this tasty item:

Shooting academy.

My husband was astonished that I wanted to shoot skeet.

“You’re in favor of gun control!”

For me, gun control is needed for automatic weapons.  Sporting firearms are something else entirely—especially the kind that are used in controlled circumstances like gun ranges, and I’m even in favor of hunting animals. (There are too many white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania, not to mention hungry families who live in rural areas.)

Plus? Has Jeff not noticed what I’ve been writing for the last ten years? Of course I wanted to try a shotgun!

So we went to the gun club. It was a lovely September afternoon, and we were assigned an instructor who was very informative and safety-minded and downright sweet.  First, he gave us safety goggles and ear protection and showed me how to carry an unloaded weapon. Then he drove us in a golf cart to a stand and showed us how to shoot at incoming and outgoing “birds”—clay pigeons that are really disks of clay that break apart when hit with even a single BB—which is what’s loaded into the shell that you fire from a shotgun.


My husband, who hasn’t hunted in fifteen years and who gave away his rifle and shotgun before we moved here in the city, hadn’t lost his skills.  He was given a 12 gauge automatic “over and under” (as opposed to the horizontally mounted “double-barreled shotgun” you see in the movies)  and he looks pretty great, right? And he managed to hit a respectable number of birds right off the bat.

My eyesight isn’t great, so I figured I’d have some trouble. I was given a 28 gauge shotgun—much lighter than my husband’s gun and with a shorter barrel. (It had some very pretty engraving on the stock, too, but apparently that’s not what you’re supposed to say about a gun.)  I put the gun to my shoulder and said, “Pull!”—the signal to launch the clay pigeon. Now, I must admit I wasn’t a total rookie.  I’d shot at clay pigeons back when I was a teenager and my parents used to hang out with a group of outdoorsy friends. They spent weekends on a farm, shooting, grilling steaks, watching the kids chase kittens—that kind of thing.  But that was a long time ago. Lonnng time.

Well, dear reader, darned if I didn’t hit the first six birds—bangbangbangbangbangbang—most of them obliterated.  DSC01467   Our instructor thought I’d been teasing him about my bad eyes.  But my accuracy was only good on the range.  When we rode the golf cart out to the stations in the woods, I was no Annie Oakley.  I even tried wearing an eyepatch, but I just couldn’t discern the play pigeon from the trees and terrain.  I hit a few, but it wasn’t until we tried the “rabbit range”—where the clay disks are launched sideways, hit the ground and skitter along like a frightened bunny—that I got my mojo back.  Bye, bye bunnies.

Needless to say, we had a blast. A couple of wonderful dinners, swimming at the spa, strolling around the art museum, an evening cuddled up at the firepit (s’mores!) and some quality time with the love of my life---a pretty great prize.

Do you win things?


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A few months ago, here at TLC, I won a copy of Hank's DRIVE TIME. Now THAT'S something to be happy about!

Sheesh, as soon as you open the door the spambots stroll right in, don't they?

Nancy, your weekend sounds like such fun. And good for your mojo! How was the kick, and did you end up with a sore shoulder?

At the Citizens' Police Academy, the women tended to be better, more careful shots, and I saw the same thing this summer out West. Our host at the ranch took us shooting this year, just handguns, mostly, shooting stationary pop cans. The women had a harder time holding the gun steady, but they were much more deliberate in their shooting. Very interesting to watch.

Cake walks. Even the biggest cake in the line up. I know you're jealous.

Did I ever win anything? Well yes I did.
My brother entered me in the WSHE 103 Coors Silver Bullet Contest.
The DJs zoomed around all summer in this $100,000 dollar Cigarette boat with scanty bikini clad girls hanging off it drinking beer. It was Miami Vice attractive and painted like the beer can. Silver, natch.
He called me one morning to quick call the radio station. They had called my name to win a chance at the boat drawing. I was #99 of 103 people.
The actual event was at a wild and crazy place on the Intercoastal in Lauderdale.
We all went out on this barge and they had a giant fish bowl with keys in it. When I got to the front of the line there was one chance in 10 left to pick the key that would open the lock to the last 10 keys WHICH only one of would then start the boat.
Beer sales went through the roof.
My brother told me to look carefully at the keys. One had to be just a tad different than the rest. Makes sense no? I picked the one with the extra bump.
Now I'm the last of 10 and have no choice. I get whatever the others didn't pick.
More beer.
The DJs drag this into a Roman Orgy evening. People are falling off the dock drunk splashing in the water.
Finally the process of trying to start the boat begins. Nope. Nope. It's getting crazy. Now there are just 2 of us left on the barge. If the dude in front of me starts the boat I lose. If his key doesn't I win without even trying to crawl on board.
His fails and I'm in a dream. I think they had to carry me and hold my hand to get me to turn the key. The engines roared and my brother came, I swear, leaping onto the boat like Tarzan.
What a night.
Moral: Don't ever win a "THING". Win money. You have to pay taxes on a "THING". The boat was pretty beat up after a summer of pounding by the DJs so it's actual worth was $65,000. I only had to pay $6000.
My brother played on it all winter. It cost $250 a month to keep and way more than $50 in gas to take out.
We finally sold it for $22,000 and probably broke even.
Did I mention beer is good food?


I was very surprised by this. I lerarned to shoot when I was writing BACKSEAT SAINTS, because Rose loves guns works in a gun store and is a firearm expert and a crack shot. I wanted to know what guns she woudl rpefer and etc.

I shot all kinds of guns---including an afternoon at a skeet range blasting away at orange clay discs.

I like to shoot pistols best---they were clearly Rose Mae's weapon as well---so much more personal than a rifle.

Now that the book is over and I am learnign about mollusks because this next book features big fat overblown fake miracles and one life changing teeny tiny TRUE actual miracle. That involves mollusks.

A molluskan miracle.

But shooting was more fun.

What a great weekend! Tom and I went there on our weekend honeymoon many years ago.

Here is my skeet question - did they try to get you to hold the gun at your side and then swing it up to your shoulder when the clay was released? Because my arms are too short to make that work. It took my a few minutes to get the instructor to understand that.

Oh, winning stuff. Let's see. Does getting five of the six numbers in the first six-number lottery drawing (for $24 million) count?

Sadly, we thought, "Crap, we came so close. Oh, well." And threw out the ticket. Which would have been worth something between $100,000 and $200,000. That was 29 years ago, and I'm actually glad we didn't get that money. I don't think we would have had our two delightful daughters if we had.

HOnestly, we're having a bad time with the spambots. Sorry, everyone. We're working on that, but trying not to make the commenting process such a pain.

Deb, you're always a winner with us!

Karen, my shoulder wasn't sore at the time, but even yesterday I noticed I was stiff!

Barbara, the first thing I ever won was a cake walk! An enormous cake at the 8th grade prom---big enough to share with 100 people!

Xena, what a story! They say the second happiest day in your life is when you buy a boat. But the happiest day is when you sell it!

Joss, I am actually a little afraid of pistols. They seem so easy and light, and I'm afraid of it going off at the wrong moment. With a shotgun, you really have to pay attention.

Kath, you keep the gun to your shoulder all the time. At least, that's the way they do it at the range. In a hunting situation, you'd keep the gun down and raise it when the birds pop up.

Karen!! You threw away the ticket??

When I was in college, I won a mail-in contest that involved matching china and silverware patterns (well, it was a women's college, and it was a long time ago). The prize was a check for $300, which may not sound like much but it was enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe in those days (good grief, how old am I?).

I won a set of really ugly orange-flowered dish towels that said "God Bless Our Home." I gave them away so She could bless someone else's kitchen.

I have lost three of the last four days in the Mr. Typepad spam contest. About how my luck goes. I have one a few things, a backpack, a suitcase, (maybe people were just telling me where to go?), a weekend car rental, that's about it.

I was at a computer conference one day. The first prize drawing was for a laptop. They pull the name and read it. Everyone cheers. The winner stands up and says, "I work for the State Attorney General's office. I cannot accept any gift with a value of more than $50. Please draw again." More cheers and a new name.

Luck is not generally on my side. If there were only 10 tickets available and I bought nine the other ticket would win. Once in a great moon the god of luck goes on vacation and I win some insignificant prize such as a Rowenta Iron which I was actually thrilled about since it's such a good iron.

The other piece of luck that comes to mind actually involved shooting. When I was in 9th grade my father made my brothers and myself take a hunter safety course. I never planned to hunt, but I was forced into it. After we completed the classes my father took we three siblings to a Turkey Shoot.

All of the turkey shoots around here take place at night in the fall. Poorly lit targets are placed 50 yards away and contestants in each round "aim" and blast away. There I was, the only female, taking aim with a 12 gauge shotgun for the first time in my life. I won a turkey by having one of the pellets in the shot go through the center of the target. Not many other shot penetrated the target. Everyone else in the shooting round actually had more penetrations of the target, but none close to the center. It was a thrilling night, but I haven't shot a gun since.

One of my grad school professors threw an annual Kentucky Derby party (he was, of course, from Kentucky). Betting meant giving a dollar and picking a name out of a hat. Good food, drink, and company, then the race. My first year, my (ex)husband and I won the $50 pot, which was real wealth to new parents - I think we spent it on diapers and baby food.

Other than that, I'm not much for winning things. But my (now and forever) husband and I are itching to take shooting lessons at the local range!

Joshilyn, please let me know if I can help with the mollusks :)

All right you got the rabbit, way cool! I've never been able to hit that speedy little clay. Nancy, come on down anytime and I'll teach you handguns and get rid of the fear.

Karen, women are generally better shooters.

I've been shooting a bunch of times and I'm a pretty good shot, but for me it's exactly like driving a stick shift or turning on the pool heater or speaking German -- every single time I have to do it, I have to relearn it. I've even taken gun classes, but I can never remember what kind of gun I'm shooting, or which thing is the barrel, or where the safety is (although for some reason I always remember that Glocks don't have safeties) or whether you call it a bullet or a cartridge or what. And all this despite the fact that Nancie the Gun Tart is my good friend. Thank God. Because I'm constantly asking her stupid questions, every single time I mention a gun in a book.

Oh -- and as for winning things, I once won a painting that I hung in my garage. But I figure I've hit the jackpot in so many ways in life -- amazing children, friends, boyfriends, family, careers, health -- that I can live without the lottery.

I won a nook e-reader at a conference last year. It has converted me (at least half way) to the darkside. Although I still love real books and I always buy those instead of the e-version if it is by one of my favorite authors. Now if they could make the nook smell like real books...

I love shooting things, too, although I don't think I could shoot an actual critter. But I will gleefully annihilate non-critter targets.

Oh, Pam, I love that story!

Last summer my husband and his (rude, arrogant) buddy were taking turns shooting our new pellet gun, trying to get it sighted in. They were plinking away at a five-square target, about 10" square, all in one quadrant. I keep hearing them saying, "It's pulling to the upper right. No, it's dropping to the lower left."

Steve hollers to me in the house, "Karen, do you want to try shooting some?" So I came out, said, "Sure", and sat down to shoot. Just as I'm about to pull the trigger the pal says "You have to call your shot, Karen." So I looked at them and called "Bullseye".

Well, you know what happened, right? Steve watches me shoot, then grabs the binoculars to make sure of what he thought he saw. "Shit", he says.

Yep. Bullseye. I said, "Gentlemen, my work here is done."

Oh, yeah, that was my last, and only, shot. No way was I tempting fate!

That sounds so fun, Nancy!

I do win things sometimes. I won a trip from a radio station to see Big & Rich on the Today Show. Well, a ride - it's 2 hours to NYC, so we met in the radio station parking lot at 4 am and rode up in a luxury van. It was fun, though, and we were right next to the stage, and Big Kenny smacked my hand. :)

I also won a $100 gift card to B&N at a John Grogan book signing for Marley & Me. It was actually from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which was there trying to get people to subscribe (we already did), and John was a columnist for them at the time.

I've won a few books from internet contests, and a few baskets at the raffle we do every year for Nora Roberts' foundation.

I don't win every time, but just enough to make me keep trying. ;)

Ha! You go, Karen!

Nancy, what a delightful weekend. And I'd have been right with you in that gun stand. Have never, EVER, won a lottery or raffle that I can recall despite the many books of tickets I've bought. But it's a fun way to donate to good causes, so I can't grumble. . . although I really would have liked that homemade quilt the Blowing Rock, NC library was raffling off when I was researching HIGH COUNTRY FALL.

Sorry to be such a slug today. I think I have a tummy bug! (Erg..........I've been upstairs in bed watching L&O Criminal Intent. My new love is Bobby Goren.)

How hilarious is it that so many of us have won kitchen wares? Another era, I guess. (LIke toasters when you open a new account at the bank.)

How many times do people actually refuse prizes? Unless they work for the state atty, general like Alan's experience?

I think we need a TLC road trip to visit Nancie the Gun Tart. (I wanna see Peach hit the turkey!) Can we borrow the radio station's lux van? We could take along Harley's garage painting for target practice. (Notice I'm not suggesting Jill's Nook. I love my iPad.)

I'm supposed to do a library event tonight. Gotta settle my tummy before then. Otherwise, I hope somebody brings a bucket. Oh, dear!

I've won lovely books from TLC authors -- thanks again! . . . and I considered myself very luck to find a teaching position, eight years after getting my degree (and lucky that the insurance work taught me organizational and selling skills that were actually quite useful in teaching).
My mother once made a very good first shot, which impresed my brothers, and then very wisely declined to shoot again, "I don't want to waste your ammunition," so they thought she could always shoot that well.
I won skybox tickets to a Cardinals game, intending from the beginning that they were for my mother (so her luck was in play there) -- My sister took her, in her wheelchair and said they were taken very good care of -- and she got to see "Big Mac" hit some runs (and was gone from this earth before the steroid scandal spoiled the magic).

At Bouchercon's live auction last week I won a character in the next Robert Crais book. Is it a win when I have to pay? ABSOLUTELY! My name will be a character in a Robert Crais book !!!!!

Nancy, you must have that bug making it's way around Western PA. My husband and mother both had it. It only lasts around 24 hours. Hope you're on the downswing of those hours.

I've won three things. One is a very ugly painting I keep because I won it. One was some electrical work, and I'm almost positive there was a fix in on that because we'd just reopened the general store and had a terrible problem we needed help with but all our money was in the inventory. And the third and most thrilling is my dog and I get to be characters in Elaine's mystery shopper series. That is the prize with the most meaning because to win I shared a story from our adventures clearly enough that the humor came through. Much easier said than done.

You hit the FIRST SIX??? You are officially my hero, Nancy. That's AMAZING!!! I shot at about forty of the damn things over the course of two days this summer, and hit two. Still blush at the thought of it.

Mary, if you never win anything again in your life, those box seats must be worth every ticket you slip into gold fish bowls!

Mo, I hope you get to kiss Joe Pike!

Nancy, do you have some herbal mint tea in the house? Peppermint is especially good. That will help your tummy. It's our family go-to stomach trouble remedy. Some people swear by ginger, but I've not ever had it work for me.

Feel better.

Carol and Mo, how fun!

I was about 12 when I won a 60 cup coffee maker. I generously gave it to my mother to use for the family holidays. I now have it and it actually still works. That was 34 years ago...wow.

I had 5 out of 6 numbers in the Missouri lottery 20 years ago. We used the money to buy a cheap car for my stepdaughter to drive while she was living with us her senior year in high school. Come to find out...we couldn't trust her enough to let her go willy nilly in one of our cars. So she never drove it, but Dear Hubby used it to drive from St. Charles to downtown St. Louis to work. (and for anyone who knows St. Louis rush traffic...it was a straight shot down I-70. A total mess, lol.)

And about 4 years ago, I won big time when I found this site. Every single one of you make me laugh everyday and look forward to meeting more of you!

(Is my nose too brown?)

I have won a couple of 50/50 draws at conventions, I always donate my winnings back to whatever charity the draw was for.

I recently won 3 disney toys in an online draw!!! Woohoo, love them.

In addition to winning a copy of one of Hank's books I have also won a couple of other items that I'd forgotten about - Hank's book is my favorite prize, though!
--So, I think it was a year or two after I graduated from college (many moons ago:-) when I won a hand-crocheted mohair shawl that looked like a fake mink and was just exactly what a twenty-something year old did NOT want! I think I won it at a Christmas bazaar. I have no idea what I did with it. For all I know, I gave it to my parents to use as a bed for the family dog.

More recently, maybe around twenty years ago, I won - also at a Christmas bazaar - a set of coffee mugs, with matching sugar bowl and creamer, and a wooden tray. I use the mugs all the time, but haven't got a clue as to where the other items from the set are. (Probably in that Black Hole that things disappear into when I want to make sure they're stored where they won't get broken).

Oh, I almost forgot: we have an office Lotto pool. We each contribute $1 per week. On occasion, we have won around $80 or $90, which gets split 9 ways. Most recently, we each won $4. (Helps me with paying the machines at the laundromat!)

Things I have won over the years...

A couple of t-shirts and a ball cap from radio stations

$75.00 on a scratcher from the California Lottery

A tank full of gas (this was back when gas was 26 cents a gallon)

A copy of the board game "Awful Green Things From Outer Space"

A bag of groceries

Two 20 sided dice and a small dice bag

A pie (cherry)

A 50 pound bag of parrot feed (which lasted about 2 months)

A small bag containing 1/2 ounce of a controlled herbal substance (this was in 1980. I sold it 15 minutes later)

A few things one does not talk about in polite society, but they were won at an adult party. (both goods and services)

I think half the prizes we're talking about today have ended up at Deb's Christmas bazaar. (Well, except Pam's coffee maker! I had one of those, too, that I inherited from my mother, but took to a writers conference and left behind. I didn't remember where I'd left it for nearly a year. Wonder if somebody in Altoona is still using it?)

Now, Doc, you know we're all dying to know about those "services."

Going to look for peppermint tea now....

I've won books (Yay!) and small gift certificates and my husband won tickets to the circus that our kids loved attending. But, I've never won anything major. I'm thankful for the few things we've won, they've been treats in an every day life.

The shooting class sounds like fun!

Oh, Nancy, if you really want a shooting thrill, go out to Las Vegas and go to one of the indoor shooting ranges that lets you shoot all kinds of weapons. Once there, choose the Thompson submachine gun (tommy gun) and blast off a clip or two!

You might also like firing a .44 Magnum like Dirty Harry uses, but be sure to say either "Go ahead, make my day" or "Do you feel lucky, punk?" before pulling the trigger.

Firing a missile at a boulder the size of a house on an island is fun, too, but you'd need to join the Navy to do that.

So nice of your husband to win for two! That room looks soooo comfy.

I once won a large beer cooler. Try not to envy me too much.

Brandy, tickets to the circus must be the ultimate prize!

Doc, have I told you that my brother lives on Vieques? Right now, the Navy is cleaning up bullets with plutonium on them. But the beach is lovely.

Nancy, I'm so sorry, but I hear the words "beer cooler" and immediately think of a place to store body parts.

Nancy M: I can't wait to see what you're going to do with Nancy P's beer cooler now!

Hope you're feeling better. I DO get relief with ginger, and often drink chai tea, which contains ginger and other spices, for an upset stomach. Peppermint is helpful, too, as Karen mentioned.

Get well soon!

And Cornelia, I hope your bronchitis is on the way OUT now!

That's impressive, Nancy. I grew up with a rifle and target and poopooed shotguns. Missing looked impossible with a gun that sprays a big blast of shot. Then I tried skeet shooting just once and got a lesson in eating it. Hitting those pigeons takes a special skill--feeling the right reaction time and a perfectly connected eye and trigger finger.

Skipper---please be aware that I hit the first 6 birds and should have retired. After that, I was pretty dismal. But it's nice to be able to impress the hell out of your spouse now and then!

Deb--I am leaving for the library now. Stopping for some ginger ale for the trip. Erg....

Hi Nancy,

Sounds like a nice relaxing weekend. I'm looking forward to one of those, myself.

When I was 7(?) I won a quarter in the Marblehead Horribles Parade. And when I was 8 I won third prize of $3 in the Billerica Tercentenary parade for my costume as Rockabye Baby in the Tree Top.

I used to love getting out there with my old double-trigger/double-barrel that I mail-ordered from Montgomery Ward's. When the skeet range started to attack my pocketbook, I set it aside long enough to rediscover the pistol range. They also let us practice shot on large-target problems in the outdoor police range there - like how to use the shotgun to get at someone inside a car without shooting through the windows.

I'm not so much into guns nymore. I still have my very old service revolver and the double-trigger from Ward's but now prefer 38 shot in the revolver as a snake gun. My father was always trying to give me "stopper," but I just like the way a revolver works. And my experience, however limited, tells me that reaching for a shotgun is a very effective way to keep slime out of your house.

Cornelia, despite your score the photo of you shooting was impressive! Hope you're feeling better, too.

When World Team Tennis first started (players included Chris Evert & Martina Navratilova etc) I won a case of Tab at a match. I was at a match in Indianapolis with my sister, mom and a friend. They had added extra seating on the floor and we were in the front row behind the baseline. Vitas Gerulitas came running back to hit a shot and literally landed in my lap. My mom was sitting next to me and kept making harumping noises. I asked her what was going on and she said "He grabbed my breast". He of course was trying to not fall in the floor and had spread his arms to gain his balance.

We carried the case of Tab back to the motel (None of us even liked Tab) and laughed all the way back about Vitas landing in my lap and grabbing mom's breast. From then on when we made plans to go to a match my mom (who would have been in her 70's at the time) would grin and ask if Vitas was playing.

Needless to say that turned out to be far more exciting than winning the case of Tab.

The only gun I've ever fired was a BB gun so I guess that doesn't count. Although I'm probably the only person in my neighborhood who doesn't own a gun.

Nancy, lol! You born mystery writer, you.

I come from a family of hunters and gun-lovers, so I'm not unfamiliar with them. We were in the house one day and saw a large bird in the field across the road, so Dad grabbed the rifle with the telescope and we checked out the bird. (No binoculars, and the of course the gun wasn't loaded in the house.) I was look at the bird when it flew away, so naturally I followed it with the scope. Dad was shocked that I was able to follow it, which resulted in many rounds of "Here, shoot this tin can that I throw in the air." Now I just shoot things on my Wii.

As for winning, just yesterday I got an email notifying me that I'd won a quilt design book. I've won several books (including one on Joshilyn Jackson's blog), a number of fabric giveaways, and a Kitchen Aid stand mixer on the Pioneer Woman blog.

My dad was a hunter (quail, pheasant, ducks mostly) and loved trap shooting as a hobby. He taught my mother when they were married. When I was a kid, we spent many a Sunday afternoon at the gun club with their friends. By the time I was 8 I could break down and reassemble a shot gun and break half of my clay targets.

Being a Jersey Shore girl, I loved going to the boardwalk arcades with friends. Anybody else remember the shooting galleries with the BB guns where you tried to shoot out the red star on a card? I was on a first date with a guy and we went to the arcades. I shot out the star. He didn't. I think that's why there wasn't a second date.

The skeet range can be quite fun. Focusing on a target and hitting it feels like winning in one of those first-person shooter arcade games. Owning a gun can be hard work. You have to make sure that it's in good condition and all the parts are oiled regularly.

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