They call me Al

Christmas by Jerry O’Dovero

I’m not sure when my Christmas day tradition of eating pistachios on Christmas day started. I’m guessing it must have happened in my late teens. It’s a tradition that continued until my 30’s. It didn’t stop until friends started inviting me to spend Christmas with them probably baker’s dozen years ago. This is the first year in a long time I bought pistachios and the fixins for a Christmas dinner. Dinner later today will be lamb, my special baked beans I got the recipe from Mark my brother-in-law mother, pasta with an alfredo sauce and asparagus. For desert I have an apple pie and for an appetizer I have the largest peeled ready to eat shrimp the grocery store had to offer. It’s been a long long time since I spent Christmas alone. Most people would feel a little sad, but I don’t. I get to look back at my life and enjoy the memories.

It was around noon on my third Christmas out here in California and I was just about to start Christmas dinner when my doorbell rang. I answered the door to see my 80 year old neighbor Al standing there. Al was a little man. He stood maybe (at best) 5’5’’ tall with a slender build. Also Al didn’t have much grey hair left. I was shocked to see Al at my door. We had been going to the Elks lodge on Thursday night for their $8 prime rib dinners. Well Al always had the prime rib dinner which was usually cooked wrong in his mind. Me, I’d mix it up from time to time and my meal was always prepared pretty well. After dinner Al and I played several games of pool, which Al won most of the games. For me it was a fun night out.

Hi Al, I said looking at the little Italian man. Do you want to go for prime ribbed dinner, he asked. Before I could answer he says, I’ve called Coco’s (a restaurant a few blocks away) they have prime rib. Al loved his prime rib. I’ve got everything in the fridge for a wonderful home cooked meal, but I told him I need to comb my hair and put on some shoes, give me a second. Within two minutes I went from snaking on pistachios comfortably in my apartment on Christmas day to driving Al to a restaurant for Christmas dinner.

When I was putting on my shoes I had asked Al if his wife was going to join us. Al told me she had left him. I had knew she had divorced him a few years earlier because she was afraid Al’s medical condition would cause a lawsuit and get them sued. Al was in WWII and suffered a head injury. He had a metal plate in his head and was on meds. When he was on the proper mount, Al was normal. But if he took too much or too little he had no short term memory. He knocked on my door a few times asking me if I knew him. I’d get him to take his meds then I’d watch him for several hours waiting to see if he’d get better. While I waited I’d get him to tell stories of his time in WWII. While Al didn’t know anything from the past 5 years of his life, he could remember the past like it was yesterday. It was fun listening to Al’s stories and especially the military stories. The United States has the best military the world has ever known.

We arrived at Coco’s to find the parking lot full of cars. I was shocked. Inside the restaurant there were 25 people in the waiting area. All the tables were full of people enjoying Christmas dinner in a restaurant. I had never thought of going to a restaurant on Christmas day. While Al went to put us on the waiting list, I did what I do best. I started talking to a lovely lady and her 16 year old daughter. She was beautiful, friendly and a pleasure to talk with. I’m about to ask them if they wanted to join Al and I at our table when Al came back. We have to go. What? Why? Al said we have a 45 minute wait and he’s not waiting 45 minutes. I look at the lovely ladies, shrug my shoulders and tell them I have to go. After wishing them a Merry Christmas, I’m out the door with Al. the street we’re on is called Blossom Hill road. West a few blocks away was a Denny’s, but I’m not having Christmas dinner at Denny’s so I drive east. About a mile and half down Blossom Hill is a street named Snell Ave. I’ve past Marie Calendars and four or five other closed restaurants so I turn North on Snell Ave. A half a block up I spot Pete’s Family restaurant which has cars in the parking lot. I pull into the lot and tell Al to run in and see if they have prime rib. It doesn’t pay to have dinner there if they don’t have prime rib for Al.

A minute later Al returns. Yes they have prime rib. I park the van and go in to meet Pete. Pete was a tall man with the classic features of his Greek ancestry which included a Greek pride. His family had been in the restaurant business for at least two generations possibly more. For the next several years each week I’d have dinner at the Elks with Al and Dinner at PETE’S. Pete and I became friends. His bachelor party was the first bachelor party I’ve ever spent in Las Vegas. After the restaurant closed at night we often played cards which I was an often donor to other’s monthly bills.

It took a little time until I made close friends here in California. Moving here was the best thing I ever did. Over the next few weeks I’ll tell the story of why I moved from Marquette and how I ended up in San Jose. But now it’s time to quit eating pistachios and start my dinner.

Merry Christmas to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Christmas in California by Jerry O’Dovero

17 plus years ago I moved to sunny Northern California, or the Bay Area as it is often called. I’ve been asked lately by several people why I packed up way back then and moved to San Jose. I’m the type of person that can leave my apartment and strike up a conversation anyone. Once I start talking, it takes days for me to stop. So in the next few weeks I’m going to tell how I decided to move to California those many years ago. I will say this; I never planned on leaving Marquette. Some people are born with the burning desire to leave their town of birth especially if it’s a smaller rural type of town. I consider Marquette a smaller rural type of town mainly because the people there know their neighbors. If you’re broke down on the side of the road, which I was on a few occasions, someone you knew driving by stopped to help you, But it’s near Christmas and this year my Christmas is going to be different then my past several. For the past several Christmas’ I’ve spent it up North in Oakland with Jackie and Mark Two of the nicest people on earth that opened their home to me on a very special day. Sadly that tradition is ending. I’ll miss those wonderful evenings chatting with them until the wee hours of the night. The smell and crackling sounds of the fire in the fireplace; the meal fit for a king, which I was made to feel like and the true friendship that I felt while there. Now some people don’t do well with change. A mother gets empty nest syndrome when their children leave home. Some people stay in jobs or marriages even though they’re hate it because the fear of change. To be honest, I don’t think my brain is wired quite right. When I look to the past, I tend to remember only the good things. And when some doors close, I know new doors will open. I never go to the same restaurant and order the same meal time after time. I look forward to the changes. I’ll always love yesterday, but I’m excited about my tomorrows as well.

I started writing these blogs thinking I’ll give some insight to others with disabilities, but as I’m writing I’m finally realizing what I’ve accomplished in my long life. I like me. I always have. The earliest Christmas’ I remember were when my family lived in Harvey Michigan. After opening presents at our house, we’d pack up the Ford Galaxie 500 with mom, dad and 5 or 6 kids and head to grandmas and grandpas house in Mellon Wisconsin. It was always dark on the drive there.  For some reason I remember my father driving 75 or 80 miles an hour down highway 77. My mother would be telling my father to slow down which only made him drive faster. Sometimes we’d be pulling a trailer with three or four snowmobiles which only slowed my father down on the corners.

My grandparents lived on a farm. They made their living raising dairy cattle. At 4 o’clock in the morning and 4 in the afternoon they’d head to their barn to milk 30 or 40 cows. Here’s a trivia question; what type of cows produce milk? Don’t know? A cow that has had a calf. A mother. My grandfather had his farm next door to his brother Otto and Sister Marge. Is that her name? Hope so. She was married to uncle Freddy. I had a lot of respect for him. Marge passed away when I was young. Otto and Freddy both had their own houses. Freddy’s house was the social house and Otto’s house had the 20 foot dining room table with 25 or so tall back chairs. You hung out at uncle Freddy’s house and ate at uncle Otto’s house. They each had their own barns as well. But like uncle Freddy’s house was the social house, uncle Freddy’s barn was the social barn us city kids would go to to see the cows. Because the farm had two families it was known to us as the ‘’big farm.’’ For nonfamily it’s called the O’Dovero farm. Not only do they continue to be a dairy farm, it is also has a store that sell fresh meats. If you’re like me and like your t-bone steaks a 1 ½’’ thick, you can go there and they’ll cut you the thicker steaks right in front of you.

Christmas at the O’Dovero farm always had a Santa Claus. Either Uncle Joe’s son Larry or a friend of the farm would dress up as Santa Claus and pass out presents while the adults watched and socialized. Christmas on a farm was always fun. Seeing the cows, chickens and the other animals made Christmas different. Christmas on a farm in a rural setting is just different. The cows still needed milking and the eggs collected from the chickens. Not only was there the family at the farm, but neighbors often stopped by to say hi. Someday when i’m old (next week) I could retire on a farm. The next day there were the multiple games of 500 rummy with Uncle Fred. I’ll bet I’ve played 500 games of 500 rummy with Uncle Fred. If you remember when I was 5 years old to 9 years old I’d spend parts of my summer break from school on the farm.

Christmas at my other grandparent’s farm was quite a bit different. My mother had nine brothers and sisters. We’d also spend a night at their farm as well. I don’t recall, but I’m guessing it would be a day or two after Christmas. The other difference was kids. I’ll bet I have close to 50 first cousins on my mother’s side. Going to the Warren farm was kids play. The farm was on top of a hill with a valley on both sides with small creeks flowing on them. The hills or slopes going down to the creeks made perfect hills for sledding down. You could always tell who received new winter coats or boats for Christmas. Several of the cousins brought board and card games to play. Some of the games could turn into marathons. The one thing I remember fondly was the exchanging of gifts among all aunts, uncles and cousins and being careful not to spill grandpa Warren’s full coffee can of snuff juice. He was a snuff chewer and had a large coffee can next to his favorite chair that he spit into. My grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side raised 10 children in a small house with only two bedrooms. When it came time to exchange gifts, the little house would be wall to wall people. It was wall to wall people all happy to be there. Oh, every year I used to give both my grandparents rolls of yarn. Then the next time I visited I’d get two pair of knitted mittens.

I’m a lucky man. I look back at my childhood and I had it really good. My Christmas’ could be Norman Rockwell paintings.

But things change, people get older, doors close while new ones open. My Christmas as an adult was spent in Marquette. I have six brothers, two sisters, several in laws (for a while they were boyfriends and girlfriends of the family members) and nieces and nephews. With the large family, we’d have a family Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve then exchange gifts afterwards. My Christmas Eve day would start at Shopko around 10am. I’d finish, or often start my Christmas shopping. I’d also buy the wrapping paper, ribbons, tags and tape at the same time. Once I’d finish I’d wheel across the parking lot to JT Shafts. The place would be packed by noon. I loved it. Not only friends from Marquette, but several dozen friends I grew up with that had moved away. From the time I entered the door until the door hit me in the ass when I left I was talking – nonstop. All the stars were lined up for me on Christmas Eve day.

The family dinner was always scheduled for 6 o’clock. I don’t wear a watch. The watch band would get caught on the pegs of my wheelchair wheels. When it happened one of two things had to happen. Either the watch band had to break, or I was going to be pulled out of my wheelchair – in an instant. So getting home for the 6 o’clock family dinner was always a challenge. I’ll bet I never made it by 6 once, but never later then 6:30. It was usually 10 to 15 minutes past 6. Even though it was only a few minutes past 6 there was always that someone that would give me crap for being late. I didn’t care. I had more important things on my mind. I needed my presents wrapped. To get that accomplished, I’d give a niece or nephew all the gifts, wrapping paper, ribbons, tags, tape and a $20 bill. By 6:30 my Christmas shopping was complete, the gifts were wrapped or close to it and I was eating Christmas dinner. After dinner the 30 plus family members would gather in the large living room of the family house and open presents. The black marble fireplace would have a hot glowing fire in it. The young nieces and nephews excited when a gift had their name on it. One of the parts I enjoyed was watching the nieces and nephews growing up. It was fun watching which ones would take the leading role in passing out the presents. Again, Christmas on 322 East Ridge Street was a Norman Rockwell painting. One of my Christmas presents was a bag of pistachios. On Christmas day I’d sit in the basement eating them. Once that bag was opened, I wouldn’t stop. Before long, my lips and tongue would start hurting from all the salt, but I wouldn’t stop. Over the years I received many nice and even expensive gifts, but that bag of pistachios was the one I looked forward to the most. It was my Christmas day tradition to eat them until my mouth hurt.

In 1995 that door closed when I moved to California. I moved to California by myself. Also, I didn’t know anyone here when I moved here. My Christmas went from being around family to being by myself. But unlike most people I wasn’t sad. It was a new door. For the first time in my life I was responsible for cooking a Christmas Eve dinner. My meals usually start with meat. What do I prepare? I thought about prime rib. I’ve never cooked prime rib before. To this day I’ve never prepared it. I wanted to do something different, something special. I bet I spent 20 to 30 minutes looking at the meat selection trying to decide on what to prepare. People kept asking me if I needed help reaching something. I’m a talker, so I bet I explained my dilemma to a dozen strangers – in detail. Then I noticed a leg of lamb. I’ve never cooked lamb before and I bet I had only had it a few times at best. So I bought the lamb. I had to call my brother in law Mark to find out how to cook it. I also got his mothers bake bean recipe. I love those baked beans. Every year I have Thanksgiving at my friends Steve and Kristina’s house. On my very first Thanksgiving dinner there more than a decade ago to just a month ago, I’ve brought those special baked beans. I also bought shrimp and cocktail sauce and vegetables. My family never was into vegetables. One of the doors that opened to me by moving out to California by myself was eating vegetables. I truly enjoy them now. I’m not 100% sure, but my guess is I bought asparagus and made a cream sauce. I also bought an apple pie and what else looked good. I live alone and there is a grocery store on the same block as I live, so I don’t usually have a lot of food in my fridge, but just before my first Christmas dinner in California my fridge was packed.

The few weeks leading to my first Christmas here in California I received several gifts in the mail from my family and friends. I’m a traditionalist so I never opened them until Christmas Eve. While my diner was stewing in the kitchen I opened the gifts. My brother Joe had sent me a handmade wreath and a two foot high Christmas tree. Joe used to sell Christmas trees. He and a brother or two actually planted the trees on land near my grandparents. Once or twice a year they trimmed the trees to get them looking like Christmas trees. I guess when they get near tall enough they cut the top of the tree off. That simple act slows or stops the tree from growing taller, but it grows wider and fills out to look like a Christmas tree.

Every year Joe would give me a Christmas tree. I was living in the family house on Ridge Street after everyone left, so a 10 foot high tree would fit in the house. One year Joe gave me a beautiful 10 foot high tree. I had a roommate or two at the time, so they got the stand out of the attic and put the tree up. They tried and tried but it just wouldn’t stand upright without falling. It took a few minutes, but we finally realized the problem. The stem of the tree looked like S curves at a race track. Well, I have a work shop in the basement so off we went with the tree stand. We found a four foot square piece of plywood and screwed the stand to it. They put the tree back into the stand, but it still wasn’t stable standing. Even after several adjustment it might fall with just a bump. So off to the closet we go to find some heavy metal weights. When I was in the hospital in 1979, I had 20 pounds of steel weights that kept me in traction. I saved them, so we used them to weigh the plywood to hold the tree up straight. Joe was living with me at the time so when he came home that night he noticed the tree. It was beautiful with the lights and ornaments. I showed him what it took to get it to stand and asked why he gave us such a screwed up tree. In typical Joe fashion, he goes, is it a beautiful tree? Well yes, but. Jer that tree was returned three times because no one could get it to stand. It was too beautiful of a tree to throw away and I knew you could get it to stand. He was right. It was a beautiful tree and I don’t back down from a challenge.

After putting up the little tree Joe sent me and the wreath, I opened the rest of the presents. There were several nice gifts from my family and friends, but it wasn’t until I opened the gift with the pistachios that it truly felt like Christmas. I finished preparing my very first Christmas dinner and felt happy and proud of myself. This was my new life. I knew in time I’d make friends out here, which I have. As I’m writing this, my buddy Kip is taking my old crappy sewing machine out of the homemade sewing table we made and mounting my new vintage model 15-91 Singer Sewing machine that’s probable 75 years old.

Full from a wonderful meal, I relaxed and turned on the TV. I don’t think I found a show when my phone rang. It was my family calling from the traditional Christmas gathering to wish me a Merry Christmas. After talking to everyone in the family for a couple of hours I poured myself a glass of eggnog. I liked my new life. Old doors close while new doors open. It wasn’t too many years before Jackie and Mark moved to the Bay Area. For many years I’d spend Christmas with them. Now that door closed. As much as I wish it wouldn’t have happen, especially the reason why it did, I’m not sad. They’re memories I’ll cherish for ever. I’m a very lucky man. I have so many happy Christmas memories.

I’m looking forward to see what new door opens. For many years I’ve wanted to spend Christmas and New Years in Australia. A few months ago I finally got my very first passport. Maybe next year I’ll be there?

The wild wild west

About 10 years ago I woke up at 6am on a Sunday morning. I hate when I do that especially since it happens way too often. Wide awake, I turned on my TV. Flip, flip, flip and nothing exciting at 6am on a Sunday morning. Then I find a show on whitetail deer hunting. I haven’t hunted since the accident. Guns are heavy, they have a pretty good kick when shooting them and dangerous if not handled properly. Handled properly, there are safe as a butter knife. You just need to know one thing about guns. Crocodile Dundee said it best when he pointed to the end of the barrel and said, that’s the dangerous end. If you respect that one thing, guns are as safe as a butter knife.

A couple of days later I received a catalog in the mail titled Access to Recreation. It has pages of items to assist the handicapped. I haven’t received a new catalog in quite a while, but they have a web page. The guy that runs the show is named Don. He’s in a wheelchair and a nice guy. I’ve talked with him a few times when I needed info on something in the catalog. I often liked flipping through the pages. If I was rich, I’d buy a bunch of stuff from the catalog. That day ten years ago I spotted a cool gun turret that mounted on a wheelchair. It was developed by a guy in a wheelchair as well. I called Don and he put me in contact with the inventor. I liked it. But it had one problem, it cost thousands of dollars. I think if I bought everything it would have cost over $3000. I work for my money, so I’d need a lot better job to afford the store bought gun turret. But it did give me an idea. I can make my own. The one thing I did buy was this plastic little thing that mounted inside the trigger area with two little set screws. On the side is an inch long lever that would operate the gun’s trigger. That only cost $49. I bought two. I should have bought several. They don’t sell them anymore.

So off to the hardware store I go. To mount the turret to the wheelchair I wanted to make it simple, but strong and safe. I’m not going to be the one mounting it on my wheelchair, but I don’t want it so complicated that no one will help me either. It’s hard to do things on my wheelchair while sitting on it, especially since I have paralyzed hands. Also, I have no need to ever shoot a gun by myself; it’s not something I need to do. If I shoot an elk, I’ll need the help anyway bring the 1000 pounds of steaks, roasts and sausages home. So I want to keep it simple. It might be a cold snowy day when I’m hunting the elusive 12 point buck. Easy and quick is important. I accomplish this by buying a 2 foot piece of 1 ½’’channel iron. I cut it 17’’ in length. The width of the frame of my wheelchair is 16’’. I then cut two 1’’ pieces. My brother Paul, who was living with me at the time worked at a company that had a welder, welded the two 1’’ pieces onto the 17’’ piece of channel iron so it formed a ‘’C’’ if you will on one end. On the other end I drilled two holes to fit a U-bolt. When you slide the channel iron with the C end over the lower pipe on the left side of my wheelchair and U-bolt the other end with wing nuts on the right side of the wheelchair it’s a solid mount. Anyone can attach the gun turret mount with one U bolt and two wing nuts to my wheelchair in 5 seconds, 10 seconds in cold weather.

With the goal of making a simple mount complete, I had Paul weld a pipe coupler to the center of the channel iron. With the gun mount on the wheelchair just behind my front wheels on the wheelchair, all I had to do was screw about a 3’ piece of pipe down between my legs to the pipe coupler that was welded to the mount.

A gun everyone should own that wants to own guns is a Ruger 10/22 rifle. It’s a very small .22 caliber rifle that uses very cheap ammo. The rifle has no kick what so ever so it’s great for learning how to shoot and safely handle a firearm. It’s the gun I bought to test my gun turret. Safety first when it comes to firearms. I wanted to know that I could safely shoot a gun before I got deep into the sport of hunting. To mount my .22 caliber Ruger 10/22 rifle to the gun turret mount I had attached to my wheelchair I used shelving angle iron. You’ve seen that silver angle iron used for shelving that has all the holes in it. I cut two pieces about 2’ long. Using threaded rod, I bolted the angle iron together just wide enough to fit with fender washers over a pipe T. To hold the rifle on the 2’ angle iron, I simply used two old front forks off an old wheelchair. Without the wheels, I bolted the forks pointed up on either end of the 2’ angle iron. I wrapped them in foam then used duct tape to keep the foam on the forks to protect the rifle from being scratched when in the forks. I used just the right amount of foam so the rifle fit very snug inside the two forks.

Now it was just the matter of putting the part that held the rifle on the 3’ pipe mounted to my wheelchair. Inside a pipe T, I JB Welded a smaller pipe that a 3/8’’ bolt just fit in. With two 3/8’’ fender washers, I loosely bolted the pipe T near the center of the two pieces of angle iron that had the two forks that held the gun. Add a short piece of pipe in the pipe T that fit inside the 3’ pipe that is mounted to my wheelchair and I have a homemade gun turret. Add two threaded rods near the top of the 3’ pipe going back to my back rest of the wheelchair and it’s a solid.

Basically, I have a thing that securely holds a rifle mounted on top of a pipe attached to my wheelchair. The rifle in the mount can rotate on top of the pipe left, right, up and down. After a coat of blue paint, I take the new gun turret, my new Ruger model 10/22 rifle and my brother Paul to a gun shop that has an indoor shooting range. Paul attaches my new gun turret to my wheelchair. He slides the .22 caliber rifle into the foam covered forks. I dawn ear protection and safety glasses while Paul attaches a paper target to a device that will bring it down the narrow 25 yard tunnel. I aim the rifle and pull the lever attached to the trigger. POP! It wasn’t a very loud sound. .22 caliber rifles don’t have much gun powder in the little cartridge. The gun doesn’t kick at all. I know this from my childhood when I’ve shot  .22s.

I asked Paul if I hit the target. He was busy in the stall next to me. Paul rented a .45 caliber Colt model 1911 semi-automatic single action pistol. In my opinion, the most iconic classic handguns ever made. This is the hand gun that is in all your old gangster movies, WWII movies and even Vietnam. The .45 caliber is a very big shell and Paul said the gun was heavy to hold. After a few shots down the gun range, Paul too was asking if he was hitting the target. It took us both a couple of shots before we were sure we were hitting the targets. For Paul, you could call it a bucket list item for him. For me, it was conformation that my gun turret worked and I could safely shoot a gun and hit a target.

I don’t remember if I ordered my next gun that night or it was a day or two later, but it was ordered. I had been looking at web sites for guns for several weeks leading up to that day. Once I knew it was safe and I could hit a target, I was buying a real gun to hunt with. I looked at several manufactures and many different calibers. Since money was a concern because I’m not rich, I choose the Remington Model 700 bolt action .308 caliber 28’’ heavy barrel rifle. I chose this gun for several reasons. For the price, it’s a very well designed and manufactured rifle. It will do everything I want and expect it to do and do it very well. I choose the .308 caliber because it’s most likely I’ll be shooting 100 yards to 250 yards at the animals. The .308 cartridge carries long distances well, but it doesn’t have the kick of a 7 mm. I chose the longer heavy barrel version of the Remington model 700 because weight wasn’t a concern. I wasn’t going to be handling or holding the gun. I wanted the heavier gun hoping it would kick less. As for scopes, I bought a Leupold VX-2. After talking with a buddy, Kurt, I was told it’s a great scope for the price.

With my new gun, it was just a matter of going to a shooting range and trying it out. At the time, my brother Paul was living with me. Paul was the type of person that could come home from work and be happy just sitting on the couch watching TV. So to get him interested in wanting to go shooting, I talked him into buying himself a gun. Paul is the youngest of seven boys. He’s always had the problem of thinking he’d had to fill the shoes of all his older brothers. I don’t think he’s ever understood he can be just Paul. There are seven boys in my family. We all have our own individual unique talents. One would have to be superman to do everything everyone else can do. Well maybe he finally has. He did just get married.  Anyway, I used Paul’s insecurity of being the youngest into him buying the biggest, baddest monster gun he could afford. I told him he’d have the biggest gun of anyone in the family. Again it was the Winchester Model 700, but not the .308 or the 30-06 that is popular among the other brothers, I talked him into the Winchester .300 Magnum. The .300 Magnum is a monster of a shell. It’s twice the size of my .308 cartridge. The Winchester .300 is a gun that you can take to Africa and shoot water buffalos, rhinos and even elephants with. Now, I was taught by my uncle Freddy ‘’not’’ to shoot anything you’re ‘’not’’ going to eat and I still believe that to be true today, so don’t go shooting anything you don’t plan on eating. Now there is self defense, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll need to use a gun for self defense. If you do, I’ll understand and do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family, but I’m hoping no one I know will ever need to defend them self with a gun. While I’m on the subject, if you own guns, then you should own a gun safe, and use the two holes in the bottom of it to bolt it securely to the floor. When it comes to firearms, be smart and be safe.

Now that Paul has a monster of a gun and I have my Remington .308 model 700, we’re off to the outdoor firing range. We find one just south of San Jose off of highway 101. Of course both Paul and I have ear and eye protection when we set up at the shooting range. The shooting range had boards 100 yards down range you put your paper target on. Since there is a couple of dozen places to shoot from, the range has no shooting periods so everyone can walk the 100 yards to put their targets up. While we waited for the break, Paul set me up with my gun turret. Then the break came. Paul sets up targets for the two of us. Paul was excited to shoot his weapon of ultimate destruction so I watched him fire his gun first. I’ve been around guns a long time, but I’ve never heard a gun as loud as Paul’s .300 Winchester Magnum Model 700. HOLY CRAP was it loud. Everyone at the shooting range turned to look at Paul. I think he took three more shots than put the gun back in his gun case. I asked him why and he said it was because it cost $3 a shell to shoot. Later on he admitted it kicked like a pissed off mule.

When my turn came, Paul set me up with a clip full of .308 shells and put my gun on the turret. I pointed it down range, pulled the bolt back to chamber a .308 shell, took the safety off and pulled the trigger without looking through the scope. It seemed to work well. The turret held the gun perfectly. Neither the rifle nor the gun turret move on my wheelchair, it looked safe. My second try I looked through the scope, but with my face 6’’ back. I pulled the trigger and everything looked fine. My third try I put my eye close to the scope, aimed at the center of the target and pulled the trigger. Paul, did I hit it? Paul uses the binoculars I had in my duffle bag to look at the target. Yes, you hit the top corner. I was excited so I didn’t notice the warm fluid trickling down my face. Paul looks at me with a surprised look. You’re bleeding! It wasn’t until then I realized I was cut. The scope came back from the kick and nailed me between the eyes. It happens so fast I didn’t feel it.

It took several minutes to get the pretty deep cut to stop bleeding. When it finally did, I pointed the Remington model 700 .308 down range. Without putting my face near the gun, I told Paul to watch what happens when I pull the trigger. I pulled the trigger. Do it one more time Paul said. I pulled the bolt back and chambered another shell and fired. My gun turret was working perfect. The gun wasn’t moving an inch in the turret. What was happening was the kick from the rifle was lifting the front of my wheelchair up so the entire wheelchair was rocking back a couple of inches when I fire the gun. Basically the rifle, gun turret and wheelchair were moving, but my body wasn’t.

Ok there needed some modifications, but the gun turret concept worked. I shot another 15 or so times down range . I kept my face a few inches back from the scope when I shot. Even though I had a little bit of a hard time aiming because my eye wasn’t close to the scope, I was hitting the black circle part of the target at 100 yards on most shots. Adjusting the gun turret, the gun or maybe just a broom handle propped underneath the handle on my wheelchair to keep the wheelchair from rocking back, and I feel I could be a good enough shot to safely go hunting with someone. And a lot more practice.