Jump Frog Jump
By Pat McMahon
We stopped at Wickenburg to refuel the horses and water was 47.9 cents per gallon. It was packed in by Burro! We then headed for a camp in Nevada called Las Vegas where we heard life was free, easy and fast. Upon arriving we weren’t disappointed for we wasted no time once we passed through the swinging doors. Wes started playing Blackjack with a painted woman who called herself Flo. Jerry favored Chuck-a-luck and I had a hankering for Monte (It’s a GAME stupid!). Anyway Wes broke even, Jerry lost ten bucks and I lost 3.
The sun was starting to rise over the mountains above Boulder Dam and as we were a bit behind schedule we decided to travel by day. We headed Northwest through Nevada for an area in California called Yosemite. The country sure is beautiful! Desert to the East and snowcapped mountains to the West. Before we headed into the mountains we asked an old prospector if the pass thru Yosemite was open. He assured us that it was so we then headed due West.
We reached an elevation of 11,000 feet at the pass and the snow was still 10 feet deep along the side of the trail. We stopped often for the horses get their breath and drink a little snow. At one of those stops we had a snow ball fight and Jerry and I did Wes in good.
Wildlife was abundant as we saw deer, coyote, cats, wolves and a fat forest ranger that took us for $3.00 for riding thru the park!
We hit Angels Camp Friday night, bunked out and anxiously waited for Saturday to slap leather in the Western States Fast Draw Championships.
The first phase was 9” balloons at 21’ wax elimination. As we never shot this phase before we all hoped to shoot late in the first round as we could see how the experienced shooters shot the phase. Well my Irish luck failed me as my name was called first and my opponent was another Arizonian, Gary Tryon. He had me two shots to none when we eliminated each other by emptying our guns without hitting the balloon. We both were finished for the remainder of that phase, a hard way to go.
We made it thru the first round only to get shot down in the second round by Ivan Wadford, a gunnie from Bagdad, Arizona.
Jerry didn’t make it thru the first round as his opponent had a nasty habit of breaking his balloon first. No consideration at all!
About half way thru the first round a security guard from the camp called us all together and informed us that the Hell’s Angels were coming in mass to take over and asked for our assistance if needed. Well now, things were starting to look up for I figured a Hell’s Angel was a bigger target than a 9” balloon and besides it (the Angel) would be closer than 21’. It sort of reminded me of my boyhood days in Chicago!
We were told that there was 30,000 people at the Camp on Saturday and what a mass of degenerates! The only straight people present were the shooters, the guards, and the people working the concessions. The rest were the lowest forms of beings on this earth.
The first phase has ended (thank goodness) and John Gentry was 1st. It’s a bit difficult to hit a 9” balloon at 21’ with wax against an opponent and the times ranged from .57 (fastest shot) to over 6 seconds. That’s right, six seconds, as it was a shoot until you hit. The second phase was walking balloons total time which was easy except for Wes in his removable cast.
There was a killing in the camp Saturday night, several knifings, innumerable fights, robberies, property destruction and general havoc as 2,000 outlaw cyclist and more thousands of hippies were present to add color to the festivities. Nobody bothered any of the Fast Draw shooters as we were always heeled with the “Big Iron”.
Us three Arizona boys did our good deed for the day as we assisted some damsels in distress on the trail with a stalled buckboard. Actually it was an overheated radiator but a buckboard sounds better! We had water with us as it is a good policy to carry extra water when traveling in the great Southwest.
The first phase Sunday was 4” balloon elimination with blanks. Wes shot first today and survived the round but Jerry had a harder time and was carried to Boot Hill! Today I was the last shooter. As there were an odd number of shooters the two shooters just before me and I had to shoot for a bye, the fastest shot gets the bye. My two opponents were Joe Benson and Bob Grilli, two of the fastest balloon shooters in the sport today. Needless to say I didn’t get the bye and I faced Bob Grilli. He was afraid of me as I brought my pet rattlesnake with me from Arizona and laid Jake, the snakes name, between us. I’ve go Jake trained to shake his 63 rattles when someone says “set”. I’m used to it as I trained him but Bob had a hard time adjusting to Jake’s purr and half cocked twice and I got thru the round only to be shot down the next round by Van Gentry. Little Charlie’s opponent in the second round was a big gallut who called himself Al Brian. I asked Wes if he wanted to use Jake but he said he didn’t need a crutch. HA! Al sent Wes into eternity.
The weather was bad today as it was windy and the blowing dust was something else. The timing equipment went haywire and before the day was over we had used three different clocks. We went from micro switches to sound pickups and back to micro switches. The contest finally came to an end and there were a few ties to be shot off. The most dramatic was a 1st place overall tie between Al Brian and John Gentry with Big Al coming out the winner.
The Western Fast Draw Association officers were present and they presented the association year-end awards for 1970. I accepted Ronny Phillips award for him for his win at the Southwest Nationals in Phoenix last year and I sent it to him in Kentucky.
It’s getting dark now, all the awards have been given out, most of the shooters have left for home and those of us that are left are just discussing the events of the shoot. The timing equipment is gone as is the noise and excitement. There are hundreds of spent .22 blank cases lying around and pieces of balloons and traces of black powder. The camp is now a ghost… it’s time to saddle up and ride south to Tombstone.