Monday, March 28, 2011

Jerky Heaven: A Delectable Review

  I had my reservations about joining Twitter.  From what I could tell from my uninformed view, it was just a group of vapid people whose favorite pastimes included looking at the mirror and compressing every single thought that passed through their little minds into 140 characters for the world to see.  When I first joined, these preconceived notions rang true each time I logged in.  Teenie poppers attempted to befriend their idols while those same idols kept their throngs of fans entertained with the earth-shattering news of their latest BMs or outrageous shopping spree.  After seeing this abhorrent display, I seriously considered deleting my account.  Fortunately, I held on and amassed a great group of hunters who loved the outdoors, killing things, and of course, cooking the dead animals in question. Yes, friends, I am a true example of first impressions being completely wrong.  Twitter combined two of my most favorite things in the world, the first being surrounded, daily, by people that I can actually carry an intelligent conversation with; whether it be about the perfect whiskey or a deep discussion about the newest broadhead technology.  The second deals with a long-standing love affair with dried meat.

  College was an interesting experience. From dining halls to food courts, dorm room gatherings to gigantic parties; the university realm was one that I adapted quickly to.  Unfortunately, the food was never up to my standards.  As an intensely vertically challenged female, I must watch what I eat like a hawk.  While my friends could shovel french fries as long as my foot into their emaciated bodies, I had to (and still do) ensure that my salad was devoid of dressing or any other adornment that may grapple onto my thigh, never to let go.  The only way I was able to really eat what I wanted was before and after ice hockey games.  How I miss those calorie-depleting hours of absurd skating, and the meals there afterword.  It was through my intense hockey playing years that I learned the beauty of beef jerky.  With its naturally amazing flavor, low fat and generally heightened level of sodium, the snack was perfect for post-practice or pre-game. Once my love affair started, I made the misinformed notion that one could mainly subsist off of the substance.  Hence, for Christmas, my birthday, and any care package sent from home, beef jerky was the main star of the show.  But just as in any passionate love affair, I realized that there can be too much of a good thing.  Although my heart hurt as I realized that eating a strict diet of salted beef is not good for one's overall health, my love of jerky remained; which brings us to the present.

  I made the good decision of following House of Jerky on Twitter some weeks ago.  I went on their website, salivated at the goods provided and occasionally chatted with the fantastic head honcho, Janie.  Her and her husband, Ron began the heaven for jerky lovers some 15 years ago.  In a spur of the moment decision, they leased a space and began selling the jerky that beforehand was sold roadside.  It is apparent from anyone who visits the site or talks to Janie that while the company came from humble beginnings to grow large, a sense of connection to the customer is perfectly maintained.  This sense of commitment to the customer spurred a frenzy at our household, dogs included.

   I should have been searching for jobs a month ago but instead, I was happily tweeting away, as if I were a songbird myself.  It was then that I read the words, "Anyone want to do a review for our jerky?"  No sweeter words have I ever read online so I stumbled over my own fingers to message Janie.  She ensured that the package would get there soon after taking my information.  Days turned into weeks and before we knew it, a package lay on our front stoop.

   Let me pause here to explain that DU loves jerky with the same passion as hunting.  He buys it constantly, from small shops to supermarkets and always has a pack handy when hunting.  So, when I failed to mention that we were getting a shipment of jerky, he believed that I had been holding out on imperative, life-threatening information.  I got home from the gym to a torn package on the counter, jerky packages spilling about its surface and an angry DU, glaring in my general direction.  I quickly explained that the contents were free for our enjoyment.  He sprinted to the table and began tearing the bags open until I halted his assault.  Looking at me as if I told him there was no Easter Bunny (bless his heart, he still doesn't understand that I'm the one who buys the Cadbury Cream Eggs), he pouted. I then explained that we had to review them in a scientific matter so that my review may be as perfect as the meat that lay dessicated in front of our hungry eyes.

   And so it went.  Days later we sat down as I explained the rules.  We would try each flavor in turn then give the texture, quality and overall taste each a score from 1 being the least pleasant to 5, the most.  This, conceptually, was a great idea.  This process would make it so that there would be perfectly clear scores as to which were favored and which were not.  But like any good idea that fails horribly, going down in a cloud of its own smoke, so did this one.  The first couple flavors have neat lists next to them, explaining the pros and cons in a quantitative way.  The remaining opinions turned into a jumble of numbers from 5 to 700 with adornments like plus signs, arrows, and a myriad of drawings of sad looking pigs with words like HAM and BACON chasing them around the page.  However, shockingly enough we did end up with a clear winner and a clear loser. 

House of Jerky Taste Test Results:
(In ascending order, from our least favorite to the crown jewel)

1. Black Pepper Venison

This was a shocker to us to say the least.  We both have had our fair share of fantastic venison jerky and this just did not match up. The meat just did not taste anything like the deer who lovingly gave up its breath for us to enjoy. The slab of meat did not feel at all like jerky and the texture was slimy. While we were excited for this one, even saving it for last, we agreed that this did not feel nor taste like venison jerky in the least. 

2. Sweet & Spicy Beef Jerky

The weird combination of flavors and the sticky texture turned DU and I off from the start.  However, we agreed that the stickiness resulted from a home-made sauce that clearly adhered to the meat so the texture was not really a factor here but the taste was off.  The heat packed a punch but the sweet did not taste mellifluous at all.  

3. Teriyaki Beef Jerky

 I knew that this would be one of my least favorites, as the smell of teriyaki makes me want to vomit and I never eat Asian food.  DU, on the other hand, worships any culture that reveres the brown liquid.   I had my preconceived notions but I did not hate this jerky.  While I would not choose it to eat forever, it was passable in my book.  DU yearned for more teriyaki flavor but noted that the texture was far better than the Sweet & Spicy; the wet texture working with this flavor in a more balanced way. 

4. Hot Beef Jerky

 Wow.  Talk about a punch.  DU loves his wings suicidal, the kind of stuff the devil would eat on a cold day.  So, when we say this jerky was hot- we mean it. Again, the moist texture was a bit of a hindrance, as we would have preferred a powder-type hot over a saucy hot. But, the jerky delivered what it said it would, really hot, flavorful meat. 

5. Black Pepper Wild Boar Jerky

This flavor was the source of the fleeing pig drawings.  Before we tasted this one, I asked DU what he wanted this to taste like.  His answer? Bacon and Ham. Our results? Better than expected.  We both had never had WB jerky but as of now, we are complete converts.  The jerky tasted like peppered ham that had sat for a while but never dried out.  The interesting combination of flavors tickled our palates and while the pigs may flee, we will chase them down to have another taste of this wonderfully surprising jerky. 

6.  Natural Style Beef Jerky

We both have had more than our fair share of jerky in our lifetime.  Hence, when we ripped open this green package, we weren't expecting much; natural was natural.  How wrong we were.  This, hands down, was the best natural style jerky we had ever tasted.  The pieces broke apart perfectly and melted in our mouths like butter.  DU noted that the texture of the meat is exactly how jerky should feel.  This flavor also scored points with our dogs.  The dried meat is an occasional treat for good behavior around here and as much as it hurt me to give some away, we had to get a family consensus.  Titus and Avery loved this jerky the best, giving it two tails up!

7. Black Pepper Buffalo Jerky

I could go on about how amazing this jerky is but I figured that I'd let my notes do the talking:
DU- I would go to the store to buy this jerky all day, everyday. 
LJ- Questioning life before Black Pepper Buffalo Jerky. 
I believe it's safe to say that we absolutely loved this flavor.  We would have preferred a touch more pepper but we overall, the unique buffalo taste won us over.

8. Black Pepper Beef Jerky

This was a tough choice but given that we love pepper coating almost anything, this flavor was the winner by a hair.  On my end, it scored 700 out of a possible 5 points.  DU gave the jerky a 110% out of an unknown but probably much smaller percentage.  The beef was dried perfectly, having a smoky steak flavor.  The texture was not too dry nor too wet and again, the pepper was perfect.  This was the only container that left only minor traces of what was previously within, hence our crown jewel. 

Overall, the jerky was perfectly made.  One can really tell the difference between what is made in gigantic warehouses and jerky that is lovingly crafted by a dedicated company.  While the sauciness of some of the jerky turned us off, the peppered and natural varieties were by far our favorites.

In my opinion, House of Jerky should rename itself Jerky Heaven, as its product must adorn the walls of God's heavenly palace; angels and saints alike singing its praises.


*A gigantically huge thank you goes out to the awesome people at House of Jerky who made this review and the author's happy belly possible!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Humbling Moments

   I have said it many times since I began this blogging adventure but I have to reiterate, I am blessed beyond words.  I said it (to myself, and DU; shouting through my work phone) when I gained my first follower.  Again when the first comment filtered through my browser and when my Twitter began filling with support.  I cried when I saw my blog on CNN.  Likewise, my momma has cried more than once after reading one of those memorable posts when my past lays out for all to see.  This moment that I am experiencing now has surpassed the rest but makes this event's predecessors even more prevalent in my mind.

   A few moments ago, I found that my blog is featured on Wildfowl Magazine's website for the duck I harvested months ago.

For full story and to get to this wonderful operation's website, please click on the image above. 

And if you're wondering what the full story was on this beautiful America black duck that is currently chilling in our freezer, waiting for his murderer to find a job so he can be mounted, click here

   Upon receiving the tweet that directed me to the site, I yelled, cried then called DU.  He urged me to keep the site up, lest of course our computer blows up, and congratulated me for a job well done.  He, of course being the one who introduced me to the publication, is a subscriber and has been including the read to our bathroom magazine pile monthly.  My mom is the next on the list to contact but before I begin dialing those memorized numbers, I felt it necessary to thank those who made this all possible, which of course, if you're still reading, refers to you. 

    When I began this blog, my life was beginning anew.  A new adventure in North Carolina with a new house, new dogs, new places and most of all, new challenges.  I'd love to say that it has been nothing but roses and unicorns since I moved, but I can't.  First reason, of course, being that to my knowledge, unicorns do not exist (This fact daily plagues my existence, as I'd love to ride one to work and use it to make Skittles).  Secondly, because there have been some tough times.  The job I moved here for vanished in a blink of an eye, my dogs acted like rabid hyenas on more than one occasion which resulted in my believing I'd never see them again, finding friends was terribly difficult, and I missed home.  But, through it all, I found strength in the little comments, the page views and follows I accrued.  It may sound silly but it is true, without this blog I would have never found the confidence to apply for jobs, get out of bed, or even write.

   So, I'm writing today to thank everyone for the support that you may or may not know you have bestowed upon me.  I am eternally indebted to each of you, for the comments, views, Twitter mentions, etc.  I would not be where I am without this project, the people herein, and those who have supported it.  I would love to express my gratitude by visiting each and every one of you, bring a case of beer (wine, pop, what have you) and mow your lawn. (This may sound weird but I absolutely love mowing grass. In essence, you would be doing me more of a favor than vice-versa.) Unfortunately, given that this would be almost as impossible as finding a unicorn that defecates skittles, I figure this post is enough to say thanks. 

Thank you for everything, 
   The Writing Huntress

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Redneck vs. Genuis

   I hate math.  I never understood it nor ever fully grasped how in life trigonometry or areas of triangles l would apply to "real" life.  So, I pretty much got through my classes as best I could; leaning on friends whose science capabilities far surpassed my own.  English was were I excelled so I worked words as best I could in order to adapt to the test question at hand (given this, I am stellar at statistics). I still know how to add 2+2 (4... I think) and multiplication is still ingrained in my mind.  But if there was one thing that I learned in math, it was that Einstein, the genius who worked out the Theory of Relativity, failed high school*.  This notion was enough to console my math-inept brain then but also spark an idea years later.

   Those who are believed to be geniuses may not fall in line with the standards in which we determine intelligence. Hence, while Einstein went on to create a theory which overturned previously verified findings, his beginnings were more humble.  This kind of phenomena has occurred a plethora of times since moving to the south and I never even gave them a second thought.

Exhibit A: 

   It is an early morning and I am positively freezing.  The new doors on the duck blind have done absolutely nothing to ward off the January wind and my recent stint back in the gym has shaved off any fat reserves I had stored for duck season.  The Owner, a friend of his, DU and I all were sitting, waiting for ducks that showed up later, flying too high to shot. But for the meantime, the trio were admiring our spread while I festered in my freezing state.

   The aforementioned spread would be unremarkable and could be seen on any pond in any state in the US but there was one key difference.  Two butt feeders were throwing water half a foot in the air as a swimming duck made its way in a wide circle to the pair's left.  The stagnant decoys looked on, green; as they wanted the freedom to mobilize as well.

   DU sat back, watching the decoys produce a beautiful ripple affect upon the surface the water.  Silence reigned supreme in the blind until The Owner's buddy spoke.

   "Where'dja get those decoys?" he asked, mentally starting a note for later review.

   "I made 'em" replied DU.

    Minutes passed and after a flurry of duck calls were made, the question was asked again, "Where'dja get those decoys?"

    Again, DU assured the man that he was the creator.

    "Really? Damn... I bought some from Ganger Mountain a couple of weeks ago and they don't work good nearly as yours. How much they cost you?"

    "Round $30... just a cheap decoy filled with foam and a bildge pump.  It runs to a battery on the side of the bank."

  The man had paid over a hundred dollars for his and he seemed none to pleased with the cheap quality of his purchase.  On the other hand, he seemed impressed that DU had made the decoys and would pay him for one.

    The hunt went as expected with no harvest to show for our efforts.  The butt feeders and swimmer each lasted longer than our group did; still frantically moving about the pond as DU cut their life support.

   It struck me that day how apt we are to run to the store when something is broken.  Replacing is inherently not only more expensive but less time consuming than fixing, hence stores make a killing off of selling things that patrons could have easily built by themselves.   When I need a desk, I go to the store and buy one.  When DU needs a desk, he measures, procures 2X4s and spends less money on a desk that will last a lifetime as opposed to my shabby, plastic pathetic excuse for a desk.  If someone had the gull to ask me to make such an edifice, I would chug along strong until I realized I would have to measure something.  I'd forecast that I would last 4.5 minutes in Home Depot before falling to the ground, sobbing, hoping that the desk would erect itself out of thin air.  Yet I am the one who graduated at the top of her class while DU's grades are less than my standard of satisfactory.  While many would say that I have the brains in this relationship, I am here to argue that redneck inventiveness trumps test-taking genius any day.

Exhibit B:

     It is sweltering hot. I'm sweating like an overweight construction worker standing on the equator. I have just moved to North Carolina and I'm seriously contemplating insisting that DU build a walk-in freezer in the garage in order that I may spend the rest of these sweltering months in relative comfort.

    I have heard that summers here are unbearable but up until today, I did not believe it.  I lay in bed, every fan in the house gathered around me like a somber funeral procession when DU informs me that we're going to the lake house.  My ears immediately perk up, as my lake house in New York occasionally gets hot but the water is always beautifully chilly.

   We made our way to Lake Wylie; sweaty, windows down, humidity abound.  When I finally caught sight of the sediment-filled waters, I sprinted from the car, down the dock and into the water.  I expected the plunge into the depths of the murky water to turn my skin into a valley of goose bumps but nothing happened.  When I emerged, the rest of the group was in the water, completely oblivious to the fact that the water was just as warm as the air; if not more so.

   I came to learn that the water heats up as the air does and since summer in North Carolina lasts from March until September, the water gets pretty steamy (oh if only I paid any attention in science).  I made the best of the situation until I realized that swimming in hot water while the air temperature is on the verge of scorching is pretty difficult.  I looked DU for help when I saw him on the dock, a life vest in hand.

   He began putting his legs through the arm holes and buckling the straps up-side-down.  I started to yell at him that he was doing it wrong when I glanced over at E4.  He was doing the same thing; turning his life jacket into a redneck diaper.

   While I grew up with store-bought recliners and various other comfort-driven flotation device, DU and his buddies were turning regular life jackets into perfect sea chairs.  The boys laughed when I commended them for their ingenuity, as they just see it as something DU thought up one day. But I could not understand how they fail to see the brilliance in the design.  Whether floating, sitting, laying or diving, the diaper works to keep one up with just enough arm length outside of the water to hold a beer or other beverage.  Pure genius at its most simplistic, basic form.

   I've talked with more people society has defined as "rednecks" or "country folk" in the last year than I have in my entire life, DU and E4 included. While CMT, with shows like my Big Redneck Wedding, and society as a whole make rednecks out to look like inbred imbeciles, I have found that the large majority (save for a couple of interesting characters) who I have met have not only ingenious perspectives on things but also have a deeper sense as to what it means to provide for one's self.  They may not take the GRE as well as I can or even graduated college but that does not necessarily make them less smart than anyone else. On the contrary, as we've seen throughout this post, taking tests is no indication of intelligence.  The terms genius and redneck seem to be oxymorons of the highest sort.  However, just as Einstein showed us, a genius can be borne from modest beginnings.

   So I put the question to you, friends.  Are these redneck ideas or genius inventions?

   - Skinning a whole deer with a golf ball and a four wheeler.

            - Combining spray paint and cardboard to create the greatest                                                   bowhunting target known to man.

           - Making a bacon breakfast with pliers and cardboard.
   - Using empty beer cans as a wedding arch.

    - Making a porta-john into a tree stand.

   - Forgoing the usual brush guard in favor of a long horn's head adornment.

*woops. After some research I found that this is actually a misconception. Read the article to find out more.  But apparently Einstein had difficulty with speech early in life and had to grow up in the shadow of his father's failed electrical manufacturing company.  Given that I have been misinformed my entire life, I feel cheated. Stupid elementary school.  

Friday, March 4, 2011


 Do Not Read This Post;
But Read This One About A Post That May or May Not Have Been Written By The Author*

   Well, friends I normally don't do this but given the gravity of the depravity of the situation, I feel that I must act.   You're probably wondering why I would entitle this "Do Not Read This Post" and then continue to write about not reading another post assuming that you've continued to read, even though I instructed you otherwise.**  Silly reader, it's called sarcasm. and while you may have not heard of it, I am a master of it.

    Yes friends, I'm here, sort of as a public service announcer but also as a dear friend.  You see, Kari, from I Don't Wear Pink Camo to the Woods invited a guest writer onto her fantastic blog, some Writing Huntress who is no way affiliated with this blog. (Not even employing my sarcasm skills here; Kari's blog is awe-inspiring and awesome. No, I was not attempting at an alliteration here, it just happened.)  I've never done a review for a posting yet so my credentials may be shaky but I write a little bit so I kind of know what I'm talking about.

    In her post, "The Macabre Jackalope", the WH attempts to dispel the rumors that jackalopes are mythical creatures by not only explaining how to hunt them but also covering her first harvest of the "bloodthirsty" creatures.

Okay, so she looks exactly like me but that's besides the point.

   Now I'm no scientist or zoologist, but I'm 92.4% sure that jackalopes do not exist.  Furthermore, given that they do not exist, no one is, or ever will be, able to hunt them. So, the WH would be hard pressed to convince me otherwise. I smugly read the article until I saw pictures- REAL pictures of the huntress with jackalopes she's bagged, shot, and arrowed into their final resting place.  (And let me say, she sure does look pretty good doing it.)  Once I saw the pictures, I was a little surprised.  The shots must be authentic, as no computer could do that much of a convincing job that she's holding antlers.  I mean, I know for a fact that all models are that skinny and perfect in real life sans airbrushing, so the WH's account may be the real deal.

  Well, now I've talked myself into a corner.  I don't believe in jackalopes but apparently this hunting chick has actually killed at least three, with photographic evidence no less.  While I can't really verify or condemn these claims as false, I can effectively gauge her writing which is terrible.  She uses big words that I needed a dictionary to look up, makes vague connections in her analogies that throw the reader off, and she isn't even funny.  Okay, maybe the milk and zebra muffins part is funny....and the crazy looking blind... and the stuff about how insane jackalopes are.. but that's it.  The rest is just dull, boring and badly written.

  For my first review, I think I did okay.  If I were Ebert and Roeper, I'd give it one thumb up and three thumbs down.  But given that I only have one set of hands, I'll give it a kind-of-okay thumb and a thumb down.  So maybe you should read it... or maybe not.

*I don't deny nor accept any credit for the article written about Jackalopes.  I have no idea who it was that wrote it. I don't think it was me.  But then again,  it could have been me.  I mean, I could have had another sleep-writing incident that caused my genius to come out and create something that is inherently amazing but cannot be contributed to normal HLYH writing.  Or it could be a girl who looks exactly like me and writes a lot like me but just happened to connect herself with this blog. I'm not sure.  Either way, the post is okay.  Funny, actually.  Kind of out of left field.. but in a good way.  To be honest, I really like the posting.  But in order to keep my readers from following that WH, whoever she is, I have to bash it.  It's only fair.  However, since I know no one ever reads footnotes or the fine print of insanely long cell phone contracts, then not one, solitary person will ever read this confession! Muahahahahahahhaahahahhahaahhahahh!

** In retrospect, this probably was not the best title.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trigger Therapy

   I always felt bad for Charlie Brown, especially during his sad episodes or comics when a giant rain cloud hovered over his every step.  No matter where the football-shaped headed boy placed his bread-loaf-esque feet, the cloud was sure to follow.  Hovering like the memory of an ex-boyfriend who just refuses to go away or a bad decision long since passed, his cloud cast shadows even on the most marginally happy thought. As of late, I've felt the same way.  My little sad precipitation bubble follows me around, sure to exacerbate any well-meaning occurrence. 

    Even tonight, after  full day of applying for jobs, working out and finally submitting my application for graduate school to achieve my master's, my morose hovering partner remains. I find it incongruous that after such a productive day which included the positive results of my GRE (84th percentile in the analytical portion) and taking a gigantic step in my scholastic future that I still feel Mr. Sad Cloud's forlorn gaze. But as I lay here, contemplating throwing one of my library books through his gray-looking underbelly, I remember that there are times that his presence is not felt. While some people sprint to the nearest therapist, lay on their seedy couches and spill their problems out to a stranger charging $75 a half hour, I am not one of those people.  I believe in the more therapeutic process of trigger therapy.

   A couple of weeks ago, DU was talking about the times he had spent in Indiana shooting skeet with his buddies.  Apparently after hours upon hours of reloading their own shells, the boys would take their homemade ammo to a skeet range, shoot 5-stand or trap and just hang out together; their day spent away from the restrains of everyday life.  Always up for anything that involves guns and competition (maybe not the best mix), I was quick to lunge at the chance to try out this new sport, especially because it would utilize my newest firearm.  Just before I lost my job, The Owner and I were in cahoots in order to get rid of his old Stoeger 12 gauge 2,000 semi-automatic shotgun.  I had fired the piece of artwork, fell head-over-heels in love with the thing and promptly told him that I would be honored to take the gun off of his hands.  However, just about a week later, my job disappeared, along with it the money to pay for the firearm.  Given that I'm a woman of my word, I worked out a way to get rid of two of my old shotguns in favor of this great gun and fantastic deal.

    We arrived at the local skeet range to a packed house.  Groups of 10, 15, and 20 guys milled around gargantuan pick-up trucks, toting anything from the cheapest 20 gauge to the newest 12 Benellis.  The novice voice inside my head instructed me to promptly run away as quickly as possible from the range to avoid any heckling or jests at my expense.  But DU beat me to the punch and paid for 3 rounds apiece, forcing me to shoot along with the rest. With trepidation I meandered by the groups waiting to shoot, each outfitted with a shell bag and various name brand apparel.  I wanted to sink into the gravel with my ratty box of shells and no-name pink camo hat. Fortunately, we were invited to shoot with a group of 4 men whose camo hats and roughneck exterior told me I had nothing to fear.

   After a couple had shot as I sat on the sidelines, it was my turn.  Completely out of my comfort zone, I shot wherever and clandestinely prayed that my bullets would hit their targets.  Round after round and not one clay was met with my shot.  My frustration mounted and the sad cloud that had threatened to make an appearance the entire time began to show up.  But then my redeemer, dressed in a dirty wife-beater and ancient Remmington hat, showed me how to place my feet while explaining the importance of a proper lead.  I listened attentively then stood at the final shot box, exactly in the middle of the range, under both the high and low houses.

   [High house= the edifice that throws a clay out of the right side from a tall house, making the clay fly higher and drop more slowly]
   [Low house= the edifice that throws a clay out of the left side from a shorter house, making the clay fly lower to the ground]

   I stood as I was told, shouldered the gun, took a deep breath and screamed PULL.  The high house shot its clay high in the air.  I followed the orange disk until it was projected over my head.  Shooting moments prior, I was showered with the brightly colored faux pigeons.  Applause broke out, even in different ranges.  I gloated, took a small bow then came to rest with the group.  The next in line took his shot and missed.  Then the next to his shot, another miss.  Seven shooters in all and I was the only one standing; the only one who made the hardest shot.

   A hefty amount of beginners luck can be attributed to that shot, as I've tried many times after that to explode one and have only done it a couple times.  But that shot showed that my ill-wishing gray friend could be expelled by the crack of the firearm followed by the distinguishable scent of gunpowder better than anything else; except of course 5-stand.

   Just like in any good romantic comedy, as I began falling for skeet shooting, 5-stand starting piquing my attention.  I had heard that 5 stand was tough but I did not believe it until I actually saw it.  DU had been hunting for a good sport shooting range when he came across a private gun club in Charlotte.   Abandoning our trusty home range, we ventured to much more greener pastures.  The gun club was beautiful; the clubhouse had mounts from animals I had only seen in magazines and dream nightly of harvesting.  While the club itself is members-only; skeet, trap and 5-stand are open to the public.  So, when DU saw there was no one waiting for 5 stand, we made our way over.

   My initial impression of 5 stand was a combination of bewildered confusion and awe. Walking toward the area, it looked like a gigantic steeple with an attached platform. I saw 5 metal cages large enough for a giant to easily shoot under.  A lanky skeleton of a man decked out in the red uniform of the club draped under a puffy camo jacket was reclining above to the line of cages on a wooden deck, seemingly waiting for his next victims. 2 of which were shooting at clays that appeared out of nowhere. Bewildered, I approached the gigantic tower.  DU began explaining the rules.  There were cards that looked roughly like this:

     GAME ONE                                                               GAME TWO
       Novice                                                                    Experienced
        Single                                                                         Single
            1                                                                                  4
         Pairs                                                                           Pairs
         2     2                                                                            7     1
         Pairs                                                                        True Pairs
         6      6                                                                           5     8

   These cards could have been written in ancient Sumerian for all the sense they made to me.  I quickly abandoned trying to make heads or tails of the rules and focused on the duo shooting before us.  I attempted to harness all the telepathic powers I do not possess in order to infiltrate their minds to understand how they knew where the skeet were coming from.  But alas and alack, this did not work and as they trooped out of the cages, I was left with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

[Later I came to find that these numbers signified where on the field the skeet would be shot from.  A normal pair, for the novice, will shoot two clays from the same position, 4 seconds apart.  A normal pair, for the more advanced, will shoot two clays from different positions, 4 seconds apart.  Finally, a true pair signifies two clays, shot from different places at the exact same time.  The latter takes a while to master but is currently my favorite to shoot.]

   DU proclaimed that he, E4 and I would shoot game one.  Two more joined our party and onlookers amassed as the round progressed.

    I never shoot well under pressure, let alone when it is something that I am unfamiliar with.  My first shots were completely off so as our statuesque trapper advanced toward my cage I began collecting my shells, believing I'd be kicked out for my 5-stand ineptitude.   But he gently pointed to the left, told me that the the next shot would come from station 2 and that four seconds later, another skeet would come from the same direction.  The lead is about 2 feet and you have a least 3 seconds to shoot, he gruffly said, waiting behind me for the call.


   The first skeet shattered into thousands of biodegradable shards.


    The second followed its twin to the pigeon graveyard below.

   Adrenaline coursed through my veins, working like pistons in a Duramax diesel. A smile crept onto my face and refused to allow Mr. Sad Cloud to scrape it off.  I had found my happy place and it was here, amongst empty shell casings and dead pigeons.

   We've shot 5-stand a handful of times since that first visit.  Each time I'm getting better and shooting regular skeet no longer poses a challenge.  I'm starting to feel where each shot should go and where they will connect the best with the flying disks.  Naturally, I falter. But that trapper still stands by and supplies me with rich advice.  My sad thoughts dissipate with each hit; the hovering cloud moves a bit further away as well.

   Trigger therapy works its magic each time I visit any range.  It is a feeling of power, of being able to hit any target, reach any goal.  Now only if little Charlie Brown had known this secret.  Then Lucy would have stopped, once and for all with moving that football; then Charlie may have kicked it and his cloud would disappear too.