MEMORIES SHOOTING BACK 51 YEARS
I believe a few good memories make life all worth it, because they provide a hitching post to lean on when things get tough. I will try to share my fondest memory, without embellishing it too much. When I was a boy about 15 years old, I lived in Sacramento, California, and was a Boy Scout. I have always had a great love for the out-of- doors, and there is nothing quite like camping in and around the Mother Lode country of the Sierra Nevada, especially in the general vicinity west of Lake Tahoe.
CAMP HARVEY WEST
While serving as the Patrol Leader for my troop, I learned that we were booked at Golden Empire Council’s crown jewel of all summer camps, Camp Harvey West. Camp Harvey West was in operation from 1949 to 1971, and located at the west end of Upper Echo Lake, California, which is about 8 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe, as the crow flies and is only accessible by hiking in or by boat.
THE MARKSMANSHIP MERIT BADGE
I arrived at camp by boat on a Saturday afternoon. I decided to try out for the Marksmanship Merit Badge. Camp Harvey West supplied scouts with Remington 510 rifles, as I recall. The Remington 510 is a single shot, bolt action, 22 cal. rifle, with a 25 inch long barrel, and open sights (no scopes allowed). The Remington 510 has an excellent feature that automatically sets the “safety” when a cartridge is loaded.
My parents gave me $5 spending money for the week. I purchased my first box of 50, 22 caliber shells for $1, and showed up at the rifle range first thing Monday morning. The rifle range had use, and time restrictions. Scouts could use the rifle range once per day, and only for very short periods of time. My first attempt at the Marksmanship Merit Badge was a total humiliating bust.
On Tuesday, I purchased another box of cartridges for $1, and made a second attempt at the Marksmanship Merit Badge, which was also a bust. On Wednesday, I purchased a third box of cartridges, and struck out again. On Thursday, I purchased a fourth box of cartridges, and bombed out. By now, things were looking pretty bleak. I had $1 left, and no success a getting the merit badge.
I really began to worry! The “agony of defeat” was haunting, and I had several problems to deal with. One of the biggest problems had to do with the rifles. I never got the chance to shoot the same rifle twice, and noticed that each rifle was sighted in a little differently, as shot groupings varied each day.
Discouraged but undeterred, I headed for the range on Friday flat broke, with another box of cartridges in hand. This time, I paid more attention to where my rifle “grouped” shots. My fifth loaner rifle seemed to group shots about a half inch to the left, and a half inch down from the center of the bullseye. I made the necessary adjustments, and my shot groupings moved towards the bullseye.
Oh happy days! I put 5 rounds dead on the money in 10 bullseye targets. After four bummer attempts, I finally learned how to steady my rifle, hold my breath, squeeze the trigger, and hit what I was aiming for. I was awarded the Marksmanship Merit Badge the next day and left Camp Harvey West that same day via boat, never to return again as a young scout. Camp Harvey West is gone now, and nature has completely reclaimed the site.
THE PAST IS VERY MUCH STILL PRESENT
Today, my most cherished merit badge is the Marksmanship Merit Badge that I earned in the mid 1960’s at Camp Harvey West. Over the years, I have purchased 5 Remington 510 rifles, and each year I hold shooting competitions at our family’s ranch with my children, grandchildren, friends, and relatives. These competitions are really fun, and everyone looks forward to them with great excitement. We have to use two 4X4 Target Shooting Stands, due to the number of competitors.
You can see results of one such competition held this year by clicking on this link: shooting videos Once there, click on the drop down menu located at the upper left corner of the video player, and select the video entitled: “22 Competition Using Two Target Stands.” Amazingly, I came from behind once again; however, my 14 year old granddaughter, Ellie, almost cleaned my clock with a “like new” Remington Model 41 that I picked up a few months ago.
By now, most everyone realizes that our shooting competitions are bonafide extensions of a fond memory that began some 51 years ago, and played forward many times in the lives of others. To this day I am a “plinker.” There is no known cure! The attached picture shows one of my Remington 510’s, my Marksmanship Merit Badge, my complete collection of Camp Harvey West Scout Patches, a map, a box of vintage cartridges, and other related memorabilia. I hope you too, have many fond memories to lean on! And, remember the All- weather 4X4 Target Shooting Stand will make YOU a better shot!