I have been organizing thousands of photos over the last two weeks. A lot of good memories are in there. As I organized them, I realized how many events in my life lead to other events. If the first had not happened the succession of events I have experienced would also not have happened. I stumbled across this photo while going through my photos from Boy Scouts. This photo is of Jim Layfield, the man who taught me to shoot a shotgun and rifle in scouting. He was blind as a bat as they say, but somehow he could nail anything he pointed a gun at. He was strict too. You learned to follow his directions quickly. He was one of those ornery, colorful old men that have character built by a hard life. He drove an old beat up dodge pickup with as much character as him. At night around the camp fire he would tell us the stories of his life. He hated the Japanese and anything Japanese related. If you showed up in a Japanese automobile he had some choice words for you. He fought in WWII and his brother was killed fighting in the pacific theater. Shooting, as many of you know, has become a favorite hobby of mine and I can directly thank this cantankerous man for that passion.
As an aside, the Sandhill Scout Reservation used to have a model airplane club operating near the shooting range. One day a model airplane started buzzing the range so Mr. Layfield went over to ask the pilot to fly it elsewhere. An argument ensued with the pilot saying he would fly his plane anywhere he pleased adding many profanities to emphasize his point. Mr. Layfield responded to him, “I have more shotgun shells than you have airplanes!” and angrily walked away. It only took one for that offending little plane to be blown apart. You didn’t tell Mr. Layfield no.
Life has a way of leading you along a journey to arrive at certain destinations. As a teenager I knew another man, John Kramer, who owned ten acres a few miles off U.S 19 on Thrasher Ave. in Hernando County. He allowed us to shoot there every weekend, which for some city boys was something we took frequent advantage of. His land was heavily wooded and he was beginning construction of a house so it was not very good for skeet shooting. We grew tired of shooting pistols and .22s there and started looking for another place to shoot the bigger guns. About two miles further back a dirt road in the woods was an open retention pond that the locals used for shooting. It quickly became a weekend routine after a hard week’s work to unwind by letting loose a lot of ammunition there. Our weekend trips to this redneck shooting range became a regular event for many years.
It was on December 20th, 1997 that my friends Jesse Hicks, Seth Leigh, Timothy Marchand, and I were shooting skeet when a certain woman noticed my *ahem* awesome shooting skills. Proof, by the way, that Napoleon Dynamite was right that girls only want boyfriends who have great skills. I was hitting two clay birds thrown at the same time with a single shot shotgun. That woman came over to talk to us. I quickly realized that we went to a lot of the same places and were interested in many of the same things. I invited her to go rock climbing with us the next week. She showed up there and then at a camping trip we went on soon after that. We went to the caves in the Citrus tract of Withlacoochee where I thought it would be funny to jump out from behind a tree to scare everyone. Seth rewarded me with a back handed strike across my forehead with a mag light resulting in bleeding for the rest of the trip out. This woman was quick to take care of me.
It didn’t take long before we were talking every day and I was driving from Clearwater to Brooksville way too much. We quickly fell in love. One year and one day later I married the love of my life, Christa, and never looked back.
P.S. Christa is still patching me up every time I do something stupid that I think is fun.