Tag Archives: desert

Paddy Get Your Gun

While visiting our friends Gail and George in their top-secret desert boondocking location outside Yuma, Arizona, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine.  Something that’s been on my Dreams List for years.  Nothing life changing – more of a guilty pleasure kind of thing.

Gail and George had other friends visiting them with their RVs – a retired tugboat captain and his wife from ‘War-shing-tun’ state, and a retired veterinarian and his wife from Colorado (names withheld to protect the innocent).  We learned that the vet (‘veterinarian’ not military ‘veteran’, at least to my knowledge) enjoyed pistol shooting, and he offered to take those from the group that were interested out in the desert to shoot targets.

Although I have had some experience with firearms, I’m not a gun guy.  I learned to shoot a .22 rifle around the age of 12 at the old Langley Rod and Gun Club.  I fired a shotgun at clay pigeons, flying disks that explode when you shoot them, at a Boy Scout Jamboree (I wonder if they’d allow that today?).  I have even taken the Canadian Firearms Safety Course which teaches gun safety, gun storage practices, and responsible gun use.  But perhaps because I’m Canadian, where handguns aren’t common, I’ve never fired a pistol before.

A small group of us drove out into the desert, which wasn’t far at all because we were already camped there.  We set up targets on a hillside, and took turns shooting.

Looking over the shoulder of a man wearing a couwboy had with targets in the distance on a sand hillside

Looking Down Range

Diane, appropriately attired, watched nervously.

Dinae wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses

Diane looking on

I fired 3 different semi-automatic handguns.

Patrick shooting a handgun seated with arms outstretched on a table

Please ignore my cowlick, our shower was broken!

I couldn’t hit the proverbial ‘barn door’ with the first handgun, but a  red-dot sight makes aiming easy.

Close-up of hands holding 22 black target pistol with a large sight

.22 target pistol with a large red-dot sight

I couldn’t miss.

Patrick firing a target pistol with a large sight

Firing the target pistol

At this point, Diane was encouraged by the group to give it a go.  Diane had never held a firearm before, let along shot one.  Perhaps peer group pressure was a factor, but soon Diane was in the shooting position.

Diane seated getting ready to fire with others assisting her and looking on

Sweaty Palms

Diane cautiously fired a full clip.

Diane firing the target pistol

Little Diannie Oakley

Luckily this .22 had no kick, otherwise her form may have been an issue.

Diane standing looking relieved with white pickup truck in background

A very relieved Diane

The final handgun was this monster.  A ladies purse gun, still semi-automatic, and surprisingly accurate.  I was shocked that I hit every target I aimed at.

Patrick shooting a tiny black handgun

Dirty Harry?

Another dream fulfilled.  More of a whimper than a roar, but still plenty of bang.  Live Boldly.

Rajasthan – by Patrick

I’m sitting on bunk number 41, coach S1, on the train from Jaisalmer to Bikaner. It is very hot. And very dusty. The train windows are all open as there is no air conditioning in sleeper class. Dust filters in, too fine to be seen during daylight hours, but it covers everything in a light brown coating as it accumulates. I took a short nap, and when I woke, you could see an outline of my body on the blue vinyl of my bunk. I should probably be wearing something over my mouth. As I type, the sweat drips off my legs, creating small craters in the dust on the floor. We aren’t wearing shoes. It’s too hot for sandals.

Outside the window, the great Thar Desert slides by, stretching flat to the horizon in all directions. Underneath the dust that coats everything are small rocks and some desert scrub. Occasionally a camel is visible in the distance, or some emaciated cows or goats.

In Jaisalmer it was over 40 degrees yesterday. We toured the Maharaja’s palace in the afternoon. After slowly climbing to the desert fort that towers above the small city that circles it, we barely had the energy to complete the self-guided tour. Diane felt faint and had to sit for awhile.

Afterwards, we retreated to our air-conditioned room in a small hotel and waited for nightfall. Air conditioning just makes things bearable. When we turn it off, the heat quickly forces its way through the walls, and within ten minutes it’s unbearable.

We left our room again at 8 PM and were wet with sweat within a minute. We walked through the dark narrow streets that surround the hill on which the fort sits, dodging scooters, motorcycles, carts, and cows. We went to the nicest place in town for dinner, sitting on the rooftop, where the warm night winds took the edge off the heat. Dinner was delicious, with chicken, vegetables, rice, bread, beer, and tea costing about $10 Canadian. This may sound cheap, but it’s actually expensive for Rajasthan. We typically eat a vegetarian ‘thali’ once a day, which is all you can eat rice, bread, dahl (lentils), raita (yoghurt and buttermilk), several vegetables, and pickles. A thali costs about $1.15 to $2 Canadian per person and is ‘all you can eat’. After this large meal, we typically only eat one other time during the day, with perhaps a few snacks from the street vendors in between.

We’ve been in Rajasthan for about a week now, visiting the towns of Udaipur, Mt. Abu, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer. Mt. Abu is a hill station rising above the desert at an elevation of 3000 meters. The rest are desert towns built around ancient forts (like castles) constructed by maharajas, from where they ruled their desert kingdoms.

The Rajasthanis are a hearty people, with a rich history and culture. Rajput warriors had a reputation for being particularly brave and chivalrous. They lived by the code “death before dishonour”.
Their fort in Jaisalmer was under siege for twelve years, but still they would not give in. When faced with certain defeat, they would burst forth from their gates in a final, condemned charge, after their wives, mothers, and daughters had committed ritual suicide by immolation (fire). Rajasthan has resisted invasion by many superior forces, and has tended to form loose alliances with their enemies (as with the Mughals and the British). It’s hard to be believe that people would go to such extremes fighting over sand and rock.