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06/13/18 - Local shooting competition hearkens back to the Old West

MUNCY VALLEY — “I grew up a-dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy and lovin’ the cowboy ways,” begins the Willie Nelson classic “My Hero’s Have Always Been Cowboys.” Most people outgrow that dream. However, members of the Single Action Shooting Society have not grown out of their fascination with the Old West.

In fact, for them, dressing up in western apparel and shooting at metal targets is all part of a fun, competitive weekend.

For 14 years, the North Mountain Sportsmen’s Association has hosted the El Posse Grande at its range. The event, billed as a Cowboy Action Shooting state championship, uses a portion of the range that is transformed into a miniature Old West town.

During the past weekend, 141 competitors, ranging in age from 8 to 89 years old and hailing from all over

the U.S. and Canada, dressed in clothing reminiscent of old western movies and shot at targets using their own single-action shotguns, rifles and pistols.

According to its website, the Single Action Shooting Society is an international membership organization formed to preserve and promote the sport of cowboy action shooting. Members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West through competitive shooting. All members dress in the style of their character and pride themselves on keeping an accurate representation of the times.

During the competition, shooters are grouped in a posse, with each one shooting at 10 stations, such as a saloon, train station, general store or motel room. At a station, each shooter, must fire four shots from a shotgun at specific targets, 10 shots from a rifle and 10 from pistols. Competitors are graded according to their speed and accuracy.

Each competitor must be registered with the society and is issued a number, said Bob “Barn Master”Enck, of Lebanon County. The number is posted in some way, usually engraved on a star badge similar to a sheriff’s badge. Some may wear theirs on their shirt, vest or jacket, while others put theirs on their belt. Some are old and antique, while others’ badges are in polished brass and new.

“Everyone chooses their own alias,” Enck said. “If you don’t have one when you show up, we’ll give you one.”

When asked their name, all competitors gladly comply, then ask, “alias, or given name?” Aliases usually have something to do with their name, character or where they are from — for instance, “Durango,”“Sgt. Hoch,” “Obnoxious,” “Sodbuster” or “Blackhills Barb.”

Tim Snyder, of Allenwood, chose “Doc Allanwood,” intentionally spelling his alias as with an “A” instead of an “E.”

Sheri Krum, of Jerseytown, goes under the alias “Jerseytown Mom.” There’s also “Zippy Zach,” who, at age 9, was one of the younger competitors. His real name is Zachary Tyson and he is the son of Neil and Barbara Tyson, of Collegeville.

The oldest competitor was Frank “Wrongarm” Mussina, of Warminster. The 89-year-old’s alias of “Wrongarm” stems from his left-handed shooting.

For many participants, shoots are a social family affair, said Tim “Doc Allanwood” and Barb “Blackhills Barb” Snyder.

Other families bring their children, who also dress up and compete using 22-caliber pistols and rifles or and .410-gauge shotguns, which have less of a kick.

“For most of us, it’s a social event,” Enck said. “We’re with the same people through the whole weekend, so we have plenty of time to get to know each other.”

Vendors sell souvenirs such as clothing, equipment, knives and even custom-made gun carts for carrying firearms and equipment from one station to the next.

With the conclusion of this year’s shooting event, the Old West has come and gone from Muncy Valley. Until next year, the shooters say: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

By Mark nance - Sun Gazette