OCTOBER 1, 2008, autumn vibes in Lawrence, KS.
I went to a shooting range in Missouri yesterday. An impeccable facility. Public. 3 dollars an hour for a lane, with a cease-fire every 12 minutes to walk out and mess with your target: move it nearer or farther, change it out, look at your groups. Put the target from 7 to 100 yards.
Parma Woods outdoor range is set on some nice forest reserve and staffed by about 5 gentlemen with uniform polo shirts tucked into khakis that look like cops. The lawns are freshly mowed and the restroom where I pissed and washed my lead and smoke besmirched hands after shooting is spotless.
The range itself is carefully engineered and built for safety. From the firing points, any angle that a shooter could aim and pull the trigger is covered by a combination of bullet absorbing features. Tall earthen bluffs are at the end of the lanes to absorb all of the well aimed shots and above are a series of heavy steel baffles fronted with foot or so of dense black foam to catch any accidental high shots. Thick concrete walls enclose the sides. I was impressed with this structure.
The shooting is allowed in a carefully timed and regimented way, which is the only way to do it to ensure the safety of everyone at a public range. This experience however is nothing like the casual blasting and experimenting one can do on some private property in the country. That is more fun I think- although safe handling of the arms must be strictly adhered to when shooting in a casual place as well.
William Burroughs apparently wasn’t too concerned about gun safety. Here in Lawrence Kansas I’ve met the people who knew him, partied with him and shot guns with him. Everyone would be fucked up on drugs and booze and he’d be holding on to a gat, passing people with the muzzle, demonstrating technique. Hunter Thompson would come over and they’d shoot big powerful revolvers in his back yard… in town! With houses all around. Many stories of accidental discharges by the cronies, the friends hanging around high.
Last spring I had the pleasure of photographing the entire gun and knife collection of the William Burroughs’ estate. And I got paid to do it- for documentation sake. That was nice. Here are a couple pics from that collection:
As an old man, William’s boyfriend James Grauerholz would search him for a weapon before he took him the barber. William had freaked people out in the past when they saw his big .44 snubbie tucked into the waistline. In order to continue packing, Burroughs acquired this tiny .22 magnum (above) and lengthened the grip with duct tape. This rig was able to evade James’ searches for a time.
Above — is me looking silly posing with a gift that Hunter S. Thompson gave Burroughs in front of one of Burroughs’ wild spraypaint paintings on a door. The gun is a Freedom Arms single action in .454 Casull/.45 Colt, field grade, limited edition, with a Leupold scope on top. Cool shit. Both those guys were cool as shit.