Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the Job Training

As part of the work we had agreed to do on the ranch, I became involved in some of the guest and day to day ranch activities. This led to some amusing involvement in things of which I had little or absolutely no knowledge. I keep a quote on my computer that says “I am very experienced at doing that that I have never done before”. Never before in my life has this been so true. It started out with little things, like when a guest requested a one hour “Archery Session with Instructor” that was offered on the website. As there was no instructor on staff, and the only one available was me, I quickly became the staff archery expert. As luck would have it, when I was a kid my next door neighbor and constant torturer David was an expert with the bow and arrow. Try as he might, like so many skills that I tried to acquire when I was young (baseball, roller skating, wrestling, etc.), I completely sucked at it. However, what I have learned is that 40 years later, much of the knowledge that I tried to absorb at that time but that my adolescent body was simply unable to use effectively, has lay hidden under the surface just waiting to surface. Apparently this is much like the pimples that at 56 ears of age one would think you are done with, but which still seem to erupt from time to time.

Anyway, as I nocked the first arrow in the bow and prepared to take a shot, all the while pretending that I knew what I was doing, the kids I was teaching watched in awe. Pulling back the bow I let the arrow fly and much to my surprise and their amazement, nailed a bull’s-eye on the first shot. OH WOW, they exclaimed! HOLY SHIT, I thought silently to myself while outwardly pretending that this is something I do everyday. “OK, now you try” I said, breathing a huge sigh of relief that I was now completely off the hook, and wouldn’t be required to prove myself again. From now on, anything I said was the gospel, and they just ate it up.

My next challenge turned out to be trap shooting. Once again I had never even tried this sport before I was required to be an expert at it, but being an excellent shot with a pistol and a rifle, I though “how hard can this be”. What I found out is that hitting a target that is moving across your field of vision at the speed of light with a load of tiny pellets is something like merging onto an LA freeway from an on ramp while towing a truck and Airstream that are over 40 ft. long and don’t exactly accelerate like a Ferrari. Something I do have experience with. It’s possible but not easy, and you may spoil a perfectly good pair of underwear in the process. Shotguns are a loud and messy affair compared to the guns I am used to and firing one is a rude awakening. Fire shoots from the muzzle and the stock slams into your shoulder with a force that is quite surprising. But once again, just like Leonardo Di Caprio in “Catch Me if You Can”, half of looking like you know what you are doing is successfully pretending you know what you are doing. Pretty soon terms like “lead the target” and “try and nail it before it reaches the tree line” that I had heard from Paul (a real expert) where rolling off my tongue. Before long my “students” where hitting clays like experts and all this from someone who has yet to fire a single shot at an actual target. Later I received a nice “thank you” note and a tip from one of the parties whose teenage kids I had “taught” to shoot. Will the wonders never cease!

Oddly enough, fishing was the last thing I had to look good at, and this is something I do know how to do. However having grown up a fast water trout fisherman all my life, fishing for bass and catfish in a pond was decidedly not something I was good at. In spite of that, I did manage to pull of a plausible lesson for some of the guests that day, but they did not catch any fish which is not all that unusual. Several days later when the real fishing instructor was able to show up, his guests caught a total of 15 fish (catch and release), and it was the first time they had ever done it. I was humbled, but oh well, I did pretty good overall, and as they say, two out of three ain’t bad!

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