Old times are honored weekly at the Dusty Gun Club.
The club was established in 1946 with a tent and a pair of hand traps. Today, this tiny town southwest of Colfax relies on the simple frame clubhouse - complete with indoor plumbing - for most civic activities, including meetings of the women’s club and 4-H.
Dusty residents do their voting here.
But it’s still the bastion of the men who bring their shotguns here each Sunday to blast hand-size clay targets.
“The club also has an official meeting every other week,” said Ben Krom, 82, one of the founding members. “Sometimes we have business; sometimes we don’t.”
Two weeks ago, the club rallied for the 47th-annual sausage shoot. The bitter cold was unavoidable. Shooters had to face directly into the wind, which made for a minus-20-degree wind-chill factor.
Rusting diesel heaters belched smoke from their stacks to warm the ondeck shooters. Other competitors slurped hot coffee in the clubhouse and watched out the bank of windows as their comrades quickly shot their rounds into the wind.
John Stoner of Endicott donned his Air Force-issue leather face mask. “I never wore this in the service,” he said, “but I pull it out about once a year for trapshooting.”
Women were scarce that day, but it wasn’t just a place for adults.
Paul Gylling of Colfax brought his sons - Matt, 13, and Andy, 11 - to take their shot at winning one of the 6-pound packages of homemade sausage.
Andy wore four layers of clothing. He could barely shoulder the shotgun over all the bulk, yet his fingers were too numb to squeeze the trigger and his cheeks were too stiff for him talk by the time he’d faced the wind for his 25th target.
Back in the clubhouse were a half dozen old-timers who come to the club nowadays mostly to shoot the bull, not their guns.
Fritz Steiger, 83, another charter member, is still the granddaddy for the half-century-old tradition of making sausage for the club fund-raiser.
“The first year, we bought 40 hogs and drove them on the hoof two miles down the railroad tracks to Dusty,” Steiger said. “There was a cliff on one side and the river on the other. We’d have lost the whole sausage shoot if a train had come along.”
Years ago, club members slaughtered the hogs in Steiger’s barn, rendered the lard and processed the meat with hand grinders.
The grinding of 2,000 pounds of sausage continues to be done with hand grinders and stuffers using recipes passed down from Steiger’s and Krom’s German ancestors.
The meat still is ground and smoked at the clubhouse on the Thursday and Friday before the annual Sunday shoot.
“We started the sausage shoot because you couldn’t get sausage like this back then,” Steiger said. “You still can’t.
“Sometimes we made the sausage all in one day,” he said. “But usually it took two days - and two bottles of whiskey.”
Although the club has only about a dozen regular shooters, the parking area is unfailingly jammed with rigs from as far away as the TriCities for the sausage shoot.
Steiger and Krom seem to take the commotion in stride.
“I’ve got shoulder problems and I don’t even shoot anymore,” Steiger said. “I still gotta go elk hunting, though.”
Money from the shoot is used to maintain the clubhouse and fund charities and youth groups.
“We also do a feed for the ladies,” said Krom. “They have to put up with us and so they deserve it.”
Vern Hubbard of Spokane, a relative youngster at 73, has a ton of lead in his garage for reloading shells and is a life member of the Dusty Gun Club and several others.
“I’ve been shooting 45 years at Dusty, Endicott, Sprague, Lind, Ritzville and Cheney,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss the sausage shoot, although it’s pretty damned cold out here today.”
Back in the clubhouse, Steiger and Krom had a warmer idea.
“Give me that deck of cards, Ben,” Steiger said. “Let’s get up a game of pitch.”