Frontier “preacher” Dave Nunn was in his element Saturday at the Redemption at Plummer Butte cowboy shooting event a couple of miles east of Plummer, Idaho.
After all, “Pastor Dave” Nunn is as handy with a Colt Peacemaker as a prayer book.
But he was out of costume, having twisted his leg in a fall, and was unable to deliver the kind of six-gun redemption a mob of steel-hearted villains deserved.
Fortunately, 108 cowboys and cowgirls were on hand in Old West regalia to see that law and order prevailed on the second day of the Panhandle Regulators’ three-day annual meet.
With spouses and spectators, the encampment swelled to more than 200 people from several Western states and Canadian provinces.
The 15-year-old event, formerly known as the Great Northern Cowboy Action Shoot, was renamed when it moved this year from Farragut State Park and a site near St. Maries to the club’s new range near Plummer.
Affiliated with the Wyoming-based, international Single Action Shooting Society, the Panhandle Regulators adopt colorful aliases, dress up in period costumes and spit lead with nothing newer in design than an 1897 Winchester repeating rifle. Most shooters use replicas of vintage firearms.
Competitors moved along a line of six stations, each with different props and scenarios, firing their weapons at steel targets as fast as they could and still shoot the targets in the designated order – while adhering to rigid safety rules.
Inside a mock caboose, for example, shooters pretended to defend a train against a holdup by the Three Ugly Twins.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Larry “Ol’ Mule Skinner” Micheau of Kettle Falls, Wash. “Us old guys come out and play and have a lot of fun.”
With difficulty, no doubt, some shooters probably even had fun with the scenario that called for them to give an “ornery” newspaperman his comeuppance.
Barry “Deadend Dooley” Lamont, executive director of the Rural Resources social services agency in Colville, said he discovered cowboy shooting events really are fun when he and his wife, Valerie, finally accepted an invitation to attend one.
“I kept saying, ‘Let me get this straight: It’s mostly a bunch of guys over 50 playing cowboys?’ ” Lamont said of his initial skepticism.
There are a few young participants, and more and more women are discovering the joy of making metal targets ring like a dinner bell.
Conversations around Redemption at Plummer Butte lunch tables revealed that many of these cowpokes have more than dandruff under their hats.
Clint “Bob Wyer” Allen, a retired Spokane Valley geriatric nurse, engaged Valerie “Snapshot Sal” Lamont in a detailed discussion of the best kind of color printers and ink for their photographic projects.
When the conversation turned to fashion, “Bob” acknowledged that many cowboys have a sensitive side.
“Do these chaps make my butt look big?” he asked.
The unchallenged fashion experts, though, are Dave “Crossfire Scout” Smith, of Colville, and Brian “Hannibal von Stormer” Leak, of Spokane.
Debi “Diamondback Dottie” Smith said another woman overheard her husband, “Crossfire,” and his buddy “Hannibal” debating whether it was better to use a clothes dryer or let their pants drip dry. The eavesdropper wrote it up for the Single Action Shooting Society Chronicles, and the guys have been the Fluff Dried Cowboys ever since.
Back at the range, competition was in several age, gender and costume style categories, but no one took it too seriously. Saturday’s 15 to 20 female shooters were free to compete against the men.
And why not, said Rose “Rita Would” Pittman of Chattaroy, Wash.: “I can spank a lot of boys.”
Still, Pittman said, “It’s a social thing for me. I enjoy the visiting and the camaraderie.”
Several cowboys were quick to acknowledge that LeAnn “Pinto Annie” Kemmerer of Dayton, Wash., is one of the best shooters in the Western United States. She was wearing a Northwest Regional Champion belt buckle she won at the Shootout at Horse Ridge in Bend, Ore., in July.
Although dressed like one of the guys Saturday for the sake of keeping warm, “Pinto Annie” also has won trophies for the elaborate Victorian dresses she usually wears.
“I take the gloves off to shoot, but I usually have gloves and a parasol,” she said.
“Diamondback Dottie” said she favors saloon dresses on warmer days.
The costumes are part of the persona each shooter is required to develop along with a unique moniker. Shooters often adopt personas that reflect their real-life occupations or interests, but “Pastor Dave” Nunn did it backward.
He said he wasn’t particularly religious, but his wife, Midge, aka “Nun with a Gun,” is a “real Catholic” who told him he would regret his preacher charade. Somebody would ask him to do something pastoral, and he wouldn’t know how, she warned.
So the Coeur d’Alene car lot worker began to study marriage ceremonies and burial rites. Then he began reading from a prayer book each morning, and he started a collection of Bibles people have carried during various wars.
He also got himself ordained on the Internet.
Now he plans to marry “Rita Would” to Holin “Gov. Dillon” Honeyfield next April in Spokane in a ceremony for their relatives.
The couple will repeat their vows at a Panhandle Regulators “wedding shoot” next June.