A fast draw competitor from Las Vegas, firing away in Medicine Bow, Wyoming.
Here's a quirky wrinkle in the fabric of Wyoming: competitive fast draw competitions. "It's addictive," a shooter from Minnesota (Minnesota??!!) told me when I wandered over to investigate the noise after filling my gas tank at the Medicine Bow store, about 100 yards away on the other side of town. I was heading into the boonies to camp. "People come from all over the U.S. and Canada. That blond gal over there is one of the best in the world," pointing at a woman in a blue shirt fondling the handle of her pistol.
The event was staged beside the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow, a teeny town about an hour out of Laramie (if you're not from these parts and don't know the lay of the land). A small grandstand was set up, along with Easy-up tents held down in the gusting wind by guys in cowboy hats with six-guns strapped to their waists. I asked a substantial looking woman what was going on and she told me in a thick Russian accent that it was "a fast draw competition" (you silly man) before returning to her conversation with a guy called "Trick Shot," who could throw a playing card up in the air and shoot it in half...edgewise," according to the Minnesotan.
The competitors were adorned with holsters and six-guns, loaded with "blanks full of a coarse gunpowder that sprays out like a shotgun." In some competitions they use wax bullets. Shooters are faced with two metal rings on stands about 8 feet apart and about 8 feet in front of them, each encircling an inflated balloon. After the "shooters ready" prompt, a light on each stand pops on and they draw and fire (loudly), shredding the balloons and stopping the clock at times well short of a second.
"We practice every day," the Minnesotan told me as he loaded his equipment into the trunk of his car. "It's an obsession."
I headed on my way, unarmed, as the contest wrapped up and the international competitors sauntered into the Virginian, presumably for a whiskey, a little poker, and to trade stories.
Outside of town, where Butch Cassidy and his gang had once famously robbed a train, all was quiet as I set up my lawn chair with the beer holders in the arms and cooked up some Tasty Bites.
Trick Shot and the scene at Medicine Bow.
The good, the bad, and...?
The gun cleaner.
The blond woman: "one of the best in the world."