They would split the sniper class in half, and while one half was shooting, the other half was down in the butts, pulling and marking targets for our classmates. 

The butts was a secured bunker area behind the targets that provided a little shade and held the large target frames. When we rotated back to the butts, we would be in charge of raising and lowering the target frames on a pulley system in order to mark the bullet impacts and clean them off in preparation for the next round. Usually, we would spell each other out there, half of us pulling and marking the targets while the other half goofed off. It was a good way to take a break from the intense pressure of shooting and give each other a hard time, something we were always fond of in the teams. 

Never underestimate the shenanigans bored grown men are capable of perpetrating on each other. Once we ran out of stories (usually X-rated, and mostly true), we would come up with all sorts of crazy ways to occupy our time.

One game I was especially fond of was Rock Duel; this one brought out the empty-lot rock-fight kid in me. Here’s how it works: 

Two people pair up. You each pace off 20 yards, perform an about-face, then shoot a rock-paper-scissors to determine who goes first. The winner proceeds to chuck a well-aimed, baseball-sized rock at the other person (no headshots, of course), who is forbidden to move or even flinch and stands as still as possible, hoping for a miss so he can then have his turn. The first person to score a kill shot is declared the winner, and the next two guys take their place and have a go. It was a great stress reliever. 

We had some fun down there in the butts, but it was not without its hazards. Those metal target frames were huge, and the pulley system that raised and lowered them used 50-pound concrete counterweights. One day, as I stepped up to get into the bench seating area where we controlled the targets, someone yanked on a target. Between my inattention and his carelessness, the metal frame whacked me right in the head. 

Oops. Suddenly there was blood everywhere. 

This happened to be the day we were first sighting our .300 Win Mags. This was crucial: when first getting a new weapon we would have one day to dial it in, get all our elevations, and get the feel of the thing. I could not miss that day. I couldn’t miss any day. So they ran me out to the doctor’s, cleaned me up, slammed seven staples into my head, and ran me back to Coalinga. Within a few hours of the incident, I was back on the range, sighting in my new weapon. My head was pounding with every shot, and it felt like someone was nailing a steel spike into my skull. Tough. Deal with it. Adapt and overcome. 

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