It was just Ben and me. A man and his boy. Father and son. The bond that can be neither understood nor broken. Or something like that.
Now, on to complete sentences. Well, mostly.
Ben and I headed out at about 6:00 Friday evening, and finally got to my mom and dad's at 1:15 a.m. At the time, I didn't know just how lucky I was that he fell asleep at 9 p.m. and stayed that way the rest of the trip.
Saturday we went to Dad's farm, where members of the local SASS chapter were shooting at his range. I've never participated in the shoots, but if lawlessness ever broke out, I would want these folks on my side. They've beaten FBI agents in a direct challenge.
When Ben and I arrived, the BANG-PING! BANG-PING! sound of bullets hitting metal targets filled the ear. The occasional BANG!, with no PING, meant a miss, and misses meant lower scores.
I got Ben out of the car seat and he said, "Make a noise. Make a noise." That's his standard response when he hears a sound he doesn't recognize.
"That's right, Ben, they are making noise. Let's go see what it is," I said.
I outfitted Ben with ear and eye protection (which all shooters wear at all times) before we headed down to the range so he could see what was causing all the clatter. All I could find were a pair of orange, hard-plastic noise-cancelling earmuffs and a pair of dark sunglasses. He was the complete image of gun safety, or maybe a miniature airport runway guide without the neon orange batons.
We were immersed in a wild west world. At a typical SASS range, most of the "stages" feature some sort of old west building facade -- either a saloon, a livery stable, or something else straight out of the late 1800's. It could be something as simple as an old wagon or a campfire ring. Their clothes and their guns also are from that period.
Then we were jarred back into this century.
We saw Dad's golf cart. He uses it to haul his guns and ammo to the range, or just to run other small errands without having to start up his gas-powered four-wheeler. At least, I figure that's why he uses it. Oh, I mean "figger." Almost forgot we were in the old west.
Mom suggested that Ben and I take the golf cart for a ride around some of the wooded roads (but not downrange, of course), so I set Ben in the seat. I noticed a large, white travel mug in the open left dashboard compartment. I shook it to make sure it was empty, then put it back. After taking some pics of Ben at the wheel, I took it and moved him to the passenger's seat. I wondered if hybrid cars ran as quietly as golf carts. It's so strange to hear nothing as you move. Like sailing, but without the wind and the water. Ben asked to sit in my lap. Considering it was a golf cart and we were on a grassy forest road with no other vehicles, I acquiesced.
As we headed down a small hill and started getting bumped around pretty well, I moved my foot to the brake pedal. When I pressed down, it didn't move. We kept speeding up, getting closer to where the road met another to form a "T." I pushed again, this time with both feet. Nothing. I looked down at my feet, where I saw the travel mug lodged between the brake pedal and the floor. Ben bounced on my lap as our speed picked up. I wrapped my left arm around him as I tried to kick the travel mug loose.
The woods at the top of the "T" in the road were fast approaching. Figuring my feet could match the cart's speed if I had to bail, I prepared for it.
"Hold on, little man!" I said.
I gave the travel mug one more kick and it came free. I hit the brake in time to make a controlled left turn. It was a very boring finish to an exciting few seconds. Even people into risky hobbies like skydiving, rock climbing, hanggliding -- whatever -- will tell you that boring finishes are the best kind.
We had a great visit with my folks, and dropped by to see an old friend's mom. I left missing the natural beauty of the area. Ben kept saying, "Trees," during the first few hours of the drive, perhaps because now we're surrounded by old corn fields with the occasional patch of trees. His tone didn't tell me whether he was fondly recalling a time when we saw woods every day, but I certainly was.