Weddings in Ireland are epic. The ceremony itself was an hour of sitting, standing and kneeling as well as a baffling (at least for me anyway) array of Catholic prayers and practices. Then the drinking begins. It ended for us at 4am the next morning.
As I am sure you can imagine, we weren’t feeling too fresh the next day. Getting up at midday was not enough to get rid of the groggy feeling or the splitting headache. Neither was a day of doing very little. When my dad suggested that we join some of our relatives in the pub for another session, I was not overly enthusiastic.
My uncle suggested instead that we go down to ‘the pit’ to shoot some clays and this sounded like a far better plan to me as my headache had pretty much cleared up by then. It was around 7.30pm when we headed down the lane to the old sand quarry. Declan, my uncle, drove the car with the clay thrower in the back, my dad and cousin, Nicola, carried the guns while I trailed along with the dogs. The beauty of the place took me entirely by surprise as did the enthusiasm of Fifi, the Jack Russell cross Pug, who accompanied us. Something about the landscape looked prehistoric. Peaks of sandy land sticking out of the pale blue water underneath the gloaming sky gave the whole vista an otherworldly look. Tiny Fifi yapping and springing about in the foreground as my uncle loaded the jet black pump action shotgun made it all feel rather surreal.
Nicola had previously had shooting lessons and handled the gun with confidence. Her dad let the clay fly and she shot it to pieces easily. My dad was not so successful and Fifi was desperate to chase the escaping clay as it splashed into the milky water. Then it was my turn. I’d never held a gun before much less fired one at a moving target. Placing the gun in my hand, Declan told me that the safety was on. He told me to hold it tight against my shoulder, lean slightly forward, sight down the barrel and pull the trigger. I took the safety off and said, “Ready.” The clay flew. I pulled the trigger. To my great surprise, I hit it. It didn’t shatter like it did when Nicola hit it but I clipped it enough for a piece to fly off. The gun, not the pump action one, didn’t kick as much as I had expected it to.
After we had all hit at least one clay, we decided to up the ante by firing off two clays at once. I went first and, oddly enough, missed the first clay but hit the second one. Only Declan seemed to be confident enough with the pump action to use it for two shots. It made a very satisfying noise when he pumped it for the second shot. Only Nicola had the skill to consistently hit both clays dead on, reducing them to fragments. In the end, Nicola hit more than her dad did and I hit more than my dad did. We looked around and noticed we had an audience. A small herd of cows had come up to the fence in a nearby field and were gawping across at us. Our accompanying rottweiler, Roxy, was hiding under the car while Fifi was bouncing around on the edge of the pit and attempting to chase after every clay.
Triumphant, Nicola and I walked back up the lane holding a gun each. I had the pump action one. Our dads followed behind, Declan with the car, and we got the impression that they were proud of their warrior women daughters.