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The Shenango River Rats

May 14, 2012
By BILL MAZEY - Community Columnist ( , Tribune Chronicle |

Here is another interesting and fun event going on in Trumbull County. Most people probably don't know that this group exists but they do and they know how to have fun and be safe. The Shenango River Rats are a group of people who practice Cowboy Action Shooting.

They meet every second Saturday and the last Thursday of each month at the Brookfield Conservation Club. I had the opportunity to go out and meet some of the group and shoot with them in April.

If you are familiar with Civil War re-enactors then you will understand how the Cowboy Action Shooting takes place. The people involved come dressed in time period clothes and pick an alias to go along with their persona. I received permission from Joe, the club leader to use the aliases instead of their real names in this article. Each alias represents a real person.

The ages represented range from teens to men in their 70s. There were three or four visitors checking out the action to see if they would get involved at a later date. While at the event we used our alias when interacting with one another and I decided to use them in this article.

I was a little nervous about going and participating but thought this would be a lot of fun. Curly picked me up at Grace Baptist Church in Champion, and we drove over together. Once there we got in line to register for the shoot, and I got to meet some of the other shooters. Missouri Jake was taking registrations and answering my questions. Swift Water Jack was there, and I had met him earlier. Bad Eye Bob, Lil' Bob and Jessi James had registered before us.

Someone was joking with a friend and asked if you had to pay extra if you were ugly. I laughed and told Curly he better be careful how he answered.

As the time passed more shooters came in, most of them dressed in cowboy garb. Many of them know some history of the cowboy too. There was Six Guns Smith and Hagen and I enjoyed talking with them. More and more cowboys came in as the time passed. Cheatin' Charley was there and so were T.J. McDraw and Trigger Tom.

The leader of the River Rats is Shenango Joe, and he knows a lot about the sport. One of the last shooters I met was Riverboat, and then it was time to go over the rules of the contest.

One of the best things to me was how safety is stressed and built into the sport. Everyone knew I was a first-time shooter and they could not have been more helpful and encouraging.

The Cowboy Action Shoot is comprised of five different stations with different targets for pistols, shotgun and rifle. You are timed and can have seconds added to your time for missing targets. Now I am a novice at this, but let me tell you I am hooked! There is a loading area where you are watched and checked. A shooting area where you are timed and scored by three judges and then an unloaded area where the weapons are checked to make sure they are empty.

This was so much fun that I can hardly wait to go back and do this again. I am even thinking of joining the group and participating regularly.

One of the shooters I met earlier who couldn't be there is Idaho Fas. Both Curly and Idaho have been a big encouragement to me, and I want to give them a big thank you for introducing me to the sport.

Just in case you are wondering, I go by the alias of Chill Will.

Mazey is a Trumbull County pastor.



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