Sturm, Twang and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe
Sunday, December 14, 2008
OWSS in Trevi -- Gunfight at Fort Alamo
OWSS match, Trevi. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber
I spent much of the weekend at a shooting match of the Old West Shooting Society, the Italian branch of the U.S. Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), which I joined last month. (See my post about it.)
This time, the match was held at the shooting range in Trevi, a gorgeous hilltown in Umbria between Assisi and Spoleto. It's an olive-oil zone, and the town sits proudly on a steep slope covered with thousands and thousands of olive trees -- in my area of Umbria most people I know, including myself, finished our harvest last month, but many trees are still loaded around Trevi, and harvesters were out working. This was, in fact, the first good weather for days...
Trevi, amid olives. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber
The Trevi shooting range dates from 1883; it's an indoor facility, located above Trevi in a grove of trees near the town cemetery -- there's lots of green-painted wood, and you stand in a protected area to shoot at targets that are set up in the open.
The weekend match was based on the Cowboy Action Shooting "scenario" called Gunfight at Fort Alamo. Participants, all dressed in cowboy or Old West attire, use a pump-action rifle, two revolvers and a shotgun -- all replicas of 19th century Wild West weapons -- to shoot, in specified sequence, at three sets of targets, set up at various distances. The object is to hit all the targets, in the proper sequence, with the correct weapon, in the shortest time. So it's accuracy plus speed. The sequence is meant to recall (or invent) a situation that supposedly took place during the defense of the Alamo. (To see the full instructions, in Italian, click HERE.)
Trevi, OWSS match. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber
I had been told that the event took place both Saturday and Sunday, so I drove over to Trevi (about 65 km from my house) on Saturday morning, but I only found a couple people there, including Stefano (AKA Marshal Steven Gardiner, his OWSS nickname.)
There were too few people to compete, but again I was able to get a little lesson in shooting -- this time I hit the target with (I think) all my shots, from both the revolver and the rifle.
Today (Sunday) I returned for the match proper -- the other competitors had arrived Saturday afternoon and evening. There were, I guess, 12 or 15 competitors, some of whom I had met last month at the OWSS convention. People had come from as far away as Treviso, in the Veneto region -- 500 km. Except for the wife of one of the contestants, I was the only woman there.
It was fun to watch and to shmooze with some of the guys, but I didn't take part in the match -- I'm not yet at ease enough with the weapons. But I do intend to compete when I feel a bit more confident. Particularly as the level of skill among the contestants was quite varied -- there were a couple of really good, smooth marksmen, but a couple of the others would never have come out of a High Noon shoot-out alive...
For several years I've been exploring the imaginary wild west in contemporary Europe -- observing and experiencing the many ways that Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Frontier to enhance, imbue or create their own identities. (Or, indeed, just have fun.) On this blog I will post pictures, stories and links relating to this multi-faceted subculture, from European country music to rodeos, theme parks, round-ups and saloons....
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years and currently coordinate the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant. In 2015 I was the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, SC.