This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I struck another item from my bucket list last week. The list is normally hundreds of items long, but the exact number depends on what's going on at the time.
Case in point, when Bammer pushed me off a cliff at Lake Powell in '72. During a rapid and hysterical plunge, my bucket list instantly shrank to just two items: 1. Survive the fall. 2. Catch and kill Bammer.
Until Friday, No. 978 on my unrealistic bucket list had been to shoot a genuine old-time Colt Gatling gun. It was more of a fantasy, really. There aren't many of these historic machines still around and functioning. I didn't hold out much hope that I would ever run across one.
But then fate threw me a bone. I heard there would be a crank wagon of death at the Territorial Gun Show in Fillmore over the weekend. A genuine 1883 Colt Gatling gun in .45-70 caliber. I called Sonny.
Me: "Hey, wanna go shoo !"
Him: "I'll pick you up."
We drove down to the former territorial capital of Utah. The grounds were crammed with booths and displays featuring pioneer activities: quilting, blacksmithing, cooking, bottling, bucket/barrel making and midwifing.
Note: I didn't see any actual midwifing, but such a thing was an essential pioneer practice. I have no idea why it hasn't developed into more of a re-enactment hobby like those other things.
On to business. Just in case the Gatling gun turned out to be a rumor, we brought along a couple of cannons of our own, including "Walter," our bowling ball gun.
This time Sonny and I agreed to proceed in an orderly fashion. We located Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker at the public safety booth and explained that we wanted to blow up part of his jurisdiction.
Sheriff Dekker and I are friends. However, he's still a duly constituted form of authority. Before letting us go anywhere, he ordered one of his deputies to check and see if there were any warrants out for our arrest. There weren't.
Him: "OK, how much of Millard County do you need?"
Us: "Oh, 'bout a quarter mile."
Sheriff Dekker explained where we needed to go with our cannons. Before leaving, we went over to the Civil War gun show to pay our respects.
And there she was, in all her polished brass and gleaming steel beauty a U.S. Model 1883 Colt Gatling gun. Ten smooth steel barrels in a hand-cranked, spring-loaded rotary gun, capable of firing 105 rounds in a few seconds. We were breathless.
Opportunities to shoot the gun wouldn't be available until the following day, so we spent the afternoon shooting Walter at M. Mountain east of Fillmore. Few things are more cathartic than shooting bowling balls at whatever.
Early the next morning, Sonny and I lowered our respective bucket lists by one. For a dollar a bullet, we cranked mayhem at 55-gallon drums filled with water. There was no arguing that it was fun.
We shot Walter some more and then packed up and left for home. Riding in a truck reeking of the rotten-egg smell of black powder, my face grimy from the drifting smoke, I had a small epiphany.
Bucket lists are all well and good, but it's best not to expect too much from them. I had just fired a magnificent piece of historical weaponry valued at roughly 150,000 bucks. It's a memory I'll always treasure.
But truthfully, it's the simple things that make life matter. Sometimes bucket lists make us forget just how enjoyable things already are.
On my deathbed which could be sooner than I think it will be the long summer days of punching holes in the sky with Walter and good friends and family that I'll value the most.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.