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Single-action shooters visit Polson

POLSON — There should be horses standing hipshot and tied to a hitch rail when the cowboy action shooters are in town. 

Instead, a pickup with license plates that read “TheDuck” (no, it’s not yellow) is parked in front of the Miracle of America Museum.

Charley Martin, head of the group, hails from Bigfork. 

Martin has many aliases, including The Duck, Bad Hat Harry and even Spittoon Girl.

His compatriots are Prairie Daisy and Bodie Camp (Diane Kaechele and Ken Ritz, Polson, in day-to-day life). Sage Creek Gus and Hardwood rounded out the group. They are all members of the Single Action Shooting Society or SASS.

The shooters all came “heeled,” or bristling with pistols, knives and pocket guns, and dressed in authentic clothing. 

For clothing, the more realistic the better, Martin said. 

He sports “mule-ear” boots, stovepipe boots with long strips of leather, “mule-ears,” to pull them on, his pants tucked in, a gold vest, a pocket chain under his suit coat, a string tie under a bad-dude black hat and an 1860 Colt conversion pistol

A divided riding skirt, a hitched horsehair belt and packer boots, boots which lace up and have an underslung heel, are the base of Kaechele’s outfit. She tops it off with a red suede jacket, a hat and two Ruger Vaquero .38 specials.

Ritz carried an H & R .32 caliber pocket pistol in a shoulder holster and wore a flat-brimmed black hat, a brocade vest and packer boots.

With a red silk wild rag, mustachioed Sage Creek Gus looks the part with his well-used hat and a Bowie knife tucked in his belt. The knife he made himself, and it’s an exact replica of a 1820s Bowie.  

With single-action shooting groups in Missoula, Noxon, Bigfork and Eureka, the group can shoot each weekend during the summer if they want. 

“We shoot real guns with real bullets,” Martin said, adding that they use steel targets and shoot at the Bigfork Gun Club on the third Saturday of every month from spring through early fall. Their last meeting was last week.

“Now we go out for breakfast,” Diane said. 

The five shooters were all drawn to single-action shooting because of a love of guns and the history of the old west.

Wherever they go, the shooters talk to people, usually people drawn by their guns or their apparel. New in town from New Jersey, a waitress at Marina Cay in Bigfork was scared to death of their guns. The shooters told her their story, and she came around by the end of the evening. 

A lady customer at Brookie’s Cookies flattened herself against the back wall, petrified, when she saw the group. Only after her husband visited with the shooters did she “peel herself off the wall,” Sage Creek Gus said.

It’s a favorite joke of theirs to say they’re in town for “the hanging.”

“A lot of it’s just for the camaraderie,” said Sage Creek Gus, alias Gary Riecke.

Interested parties who might want to join the group should call Ritz at 883-6797 or Martin at 837-4050.

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