VIRGINIA (AP) -- When you're too old to play cowboy, you're too old.
If Chuck Pottsmith's philosophy is right, there's not an old person in the Lookout Mountain Gunsmoke Society.
Just modern-day enthusiasts of the Old West who bring their Colt 45s and shotguns to the Virginia Rifle and Pistol Club grounds. And their appetites as hearty as any of Buffalo Bill's.
The club members put on their boots and hats, strap on their holsters and head to a clearing in the woods north of Virginia for shooting and eating and cowboy camaraderie.
It's all pretty authentic, right down to the leather chaps and cooking over the coals. They do cheat a little, if you count the cream of mushroom soup, the Cool-Whip and biscuits in a can. But no matter.
When they clang the iron triangle to say it's chow time, the cowboys and cowgirls come running.
Chief cook and club president Cary Satrang and his able assistant, Kay Rent, had rustled up sloppy joes with biscuits and vegetable stew and a big Dutch oven of chuck roast, carrots and potatoes. And pineapple upside-down cake cooked over the coals. Before long, people were scraping the bottom of the kettles to get the last spoonful.
After all, they had worked up good appetites on the shooting range that morning, in the civilian marksmanship division. They had already had a breakfast of a Danish treat called ebelskiver, a round pancake Rent had whipped up to serve with cream. Besides the cooking, she's hooked on the shooting. She got involved when her son, Joel, at 15 already an accomplished shooter, wanted to give it a try but was too young without an adult supervisor.
"It's a wonderful sport," said Rent. "It's a place you can come and not be good at shooting and still have a good time." She carries an ivory-handled Colt -- she wanted that instead of a new ring from husband Bruce for their wedding anniversary.
The club started back in 1931, when, through a charter with the National Rifle Association, they could buy World War I-vintage rifles.
Chuck Pottsmith -- better known as Charley Red Sky when he's shooting with the club -- has been in the rifle and pistol club the longest, since 1946. It was his idea to have a "boot hill" on the grounds, with white crosses bearing the names of departed club members. "Do not disturb," a sign reads. "Their bones aren't here but their hearts are."
"It's a lot of fun," he said of the sport. "Every shot is a challenge."
"Some people have got lake cabins," son Jim Pottsmith said. "We've got this place."
And quite a place it is, with so many pictures and posters and poems on the walls that people have been known to stay overnight to take in everything. "To hell with whales. Save the cowboy," one sign reads. "Through this door have passed the best of members, guests, marksmen and women," reads another. "To them, long life and memories. To the trespassing vandal -- sneak: The law of hot lead."
Shooting gets to be a habit, said Kerry Ryder, who's been a member nearly 10 years. His wife, Sue, was top shooter in the women's division on a recent Saturday. "It's a family sport," said Kerry Ryder. And it's a lifetime sport, where one can be active well into one's golden years -- but like Chuck Pottsmith said, if you're too old to play cowboy, you're just plain too old."
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