“Did you shoot a gun today mom?” my three-year-old daughter asked me on Saturday (May 10). The answer was “yes” but not just one gun. There were pistols, rifles, and shotguns on offer at the Ladies Day event I attended. It’s hosted annually by Abbotsford’s Ridgedale Rod & Gun Club.
Now in its fourth year, the event is growing in popularity, and within half-an-hour of the doors opening, and despite the pouring rain, the car park was full and the clubhouse buzzed with over 70 women. They warmed themselves up with cups of Maxwell House original roast, made sweet with sugar cubes and white with a can of evaporated milk, and mulled about in front of the “Does” and “Bucks” washrooms, waiting for the action to begin. By lunchtime, there were close to 130 ladies registered.
“I’m the big kahuna here,” said Henk Gauw, the president of the club, by way of introduction, and he looked it. An outdoor gentleman from tip to toe, Gauw was perfectly coordinated in forest browns and greens. He wore a wide-brimmed hat in mint condition and a camo-print fleece sweater, which I didn’t even know existed.
“All we ask is that you come with an open mind and no preconceived ideas about guns,” he said. Their flyer advertised live firearm, archery, and fishing practice.
“This one goes boom! And it kicks!” said Captain Dan Martin, in reference to the shotgun. We learned the awkward technique of jamming this huge and heavy gun into the fleshy part of your shoulder and holding it in place with your cheek, while trying not to think about losing teeth when it kicks back like an angry stag.
“Now we get to make some noise!” said one of the women in my group.
Using a pistol was a strange experience. Lightweight, designed to move easily with your hands, and with automatic reload, firing one felt unreal—like you weren’t really responsible for the targets shattering off their perch.
“I’ll save your place in line if you want to get something to eat,” said Jessie Armstrong, a 43-year-old Mission resident, who holds down three jobs, is a mother, and attends the event every year with friends. “It’s on my calendar,” she said. “I love it.”
She assured me that if I went and helped myself to the hot lunch the club was serving—pulled pork baps with caesar salad and coleslaw—she would give me no attitude about sliding back into the lineup for the shotgun trap.
“I’ve only seen that happen once,” she said. “This lady got all hyped-up about a woman wanting to jump back in the line in front of her after lunch and started trash talking her.” This woman really needed to relax, all the ladies around us agreed. “Where’s your Diazepam?” they joked. “Maybe they’ve got some Adivan inside.”
I met a first-grade teacher, a woman who works in social services, and a Starbucks employee, all of them valley locals, and their reasons for attending the event were as varied as their jobs. Some of them were interested in getting gun licences, others already qualified to hunt deer, but most were just there for fun. They drove cars ranging from trucks to convertibles to the latest Mini Cooper, and dressed in everything from fatigues to skinny jeans. One woman, who works as a special needs assistant in Abbotsford, was there with her daughter as part of a group celebrating Mother’s Day early.
Because this event has proved so popular the club is now offering a Youth Day for those under 19, and it is drawing similar numbers.