There are people you run into from time to time and look forward to seeing them again.
One of them happens to be a woman that is a serving Marine. She has a nice way of making a guy feel pretty good about himself. She's an armorer and a damned good one.
I've only run into her twice but she stuck in my memory and I hope to run into her again, hopefully at Camp Perry. That's where I have met her both times before.
Generally when I shoot at Perry I get there a day early and check out things and see who is there from last year. I check in with the woman that has been making earplugs for shooters since Teddy Roosevelt instituted the National Matches and then off to check out the firing line.
When I get to the line I generally find a Marine armorer and ask them about how this year's team is doing. Marines do not have a dedicated team. They put together a pickup team from the fleet matches and run with them. They don't win as often as the Army team does, but you have to consider that the Army has a dedicated marksmanship unit.
A few years back I brought a huge trophy with me to the Matches to give away. It was kind of a joke among a couple of guys. We thought they ought to give trophies to married guys that never win anything to bring home to get their wives off of their backs.
Anyway, Marine armorers on the line are usually issued golf carts to use on the line. They put a tool box on the back seat and when summoned they run up and take care of the problem that the shooter is having with his rifle. It's kind of a safety thing. Better to have an armorer check a rifle out then a shooter. While most shooters are generally their own armorers it is not always the case.
I was walking the line looking for an armorer and spied a golf cart with a Marine in it. Uninvited, I simply hopped in next to her and she turned around. I hadn't been paying attention and hadn't noticed her hair. When I plopped down next to her she turned around to see who I was and realized she was a woman Marine.
"Hiya, gorgeous! Where ya been all my life?" I said. "How's the team doing."
She turned around and smiled and I could tell I had said the right thing. She didn't seem offended. She smirked a bit and started telling me about the team as she turned to scan the line awaiting a summons. She obviously recognized the 'Hiya, gorgeous' line for what it was. It was simply 'apply anywhere' bullshit stolen from the Three Stooges. She was sharp enough to recognize it for what it was.
Suddenly she said, "You gotta bail but I'll be right back." A glance told me she had to do something on the line. She was gone a few minutes and returned to her standby post. I hopped back in and we chatted.
I mentioned the trophy and the plans to give it away. She was amused and thought that was pretty funny. When I told her I had gotten it at a flea market for two bucks she laughed outright. I told he we didn't have a name for it yet.
"Call it the Hyman Skrunkle award," she said, laughing. I agreed and the trophy became the Hyman Skrunkle award for marksmanship.
Note I didn't say good marksmanship or bad marksmanship because it didn't matter. It was not being awarded, it was simply being given to someone that could use it.
After the match she told me to hang around and introduced me to a few people, a few of whom I knew but a few new people. It was kind of her.
I ran into her again a couple of times that year at Perry. The next time was later that afternoon at the Marine Armorer van. She was working in it repairing rifles and I mentioned that mine needed rebarrelling. She said to go get it and gave me a list of parts to pick up.
I already had all the parts except for a peel washer and handed the rifle and parts over to her. She looked at the parts and the rifle and told me to pick up a peel washer as I had forgotten to get one with the rebarrel kit. I was off and running to Commercial Row and was back in a few minutes.
She went to work on it and I left. I know craftsmen hate having someone look over their shoulder. An hour later I picked it up. It was an excellent job.
The next day I shot the Garand match and afterwards on Commercial Row we had an impromptu awards ceremony and gave the trophy to some guy that said it was just what he needed to get his wife off of his back.
Middle of the pile shooters shoot for self-improvement and often people fail to understand why they keep at it even if they never seem to win anything.
I briefly ran into her and said I hoped I'd meet her again there next year and I left for home.
It was a few years later that I ran into her again. Last summer I didn't get to shoot but had a day to go to Perry and meet up with people. When I wandered by the Marine armorer van there she was.
I recognized her instantly. She was as pretty as ever with a few more laugh lines. When she saw me she said, "I know you."
"Does the Hyman Skrunkle award ring a bell?" I asked and was treated to a great laugh. Then she said, "Where's ours?" and looked around.
There used to be a trophy in the armorer van, a plain loving cup that an armorer used to keep change in. It was missing. We figured the guy that had won it somewhere had taken it when he transferred. We chatted a minute and I sat down at a nearby picnic bench and looked at a Marine sitting there waiting for something.
"I bet I can get her wound up," I said to the Marine.
"She's pretty unflappable," he said. His tone of voice was kind of protective. It was obvious he respected her.
"It won't take a cheap shot. Nothing sleazy." I replied, reasonably. "I'll just catch her off guard."
It was nearing noon and hotter than hell. She stepped out of the van, grabbed a coke out of the cooler. When she had a mouthful I walked up to her dropped down to one knee, folded my hands and asked her, "Will you marry me?" I asked, piously.
I had guessed the sight of an old fart 20 years her senior looking up at her with a face so innocently free of guile on someone like me would add to the the surprise of the out of nowhere ridiculous proposal.
She snarfed and quickly recovered and the couple of Marines nearby laughed outright as did she. I think she was the one that was laughing the loudest.
She sat at the table and chatted for a bit. She told me that three of her four kids were out of the house and the last one was coming along. I looked at her a little more carefully and realized she had joined the Corps later on in life because she is in her early 40s.
She had just a faint touch of tomboy in her when I had met her a couple of years earlier and now that had been replaced with a little more seriousness but she still hadn't lost the charisma and kindness.
Actually she's more attractive now than she was the first time I met her. She's one of those women that attain their full beauty in their forties.
She's had a lot of life to live because she's divorced, has raised three kids with one to go, working at a full time job and has a secondary career as a Marine reservist.
A couple months ago my service rifle rear sight worked loose and I needed it pinned. Armorers are hard to find and I decided to look her up for advice. I Googled around and found her email address. She offered to do the job but at the last minute I found someone locally.
A mutual friend, a Marine, told me she was just awarded a Navy Achievement medal. It's kind of funny because she should have had that medal earlier based on just who she was.
Anyway, I hope to see her at Camp Perry again and enjoy a few minutes with her. She makes me laugh and simply feel good about myself.