Ligntnin' Bill

He tucks the rubber recoil pad tightly against his shoulder, presses his right cheek against the walnut stock. It's important to keep your cheek against the stock, "wood to wood" they call it, similar to keeping your head down in golf. With both eyes open, he looks down the flat rib that runs the length of the shotgun barrel. You don't aim in trap, you point, allowing your dominant eye to do the work,. Midway down the barrel is a white bead, at the end of the barrel another. The beads in perspective form a figure 8.

He leans slightly forward, right arm perpendicular to his body. "Pull," he shouts and instantly a 4 inch orange disk, a clay pigeon, explodes out of the trap house at 75 mph. He methodically follows the disk, until the figure 8 beads are leading the forward flight trajectory of the "bird", then he fires and the bright orange disk bursts into a hundred pieces, all in less than half a second.

Meet Bill Weigelt, trap shooter. Bill will follow this same procedure twenty-five times in this round; the object of the game is to hit all twenty-five birds. As you might guess, hitting all twenty-five bright orange disks is difficult. It's so difficult, you get a special "25 Patch" to acknowledge your accomplishment. Every trap shooter has shot dozens of twenty-fours, but twenty-five, well that's the challenge, the lure of the game, the hole in one so to speak. In thirty-five years of trap shooting, Bill has hit that prestigious mark only four or five times. It's a tough game, but Bill loves it; it's his passion.

Back in the sixties an ad in Life magazine, offering $20 introductory airplane flights at participating airports, caught Bill's eye.

Columbia County Airport was a participant. Bill took them up on the offer, he was instantly hooked and flight became a passion, an obsession.

He flew his Cessna 210 all over North America and the Caribbean, but the grand beauty of the Rockies remains his favorite. After years of flight, heart trouble forced Bill to give up this passion. Images of soaring high above Wyoming brighten his face still and bring a smile to his lips.

A few years ago a powerful summer storm moved across the county. Lightning struck four tall pines on the grounds of the Kinderhook Sportsmen's Club, where Bill is a member. The electrical charge tore stripes down the length of the pine trunks, hit ground shale and raced through the clubhouse thirty feet away causing considerable damage but no fire. Bill volunteered time and equipment to take down the trees. He removed the damaged trees to his hilltop Claverack home and cut them into lumber in his sawmill. Bill brought the lumber back to the club and along with the help of his son-in-law and other members, enlarged and re-built the dilapidated trap house, the structure that houses and protects the rotating machine that throws the 4 inch orange disks at 75 mph. Trap shooters at the club refer to the trap house as "Lightnin' Bill's Trap House", a fitting tribute.

Bill and his wife Martha, (you'll meet her at another time) raised seven children and have fourteen grandchildren. After his family, Bill had yet another passion, his dogs, Angel, Casey and Dottie. All three have gone on to their reward this past year. Dottie's brother Jasper remains and Bill's looking for suitable pals. Angel and Dottie are pictured here with Bill, on the trap field, the trap house in the background; they've come to ask if they can go hunting.

Bill's also the one who pulled me out of the spring mud last time we met here. He's a good and generous man. A couple years ago he had eye trouble and was worried he might have to give up trap shooting, that didn't happen. His passion is safe. Seeking out and following those things that bring great joy into our lives is what makes life full and worth living. It is empty otherwise. Hit another twenty-five this spring, Bill.

We'll talk next time, From The Road.

Note: On Monday August 22, 2005 we lost one of our best friends, William Weigelt. We remember you well, Bill.


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