A bevy of pretty good skeet shooters, a mess of top-notch trap shooters, a bunch of salty sporting clays and five-stand shooters, and a fair number good rifle, pistol and even cowboy-action shooters hang out at the Tulsa Gun Club.
But it took a skilled troubleshooter to bring the club back online after the spring flood.
Bisected by Coal Creek off 56th Street North and near Bird Creek, the flood that hit on May 22 submerged the place.
“That guy right there,” John Ethriedge said, pointing at Bob Laudett, “he’s the reason we’re back up and running again as soon as we are.”
The two have been sort of co-managing the club the past year or so, each working a few days each week — until the past month. Laudett, 76, worked a stretch of about three weeks with just a couple of Sundays off.
“I guess there were some people who didn’t think I could get things put back together this quick,” he said with a chuckle.
The power to the club went out and all shooting stopped just as I arrived Friday to report how well things were working. Laudett laughed in a way he has quite a few times the past few weeks — the kind of laugh that comes with a shake of the head and the words, “It’s just one stinkin’ thing after another.”
But the story wasn’t about the shooting fields anyway. Before the shotguns pop, the clays bust and gun smoke puffs, the guts and wires of the Tulsa Gun Club have to be in order. Keeping the club going — or in this case bringing it back to life — comes down to switches, specialty screws, bolts and bushings, micro switches and DIP switches. DIP stands for “dual in-line package” and I have no idea what that means.
The first thing Laudett did after the flood was get the club’s two Kawasaki Mule ATVs running. With engines and fuel tanks inundated with floodwater, it was a chore.
“I knew we were going to need those right away,” he said.
Mechanics are one thing, but the club also relies on wireless remotes at the throwing stations and receivers on the throwing machines, and card readers that allow shooters to pay in the field and track how many clays they’ve used. Some systems are hard wired, others battery powered.
But, save a few gremlins that seem to keep popping up, the club fully is up and running as of last week.
“10-4 on the gremlins,” Laudett said with a nod.
Laudett and Ethriedge had only four throwers that needed some work Friday (two of which are “extras”). Still, the folding tables with small parts spread across them inside and outside the clubhouse held enough odd pieces and parts to make me scratch my head.
“Shoulda seen it when I had 38 down here,” Laudett said as we walked around the work area.
Laudett was retired and a happy member of the gun club until one day a little over a year ago there was a problem and he demonstrated some mechanical know-how. Next thing he knew he had a three-days-a-week job.
Retired for eight years as of this month, he worked as a mechanic for 16 years, first at Milner Pontiac starting in 1964. Then he was manager and part owner of Industrial Splicing & Sling for nearly 32 years.
“When I first started here, they had a (skeet) machine in a wheel barrow down here and they said, ‘We need this put back together.’ Well, I found five more of these Laporte 185s out on the five-stand area. It took me three trips out there to see how they were put together, but by the middle of the next day I had a machine built and it was throwing targets,” Laudett said.
“That was that one,” he added. “But, boy, I’ve had every stinkin’ one of them apart and put back together now.”
The machines take some regular fine-tuning in order to throw clays consistently and accurately without breaking them. Often the problems come down to troubleshooting electronics.
“We had one wind-milling out here yesterday,” he said. “That’s when the throwing arm keeps going around and around and it will keep throwing clay after clay until it runs out.”
That was an electric switch issue.
The gremlin challenging Laudett and Ethriedge on Friday involved a DIP switch. Hitting one button on one sporting clays station was making clays fly at two stations. The problem was sort of like using your remote to change TV channels in your house and simultaneously making the channels change in your neighbor’s house — same channels, same time.
Ethriedge downloaded an app to his phone that appeared to be bringing them close to a solution. As he and Laudett looked at the phone screen and started to talk as if the answer was coming to them, a call came in on the phone. Ethriedge had to answer it. The men groaned in unison.
I bade them good luck as I had to leave. And then the power came back on.
“Always something,” Laudett said, laughing.