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A Day at the Dump with a .357

By: Randy Tucker

The refrigerator door spun into the spring air like a kite with a broken string. Joe hit it square on the lower hinge.

It was my first experience with a handgun larger than a .22 magnum.

My friend Joe was a year younger than me at 17. He had his father’s .357 Magnum Blackhawk and two boxes of ammunition.

We were teenagers about to have a little fun at the county dump a few miles east of the tiny hamlet of Pavillion, Wyoming.

Before the consolidation of landfill sites across Wyoming, each town had its own facility. There were no rules against what you could drop off, what you could scrounge for, or for us, whether you could fire a weapon inside the facility.

I was familiar with the terrain at this dump, as part of my duties on the summer crew at Wind River Elementary three miles away in Pavillion, I had perfected the “power dump” technique. That move meant dropping the tailgate on the pickup, flooring the truck in reverse, and hitting the brakes precisely as the end of the tailgate neared the edge of the dumping area. Yes, I could have dumped the truck into the pit as well, but, what the heck, I was a teenager.

In the 1970s, those 1950s-style refrigerators, with the locking sealed door that were so dangerous, began to get tossed into landfills. If someone were accidentally locked inside, they soon suffocated, and there was no way out.

Modern refrigerators don’t have locks. With a light, easy-to-open door, anyone can open or close them.

There were two of the old latch models at the dump that afternoon, one sitting upright with the door open, and the other on its side.

Regulations called for removing the latch when you abandoned one of these appliances, but regulations weren’t followed very much for anything in Wyoming in those days. They’re still not followed today.

I had my grandpa’s single-shot Harrington Richardson 20-gauge shotgun with me, a mixed box of lead four-shot, and a few 4-0 buckshot shells.

We looked for targets to shoot. There were plenty at the dump. Old TVs, those two refrigerators, a couple of washing machines, and an older console-style stereo that had seen better days.

Joe zoomed in on the refrigerator. It was eight years before "Sudden Impact" starring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry came out and his trademark “Make my day,” but we had a few good lines from the original Dirty Harry movie. “Did I fire six or only five?” Joe said in his best Dirty Harry imitation.

We laughed, and he fired at the offending refrigerator. The noise was impressive. Hitting the hinge and tearing off the door was even more impressive.

It was the first time I’d witnessed the power of a .357 Magnum revolver up close.

I shot it a few times, taking turns with Joe.

I didn’t hit any hinges or make as a spectacular shot as he had. But a .357 slug hitting an old black and white television makes quite an impression when the tube explodes into thousands of fragments.

The .357 was great on anything metal. The TVs, washing machines, and the refrigerators all had gaping holes in them when we finished. We shot the wooden stereo console as well, but the bullets just punched through without anything worthy of a Hollywood special effect.

A little four-shot from my 20 gauge was much more entertaining.

The old Harrington Richardson ripped the stereo almost in half from 25 yards away.

It was all in a day’s fun at an impromptu shooting range.

On the way home, we spotted a muskrat swimming in a canal near the back road we were driving on.

Joe was in a mood to show off.

He took aim on the muskrat, fired, and the rodent disappeared. Nope, he didn’t hit the muskrat. The little guy popped back up a few seconds later about five yards from where he’d been before. Joe fired four more times before we ran out of shells, never hitting the muskrat.

Stationary targets are one thing, playing Dirty Harry at a moving target is something quite different.

Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at ratucker@wyoming.com.

 
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