Well gents, after my last post I received a few private messages. One of them was from Rick Coggins aka "Fletch." I think you will appreciate this story. If you're a shooter, you should.
By the way, I've been away for a while. I'm Jimmy Blackmon and I am a long time Leatherwaller. I guess I showed up as Ranger B around 2003 - 15 years ago. My soldiers called me Ranger B as I spent my life soldiering. I enlisted in 1986 and retired in 2016. I'm a simple kid from North Georgia that figured a few things out about shooting. I figured more out about life - that is that life is about people and relationships. Never take those for granted. I don't care how technologically advanced we become, life is and will alway be about people and relationships. I hope you enjoy.
PRAY FOR RAIN
Fellow archer and friend, Rick Coggins, shot small-bore, three- position varsity rifle in college. Rick excelled in the sport, ultimately getting to compete at the NCAA National Championships, as well as the 1980 U.S. National Championship.
Rick’s childhood hero was two-time Olympic Gold medalist, Army Lieutenant Colonel Lones Wigger. Wigger is often regarded as having been the greatest competitive rifle shooter ever to have taken aim for the United States. He made every Olympic Team from 1968 – 1980, and held or co-held 27 world records.
In 1980, Rick Coggins was not yet a classified shooter, so at the National small-bore championships, he was entered in the master class – the best of the best. At the end of day one, the results were posted.
“I was easy to find,” Rick later told me. “I was near the bottom of the class.”
The U.S. Small-bore Championships is a two-week long event. One day, Rick shot very well. In fact, he was near the top of the master class that day. As he perused the day’s results, he saw that just below his name was Lones Wigger! Rick Coggins had outshot his hero.
Later that evening, Rick sat down near the firing line to watch the sunset, still floating high after his incredible results. Lieutenant Colonel Wigger and his friends happened to walk by. Wigger saw Rick sitting alone, so he approached him.
“Hello, I’m Lones Wigger. How did you do today?”
Rick told him his score and Wigger’s buddies broke out laughing. “Hey Lones, he outshot you!” one of them said. Lieutenant Colonel Wigger sat down beside Rick and asked him who he was. The two men had a great chat. Rick was 19- years-old, and it was his first outdoor rifle shoot ever. Rick then asked Wigger if he could ask him a question.
“Sure,” Wigger said.
“What has made you such a good shooter for so many years?”
Lones Wigger smiled gently. “I pray for rain,” he said.
Wigger saw the clear confusion on Rick’s face, so he continued.
“Anyone can shoot well in good conditions,” Wigger said. “When the conditions worsen with wind, rain, or both, most shooters use the weather as an instant excuse for their poor performance. They never practice in those conditions, and so they shoot poorly. I practice in tough conditions. I know I won’t do as well as I would in ideal conditions, but I know I won’t totally fall apart. Bad weather is a great separator in competition. That’s why I pray for rain.”
Rick asked for Wigger’s autograph. Wigger obliged. All Rick had for paper was his meal card, so he signed it.
“Nice shooting - Lones Wigger.”
Rick still treasures that meal card today.
So, “Pray for rain,” became Rick Coggins’ life metaphor.
Isn’t this true? Most of us perform well on the sunny side of life. Yet, when the storms gather around us, we have an instant excuse. Adversity is almost always handled with much more grace when we have prepared for it ahead of time. May we each willingly push ourselves to discomfort, that we might thrive in the moments when we are tested.