A bad day in Butte turned O.B. Dickey on to a fulfilling recreational path for the next 46 years.
"We went to Butte for a state rifle shoot and they were the most unfriendly rifle shooters," he recalled with a frown.
So he and a friend decided to visit the trap club in Huntley.
"They loaned us guns and shells, and they were so friendly that we never went back," Dickey said. "It was just like going from the dark to daylight."
This weekend, his friends at the Billings Trap Club flattered Dickey by naming a shoot in his honor. The 81-year-old Billings man has been a member since 1962.
"I told 'em no at first," Dickey said. "But they more or less just told me they were doing it."
Ted Iverson, past president of the club, said the group thought it was important to acknowledge the oldest living active member of their club.
"He's a very interesting gentleman," Iverson said. "At 81 he still shoots league and ATA (Amateur Trapshooting Association) shoots. He still actively hunts. And he makes his own shot and loads his own shells.
"Every Friday at Gusick's they have a fish fry and a bunch of the trap guys get together. He's always at the head of the table," Iverson said.
Two years ago, Dickey feared his shooting days were over. He underwent heart bypass surgery and suffered other ailments that left his large body frail.
"I got so weak I couldn't shoot doubles and singles in the same day," he said.
Since then, he's slowly regained some of his strength with a regimen of exercise that includes lifting his doubled-barreled 10-gauge goose gun rather than barbells.
"It's heavier than sin," he said.
He's strong enough now to shoot singles and hopes to return to the field to hunt. Geese and elk are his favorite prey.
"Personally, I think the elk hunting is as much different from the deer hunting as goose hunting is from duck hunting," he said. "It takes more dedication or skill to hunt elk and geese. It's a lot harder to get an elk than it is a deer."
His house is a testament to his love of hunting. In his small living room, the shoulder mounts of a cow and bull elk crowd one wall, while ducks and geese are halted in midflight opposite each other. Four grouse adorn an entertainment center and in his office hang the mounts of two buck mule deer and a doe. The animals wouldn't be in the house, he noted, if his wife, Betty, were still alive.
In addition to his shooting hobbies, he stays active making canes and his own hunting knives out of carbon steel, even fashioning the leather sheaths.
"Eighty percent of the farmers in Hysham have a knife I've given them when I go goose hunting," he said, a thank-you for allowing him access to hunt their lands.
A former Navy man, Dickey worked for Montana-Dakota Utilities as a service man before starting his own business. He has four children - Chris Dickey, Michelle Dickey, Carolee Devore and Sheryl Struthers.
Since he first started shooting trap, Dickey has had three goals, none of which he's fulfilled. But he has come close to one - shooting a perfect round of 100. He's shot a 99 four times. When asked about the pressure of getting to 99 and then drawing a bead on the final trap, he leans his head back and lets out a long, heavy howl and shakes his bald head.
The first time he got to 99, his friends congratulated him, making him tear up. There was only that last clay pigeon to bust, and the pressure was just too great.
"If that would've been a box car, I wouldn't have hit it," he said.
Contact Brett French at email@example.com or at 657-1387.