Showdown in Fallon: Looking For the "Fastest Gun Alive"

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There's a crowd at the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon. All in Western dress, each with a gun on their hip and every minute or so, the sound of gunfire.

Around here they go by names like "Buzzard" "Masked Rider, the "Tombstone Kid."

You should smile, stranger, when you call them that though truth be told. there's little consequence if you don't.

Some grew up watching Gunsmoke or Have Gun Will Travel, The younger were denied that experience, but they're drawn by the same fantasy.

Like those who take up Civil War re-enactment and medieval jousting, they spend long weekends losing themselves in another identity and another age, in this case the most iconic American age of all.

"It's the American Old West, says Cal Eilrich, who goes by the name "Quick Cal" in this crowd and is running the event. "It's the romance and the legend of it."

Like gunslingers of old they are pitting themselves against each other. Not face to face, as it turns out, but side by side, facing targets, waiting, not for someone to say "Draw", but to be prompted by a starting light.

When it comes the guns clear the holster and they fire from the hip, sometimes in a half second or less.

The trick is to be fast, but also be accurate.

I'm sure it was the same at the OK Corral. Beating the other guy to the draw is all well and good, but for naught if you're don't hit anything.

The winners are determined by the thousandth of a second. But only if you hit the target.

And there's no one left bleeding in the sand. Your victim is likely to shake your hand or in the case of the ladies, hug.

Yup, that's another difference.

"The guys get into that smack talk. We don't do that.." says Treasea Long, who goes by the moniker "Fannie Mae" dressed in demure gingham, sporting a Colt .45 and a parasol.

As it turns out this is an activity that also appeals to women.

"it's a family friendly activity," she says.

Long's adopted personna seems unlikely--a preacher's wife, who apparently never goes out without her trusty 45 or her parasol.

A stretch? Perhaps,

"It's like you can be whoever you want in the hospital," notes Eilrich.

Well said. Besides no one's going to pull dress code violation on her. She's packing a firearm.

"Exactly," she says.

She can back up that talk. Two years ago she was the fastest woman here. There are cash prizes for a win like that. We suspect the bragging rights are worth even more.

The guns all have to be some version of an historically accurate firearm, usually a Colt .45, the famous "Peacemaker." The getup some sort of take on authentic western gear.

"We don't allow baseball caps or any fancy ties like you're wearing today," advises Eilrich.

We get it. The competition is only part of what's going on here.

In our heart of hearts, I suspect, a lot of us would welcome playing cowboy, gunslinger, even don't mess with me school marm, for a day or two.

The lucky have found a way to do that.

Elimination rounds continue at the Churchill County Fairgrounds Saturday at 9. Finals start at 10 am Sunday. It's open to the public and admission is free.