By Marianne Love
It's Sunday morning in Sandpoint. While most folks are still snoozin', Kaniksu Kid and Waddie Bill load up guns and ammo and head off to Priest River to meet Brumby. By 9:30, the trio, aka Ray, Bill and Larry Miller, respectively, arrive at Spirit Lake Industrial Park. They mosey on through gravel and knapweed where Boot Hill -- a makeshift clubhouse, a barrel horse (not the runnin' kind) and a target range -- has drawn their pistol-packin' buddies from all parts of Kootenai and Bonner counties.
After swappin' stories with other El Buscadero members, the Miller brothers load up for the bi-monthly shoot-out. When the last shot is fired three hours later, they have popped 400 rounds of ammunition through their weapons. On this particular Sunday, Brumby heads home with a new silver concho for his leather vest after cinching first place through accuracy and speed.
It's all part of Single Action Shooters (SASS), a worldwide organization recapturing the flavor of the Old West. SASS promotes safety, shooting, historical authenticity and cowboy camaraderie.
"It's safety first, second and last," says El Buscadero, "Dynamite," aka Greg Manning.
After research to determine a unique Western alias, members outfit themselves with authentic clothing. The Spirit Lake group is one of four Idaho SASS groups and one of thousands across the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe.
It's a family sport as evidenced by the El Buscadero's lineup of men, women and teens. Thirteen-year-old "Son of a Gun," aka Brian Dunlap, from Rathdrum, participates with his father and has earned a sharpshooter reputation.
Unlike the Old West, El Buscaderos shoot metal targets, not outlaws. Members take turns designing a series of shooting stages where safety supersedes speed and accuracy. Points are tallied to determine an overall winner.
The six-gun packin', rifle totin', shotgun shootin' Miller boys relish every minute of their Sunday morning sport. The trio rolled in to Sandpoint almost 30 years ago from Ohio. They've racked up nearly a hundred years as educators at local schools. Now, with just Kaniksu Kid waitin' to hang up his books for the last time, the brothers see SASS as a way to enjoy each other's company and their guns.