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KEN BARNES: Spending time with a special sportsman

Kern County Gun Club

Pictured in the clubhouse at the Kern County Gun Club before shooting practice skeet are, from left, Mark Barnes, Kevin McCarthy, and Ken Barnes.

It was the Friday night just before Thanksgiving week, and I was at Meadows Field greeting my son who was returning from a business trip on the east coast.

I was just watching people come through the door after leaving the plane, when I saw someone coming straight toward me with their arm raised and their finger pointing at me. Then I heard, "Ken Barnes, I need a shooting lesson this next week while I am home on vacation."

It was my friend, Kevin McCarthy. I said that we could meet up the following Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, which were days the K.C. Gun Club would be open. He was good for any of those, so he gave me his phone number and said to call him when I was ready.

As he walked away toward the luggage area, he was immediately surrounded by scads of people. He knew some...some knew him...and others just joined in. The guy is like a local "rock star." And he turns no one away. Amazing.

On the following Sunday night I saw that the weather for Wednesday called for heavy rain, so I called him to say that day was out.

As we spoke, I mentioned that the following morning I was having breakfast with a group of my old high school buddies from the North High classes of 1956 and 1957. We meet once a month at the Knotty Pine Cafe on Norris Road to just talk and stay in touch with one another.

This started three years ago when one of my friends from my class of 1957, Ron Jones, said we should meet. There was six of us that started, and it grew from there. We have had as many as 17 on some mornings.

I asked Kevin if he would like to join us, and he did not even hesitate before saying absolutely, and what time should he be there.

I was sitting on the front porch of the cafe the next morning at 8:15 when a car pulled up right in front of me on the street. A young man got out, and began to slowly look around. He then started speaking into the palm of his hand, and I realized he was a Secret Service agent.

Thirty seconds later two large SUV's pulled up to the spot, and Kevin exited with two agents. After greeting on the steps, we started to enter, and I told Kevin the agents could join us if necessary. He replied that they would just eat in the main area since we were going into a back part of the restaurant.

When we walked in, all of the guy's mouths just dropped. Kevin just introduced himself to everyone, and from there on he just became one of the group. I did not know he was a hunter, but it did not take long for him and my close friend Fred Bundy to begin swapping photos of deer, elk, and antelope they had bagged over the years.

The next two hours was just a real joy for all concerned.

On Friday morning I called the gun club to make sure they were open, and then reached Kevin to let him know we could shoot that day. He said he would pick me up at 11, and we would go from there. My son Mark would be joining us, also.

After an easy 20 minute ride, we arrived at the Kern County Gun Club near the Buena Vista Recreation Area. An agent was already there checking everything out. I was somewhat concerned about buying ammo to shoot with since these new gun laws have gone into effect.

I was happy to hear that if purchased at the club, and shot at the club, you did not need a background check. Kevin and Mark had a great time shooting 100 targets each. And yes, Kevin did need my help. But after two rounds of instruction on elevation, gun point, and amounts of lead to see, he improved rapidly.

The odd part for me was seeing a Secret Service agent never further than 20 yards from Kevin at any time, and three more on the grounds.

It seemed to be a thankless job, but they are the best at what they do and should be commended for it.

That night, I began to regret that I had not shot with the guys that morning. I have really retired from shooting and had not pulled a trigger in over two years. I decided it was time.

I called Kevin and told him I was going out the next morning to shoot two rounds, and would he like to have another go at it. He said yes, and he also wanted to try a couple of rounds of sporting clays while there.

I knew Mark would want to go also because he has shot "clays" quite a few times in tournaments. We left town at nine the next morning, got the rounds in, and were back home before noon time.

In closing, I would just like to say that Kevin McCarthy is one really special person. During all the time we spent together that week, politics were never mentioned. Not once. Away from Washington and back here at home in Bakersfield, Kevin is just another local "good guy."

It is a very strange feeling to think about how many times I have seen him standing behind the President of the United States, who was giving a speech, and then to just be around him like any other of my close friends.

Kevin....stay with it pal. You are really appreciated.

BASIC FIREARMS & HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE: Next course offered: Jan. 11-12 2020, two day course. Jan.13 is an internet follow-up course. This is sponsored by Jay Busby. For more information call 661-871-9025.

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