ORONO, Minn. -- The poet and novelist Jim Harrison once wrote that "the sky is a door never closed to us," and on Tuesday evening in Orono, overlooking the four trapshooting fields at Park Sportsmens Club, when a clear Minnesota sky appeared to stretch to forever, that seemed true enough.
First organized in 1939 in St. Louis Park, the club and its members enjoyed only a brief run there before they and their scattergun noisemakers were sent packing to what was then the Twin Cities' outer ring, at 78th and Normandale in Bloomington.
Soon enough, they were crowded out again by houses, apartments and just plain too many people, and in 1951 the Park Sportsmens Club -- named for its original location in St. Louis Park -- scurried to what it hopes is its final location in Orono.
The club's elder statesmen are usually on hand when the outfit is open to league and public shooting on summer evenings, and that was the case Tuesday, when brothers Tom and John Lynch, Todd Gabrielson, Perry White and Jim Fust gathered in advance of a monthly board meeting.
"I was shooting leagues here before I could drive," said Fust, 60, the club's president.
"I shot on Jim's dad's team," said John Lynch, 69.
This summer, the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into just about everything, and as a result, the club is in only its fourth week of shooting, a duration shorter by half or more than what would normally be the case.
Additionally, fewer league teams with names like Five Blind Guys and One Hitz are competing this summer. On the three evenings the club is open to league competition, 10 teams might show up to shoot, down from the 16 or so in previous years.
"We could have started shooting earlier this summer," said Tom Lynch. "We were probably a little overcautious about the pandemic, and that cost us some league teams. When high school trapshooting was canceled, that also slowed us down. School teams from Minnetonka, Orono, Hopkins, Blake, Wayzata and Providence Academy shoot here."
As Lynch spoke, shotgun reports echoed into the wild blue yonder from the club's four ranges, as shooters, one after another, called for clay targets to be thrown by an oscillating machine hidden in a concrete enclosure 16 yards away.