Shoot to Thrill

Ride a golf cart through the Glades. Carry a shotgun. Fire at clay pigeons. Ahhh, the life of the leisure class!

Other distinguished shooters dropped in from time to time. A February 1959 photograph of tournament winners taken at the Havana club features two competitors from the United States and two bearded men dressed in military fatigues. The caption identifies one of the two bearded men as Sierra Maestra, an alias. "They were with Castro," Ibargüen says with disgust.

The CCC's glory days in Havana ended soon after Castro consolidated control of the revolution during 1959 and 1960. Sport shooting, like much in bourgeois society, was not a priority in the new socialist Cuba. Many CCC members joined the exodus from the island in the early 1960s.

As the Castro regime became more firmly entrenched, CCC members decided to re-establish the club in Dade County in the mid-1960s under a slightly different name: Club de Cazadores Cubanos, which allowed for the same acronym. Members began showing up at the Trail Glades range. They found the headquarters of Trail Trap and Skeet (TTS), a shooting club established in 1954 by the late boat builder Sonny Hewes. The Anglo club's digs, a musty two-room cabin with faded carpeting, old plaid couches, and an ersatz wood, vinyl-topped bar, was a far cry from the CCC's posh Havana home. But its history was nearly as rich. An early TTS member was Hal Du Pont, Jr., a scion of E.I. Du Pont, a Delaware gunpowder manufacturer whose company would evolve into the well-known chemical empire. These days Du Pont, who lives in Vero Beach, is president of the Krieghoff gun company and sits on the National Sporting Clays Association's (NSCA) executive council.

It's a blast: Richard Stewart, David Paz, Sr., and Linda Paz visit the shotgun course almost every weekend
Steve Satterwhite
It's a blast: Richard Stewart, David Paz, Sr., and Linda Paz visit the shotgun course almost every weekend
CCC members gathered for a group shot in 1919
photo courtesy Beba and Bernabe Macias
CCC members gathered for a group shot in 1919

The TTS welcomed new arrivals from Cuba, long-time members of both clubs say. "We never had a problem with them," says Du Pont. In contrast to the ethnic strife that occurred at a variety of other private clubs, Anglo and Cuban shotgunners forged friendships based on their mutual zeal for shotgunning. "There's never been any animosity out there. It's always been a very good relationship," insists Mariano Macias, one of Bernabe and Beba's sons, who helped found the CCC in Miami. "Shooters are funny people. There's a common bond." Gun-control efforts have strengthened the brotherhood, he thinks. "It comes down to what we do. We practice a sport that sometimes is perceived by some people as controversial." TTS vice president Dave Hewes, son of the TTS founder, concurs that there has been a minimum of ethnic strife among shooters. "We have a very good working rapport with [the Cubans]" he says. "You've got to be a people person to shoot. Loners don't make it in shooting.... It's kind of like a fellowship of strangers. But they're trying to help you and you're trying to help them shoot better. God, that sounds weird, but that's the way it is. I built a lot of great friendships out there shooting."

Reflecting the demographic changes of South Florida, the CCC's total membership caught up with that of Trail Trap and Skeet by the late 1980s. David Paz, Sr., whose father is Cuban, says the only tensions occur when "Cuban time" lengthens the duration of competitions. "A lot of guys don't like to shoot with [the Cubans] because they tend to come anytime they want during a meet. When registration is over at 10:30 a.m. and some of them waltz in at 1:00 p.m. and start shooting, then you're there a lot longer." But Cuban culture has its advantages on the range, Paz admits. "Why people like to go to the Cuban shoots is that they usually serve better food there. You don't get the usual hot dogs or chicken. You get some nice pork. You get fried bananas. And they usually serve beer at the end."

These days the Cuban clan within the Miami-Dade shotgun fraternity dominates; CCC boasts 124 members and TTS is down to about 60. This shifting ethnic balance is displayed on a breezy Friday night in early October and CCC members, along with their wives and novias, are celebrating at the club's annual banquet on Virginia Key. A crowd favoring guayaberas and minidresses packs a large room on the second floor of the Miami Rowing Club's elegant headquarters, a two-story wooden lodge that looks as though it belongs on old Nantucket rather than in contemporary South Florida. Small groups of men and women gather near an open bar on a wooden deck overlooking Biscayne Bay, telling jokes, smoking cigars, and sipping drinks. Inside, a jazz-violin player tries to entertain people seated at big round tables. A few Anglos are present. "I'm one of the token gringos," jokes John Thompson, a programmer for Cyber Engineering Services, a local military contractor.

Franz Arango, who is serving as MC, announces the arrival of Kevin Kirwin, a goateed Delaware native who is park manager/range master at Trail Glades. "He has married a Latin lady," Arango pronounces, prompting cheers and applause. Kirwin grabs the microphone and jokes that he is late because he forgot his new wife, which provokes a burst of laughter. "It's true," he insists, explaining that he eventually went back to pick her up. The couple heads off to find a table.

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