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When Life Tries to Buck You Off, Hold On Tight & Enjoy the Ride

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

A little background please.

As the legend goes, Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) is the “most fun you can have with your clothes on”. It’s also the only sport where the men talk about clothes, and women talk about guns.

So what exactly is it?

Cowboy Action Shooting is a 3-gun shooting sport that requires the use of period-correct pistols, rifles, and shotguns. There’s also an additional costume requirement to dress up as cowboy or cowgirl, and you must compete under an alias (think military callsign but you can make up your own).

Our badass friend & mentor, Shamrock Sadie put this video together to help explain Cowboy Action Shooting

Why do we care about it?

Matthew found solace, camaraderie, and family in CAS when he first discovered the sport while he was stationed in Pensacola, FL. The community quickly became an integral part of his life. It has since evolved into an activity that our whole family participates in.

During Matthew’s time in California, the Cowboys became his second family, so it was important to us to include them in our nuptials somehow.

The End of Trail Cowboy World Championship (EOT) this year was a pivotal moment in our lives - and not because of the competition. We had the slap in the face moment when Shanon lost her job at Google that within a few months, our livelihood would depend on the success of Mavin’s Landing. Although CAS is Matthew’s passion, going to matches, reloading ammo, & dry-firing took up almost all of his free time. Since we’ve decided to start a business together with no backup plan, we made the difficult decision to hang up our guns for a while and dive head-first into entrepreneurship.

EOT was poetically the end of this trail for us, so obviously, we had to go out with a bang.

Going into the competition, Matthew was gunning to win EOT as a Gunfighter (where you shoot your pistols with one gun in each hand). He practiced relentlessly for the months leading up to EOT, and was determined to win. However, as our lives tend to go, Matthew had a “stage DQ” where he was disqualified from 1 of 12 stages on our last day of shooting.

It was a rough punch to the gut, but we still had our cowboy wedding to look forward to later that night, so there was no time to grieve the win that could have been.

As we were putting the final touches on our outfits for our cowboy wedding, Matthew’s dad knocked on our trailer and very calmly informed us that the venue would no longer allow us to announce the union of Moe T Vader and Shenan E Gunz (our cowboy aliases) at the banquet that evening.

Candids courtesy of the talented Paparazzi Pahl

This was the last thing we expected to happen.

Our friends and family flew to Phoenix from the East Coast for this. Several veteran cowboys came out to the match specifically to be a part of our sword arch.

Thankfully, we’ve both been trained to operate well under high pressure. We looked at each other and knew that this was our time to call in a favor, give clear direction, and make our cowboy wedding happen anyway.

We asked Matthew’s dad to gather as many cowboys as he could, find our guests, herd the folks who had agreed to be in our sword arch, and meet outside the original venue in 15 minutes.

And boy did he deliver.

In 15 minutes, 50 cowboys and cowgirls gathered under the setting desert sun and stood witness as Moe T Vader and Shenan E Gunz sealed their union. Our cowboy dads Cactus Earl & Stubby Pete brought tears to our eyes as they blessed our marriage. Flanked by our “2 AM” friends, Sinful welcomed Shenan E Gunz into the Marine Corps and Highway Rider welcomed Moe T Vader into the Navy at the end of the most unique sword arch the world has ever seen.

We even convinced the paparazzi to show up and take our photos ;) Thanks to Paparazzi Pahl

Once again, our plans didn’t go as planned, but the outcome turned out better than we could’ve ever imagined.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter that neither of us won the competition, because we had already won in life. We got to shoot with our blood family, our cowboy family, friends from all over the country, and we spent the week laying the foundation for our future that will last generations.

Now that we’ve been married twice - to each other - without separating in between - we’re basically experts at relationships and have decided to start a marriage advice podcast.

The cover of "S&M Uncuffed: Lessons in locking 'em down & tying 'em up"

HA! Kidding. However, in our short time together, we have collected tried and true tips and tricks for building the foundation for 69 more years together - many of which have come from our cowboy family:

Do everything together.

Do things apart.

Have the same friends, have different friends.

Have the same hobbies, have different hobbies.

Don't argue, work it out.

If you're going to argue, argue naked. (Thanks Scarlet ;) )

The point is, it doesn’t matter what other people have done, as long as you’re doing it the way that works for you.

In our cowboy wedding, we put our friends and family first. We paid homage to our military service, but prioritized fun over tradition. We had a garter and bouquet toss, but included folks who have been married for over 30 years to give them a chance to renew their vows. We kept on with our all white theme, but wore our moose onesies with cowboy hats to the awards ceremony. We planned to celebrate as part of the formal EOT programming, but pivoted at the last minute with the support of a cowboy army.

End of Trail 2023 - in a nutshell

We cannot thank our family and friends enough for hopping on, holding on, and putting together a cowboy wedding in 15 minutes.

Hop on and hold on is more than just doing things our way. It’s also solving problems together, asking for help when we’re spinning out of control, trusting that true friends and family will be there when it matters, and being open to new perspectives on life.

At this point there’s no doubt that our lives will be filled with bucking broncos, curveballs and lemons, but we know that we’ll figure it out together and live to tell the next tale.

Hop on & hold on, but relax a little and see where the bronc goes next ;)

‘Til the next coffee shop


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