Monday Profile: Eagle-eyed, free-spirited young girl finds stride on the shooting range
Kalyn Hurst-Farnham stood firm, her feet shoulder-width apart and planted on the Basalt Public Shooting Range shotgun pad.
The 17-year-old’s thin, flaxen hair whipped across her face in the stiff Wednesday breeze.
Tracking an imaginary clay pigeon across the azure afternoon sky, Kalyn drew all of her breath in, then smoothly exhaled, holding her empty lungs for a brief moment before squeezing the trigger on her SKB 90TSS Sporting Over/Under 12-gauge shotgun.
“I used to distract myself from focusing too hard on the target by singing songs in my head,” Kalyn confessed, explaining she has been competitively shooting for about 11 years. “I’ve learned to clear my mind and try not to think about actually hitting the target.”
No shot rang out, and the wind stole away the dry click of a firing pin snapping into an empty chamber.
Despite being the week of the Garfield County Fair, the range was empty. None of her fellow competitors prepared their firearms for inspection, bit their lips in anticipation of the next round or took up stances in the firing stations beside her.
Another victim of the pandemic, the 4-H shooting events were now to be conducted virtually, away from the crowd of friends Kalyn looks forward to seeing each year.
“I hated the virtual fair,” she admitted. “Mostly because of the way we had to show our animals, but I missed the community of it all, too.”
In addition to participating in every competitive shooting category, which includes various events for archery, .22 LR rifle and pistol, air rifle and pistol, muzzle-loaded rifles and shotguns, Kalyn also shows livestock.
The tablet-sized, silver and gold Champion Producer Rabbit belt buckle holding up her blue jeans attested to her savviness with more than just a firearm.
“Instead of answering questions about our animals, we had to submit a video of us regurgitating every single thing we think of about our animals in hopes providing the judges with enough information to score us,” said Kalyn, a member of the 4-H Pan & Fork Club. “It sucked.”
‘It’s what we do’
A U.S. Army veteran, Kalyn’s mother, Julie, thought she left firearms behind when her enlistment ended in 1990.
But when she and Kalyn’s dad, John Farnham, started their family, they decided to work together to train Kalyn’s older brother to shoot “the right way.”
Kalyn’s older sister followed, then Kalyn, the youngest of the family.
“It was kind of a given that she was gonna shoot,” Julie said.
Even after Julie and the kids’ father split, they kept up the family tradition of training their young sharpshooters.
“It’s what we did — it’s what we do,” Julie said. “Kalyn’s been shooting since she was probably 4, though she didn’t shoot without the help of an adult until she was probably around 7.”
Kalyn cupped her nose and looked away as she tried to remember her favorite childhood memory.
“I don’t remember how old I was, but it was Christmas, and I was young,” she recalled. “I didn’t ask for Barbies or whatever girls are supposed to be into. I wanted a .22 rifle and a pair of night-vision goggles.”
At the time, she might have been disappointed not to find the goggles waiting under the tree, but she was delighted to find a .22 “cricket” rifle, clad in a blue, green and purple stock, with her name on it.
“My dad and my brother took me out to go shoot some pop cans and watermelons,” she said. “It was great. I loved it.”
On the range, Julie coached Kalyn on her stance, helped her daughter adorn a shot belt and managed the gear spread out behind Kalyn.
“The kids? They get a measure of discipline and plenty of gun safety out of all this,” she said. “They know gun safety in their sleep. They get outdoor skills, too. Hunting and whatnot. But really, it brings the family together.”
While Kalyn’s brother and sister have long since fled the nest, the family still meets regularly to shoot together, Julie said.
Kalyn added, “Shooting relaxes me. It’s something I don’t have to think about. It’s always been in my life. It comes naturally.”
Eyes on the prize
In recent years, Kalyn has applied her trained eye and trigger discipline to another form of shooting: digital photography.
“It’s kind of like shooting a .22 rifle,” she said. “You have to be patient and focus on your target.”
Although Kalyn hasn’t submitted her photos in the 4-H art programs, she said she plans to do so next year.
“I like to photograph stills, like flowers, but I also like to capture moments,” Kalyn said. “People — family and friends — I can’t really explain it, but I just like to catch unique moments.”
Using her Nikon D40x and a 70-300 millimeter lens, Kalyn captures light and emotion without regard for convention. Her stills reflect a keen eye for framing.
“She can be a free spirit when she gets it in her head,” Julie said.
As to the future, Kalyn said she doesn’t plan to pursue either form of shooting down a career path.
“I’m kind of all over the place right now,” she said. “But, I’m leaning toward cosmetology. If and when I have kids, I will definitely enroll them in 4-H and teach them to shoot. It’s such an important part of my life.”
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Officer Haley Walker sat beside her stepmother in a windowless interrogation room just before starting the overnight shift on Thursday evening.