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Mosey by Enchanted Springs Ranch near Boerne and meet Paula Saletnik, a gun-toting gal who dazzles folks with her blisterin’ fast fingers.
“I’m Pistol Packin’ Paula,” drawls the 5-foot-2-inch-tall brunette, outfitted in leather chaps, scuffed boots and a wide-brimmed hat. “And I’m not packin’ luggage!” Saletnik whips out two nickel-plated .45-caliber Cimarron revolvers from her low-slung holsters and spins them around both trigger fingers. Still spinning, one gun flies in the air, over a shoulder and behind her back, followed by the other one. A few more fancy twirls, then she flips both back into their holsters and bows.
The 46-year-old Saletnik, a world-champion gun spinner, is one of the main attractions at Enchanted Springs Ranch, a Western theme town, movie set, animal park and working ranch that’s served by Bandera Electric Cooperative.
So how did a gal from Connecticut become a gunslinger? Saletnik sums it up: “I started out in acting, then I went to stunt school and learned how to fall off buildings. After that, I moved to Los Angeles to be a stuntwoman, but that didn’t work out. So I headed to Arizona.”
There, at a Western theme park, Saletnik appeared in mock shoot-outs and fistfights, portrayed sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and cracked bullwhips and trick rode a horse as herself—Pistol Packin’ Paula. The act was launched in 1990, and the stage name followed her to Texas in 2005.
She continued to hone her pistol prowess. “At stunt school, I saw the guys twirling guns, and I wanted to do it, too,” she recalls. “They told me, ‘Naw, your hands are too small.’ So I taught myself.”
Some spectators scoff when told that Saletnik’s pistols each weigh 2 1/2 pounds. “They don’t think that a short, petite woman like me could spin guns that heavy,” she says, grinning. “After I hand them one, then they believe me!”
Sheryl Smith-Rodgers is a frequent contributor to Texas Co-op Power.
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