Paraplegic shooting legend John Baxter presented with NQRA life membership
Extract from 'The Tablelander', Tuesday, 3 June 2014, by Caitlin Pearson:
The Tablelands shooting community last week honoured a legend who has given more than 60 years of service to the sport.
John Baxter, 74, was presented with a North Queensland Rifle Association (NQRA) life membership at Ozcare aged care facility, Malanda, on Wednesday.
Baxter has a distinguished background in the sport, winning dozens of state competitions, participating in representative teams interstate and qualifying for an Australian team.
But his determination to overcome adversity sets him apart from other skilled sportsmen.
At the age of 17 Baxter was hit by a log in a workplace accident which left him a paraplegic. He had been rifle shooting for three years when he lost the use of his legs but was unperturbed by his immobility
"I wanted to keep shooting and there was no possible reason not to keep going after my accident," he said.
"Of course it was hard, but I loved competition and I was pretty good. I thoroughly enjoyed coming first."
Shooting buddy Dudley Ford, who has been driving Baxter to weekly competitions for five years, said his mate was an inspiration.
"He competed on equal terms and he made his own," he said.
"He would shoot target rifle with callipers on his legs and crutches and he'd throw himself on the ground. I don't know how he did it. It puts your own struggle and paid into perspective."
After initially competing in rifle shooting Baxter converted to F Class in the 1990s due to failing eyesight, but he remained a top competitor.
Baxter's competition highlights involve winning the Cairns and Inland District Rifle Association grand aggregate in 1999, 2000 and 2002, winning the NQRA FO Grand in 1999, 2000 and 2002, and the Queens FO in 1999, among other successes.
His many other achievements include shooting for the NQRA teams to Canberra, Mackay and Tasmania and coaching the NQRA Veterans in Brisbane.
Baxter was on the Australian team to inaugural F-Class World Championship in Canada, but had to withdraw due to illness.
He has contributed to club operations over the years in Cairns and the Tablelands, as Mareeba Rifle Club member treasurer, Cairns and Inland Rifle Association treasurer and Cairns and 51st BN Rifle Club captain and vice captain.
When Baxter's life membership was raised at the NQRA annual general meeting in Townsville recently, vice chair Jim Harding-Smith said there was unanimous support for it.
Long-time friend Bert Wilson thought he would miss the opportunity to present the accolade to Baxter due to failing health.
"John was very crook a week ago," he told the Tablelander last Wednesday. "Ozcare staff rang me and said they thought he'd either had a stroke or a brain haemorrhage, but they couldn't be sure unless he had tests done at the hospital. Either of those would be fatal.
"A week ago today they said he had three days left."
Baxter, who has suffered a stroke and had heart problems, made a miraculous recovery, which Wilson said he had done "about 20 times".
Over two dozen friends turned out for the surprise presentation last week at his home, overwhelming the man.
"I truly didn't expect this turnout of friends, staff and residents," he said.
"It means a great deal to me. All of the effort that I've put in over the years has come into fruition today."
Baxter last went shooting two months ago with the help of friends who regularly transport him to competitions, mind his guns and load his ammunition.