Boys will be boys. Oh yea. At the Cormier home the three oldest boys, Jimmy, Johnny and me, were fit to be tied. We knew Mom was too busy tending to the 7 other kids to be paying very close attention to us boys and Dad was always at work. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as boys do, they like having their own space, a space just for boys. This penchant still applies today with exclusive clubs for men only. How primitive!! I suppose women can be accused of the same and who really cares? Why shouldn't there be a place just for boys? Or girls for that matter?
Our private space was the attic in the barn. It was a huge barn right outside the back of the house, huge to us at the time. Today, it would hardly fit a typical SUV through the front door. Here's a picture with me, Joan and Johnny (l to r) sitting in the dirt out front. You can see the attic opening in the front. There was a similar opening in the back.
The classic movie, "The Christmas Story", could easily have been written about my childhood, most notably, the phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out", when little Ralhpie wanted a BB gun for Christmas. Our home was totally void of guns of any kind. Maybe it was of no interest to my Dad or maybe it's because he knew what would happen if any of us kids got ahold of one.
Well, after months and months of dropping hints to Dad he finally got us our first gun. A single shot BB gun where you had to drop the BB down the front end of the barrel, cock the lever and aim with the barrel at least level or higher so the BB didn't roll out. We were in heaven. They probably weren't the exact words but I am absolutely certain my mother repeatedly spoke her own version of "Don't shoot your eye out".
In the attic, commonly referred to by us boys as "the clubhouse", there was a window opening in the back where we could monitor all things moving in the woods. Looking off to the left were high trees and deep woods. It was as if we were immersed in a Brazilian canopy with monkeys jumping from limb to limb, only our monkeys were imaginary.
Directly below was a flattened area used for manure storage in days gone by. Off to the right were three homes. In the middle one lived the Mengies.
After days and days of shooting at anything that moved, scaring them all off, we began shredding leaves off the trees for lack of anything else to shoot at. And then........
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed little Dede Mengie wandering aimlessly toward the back of the barn. She was so innocent as she looked down at the grass while crossing the back yard field from her yard into ours. It was obvious that if she continued on the same path she would end up on the flat spot just below the "clubhouse" opening. We backed up so as not to be seen or heard. We felt like big men hunting the lion.
I'm wondering here if I should actually finish this story. Remember we were just boys left alone with nothing productive to do with our first BB gun. There is no excuse for what came next.
"Give me the gun!", exclaimed Johnny. "No, I want it", Jimmy chimed in. "No, I had it first", I quietly whispered emphatically. Holding on tightly, I wrestled it away and took control. Yes, it was me!!
Poor little Dede. She never should've violated the coveted boys space. But she did!! She was looking at the ground facing away from the barn. Her butt looked like the perfect target. Big enough for the BB to hit even though it took erratic curves every time it exited the barrel.
I tipped the barrel back and dropped the single BB down until it stopped. Cocking the lever I began to have second thoughts. "Am I really going to do this?" Better still, "Can I get away with this?" Those thoughts dissipated as I slowly crept up to the opening. The one thing that could save Dede from what was about to happen was that she was a full 20 feet below us and it meant having to point the gun downwards, risking the BB rolling out of the barrel and having no chance to execute the plan. It may even bounce off the flat spot and expose our ploy to her.
I had to move fast. I knew I would have to place the barrel down into position and fire before the BB started rolling, all in one move. It was time. She was still fascinated by something on the ground and the target was perfectly still. My brothers began laughing under their breath uncontrollably at the thought of what we might see only seconds later. I had to control my own inner laughter. How crude!!!
With one motion the gun flipped from up to down with the stock snuggled against my right shoulder like the cowboys did it. I barely had time to sight the target when I pulled the trigger. "Pop". This BB gun had less power than a typical air rifle that was the only weapon we were allowed to have up to that point. Even then we packed dirt into the barrel of the air rifle and shot at each other and many other things.
The BB didn't roll out as expected. It stayed put until the shot was fired. Out it came, swerving slightly to the right and then up. I could see in less than a split second that it would not hit the target. Instead it continued its way up and landed right in the center of the back of Dede's neck. "Whack!". "Oh My God!! I shot Dede Mengie in the neck!! It might kill her", was my initial thought.
Thankfully she had a thick head of hair which probably softened the blow a bit. Her right hand instantly raised up to comfort her wound. She stood up and for about 5 seconds there was absolutely no sound. Nothing. Then as the reality of the pain sunk in she let out a long, slow, cry that started low and soft then raising in volume and intensity until it became a full blown blood curdling scream that echoed all over the neighborhood. I swear even the cows looked up while grazing in the Coonie's field just beyond our back yard.
Without any of us saying a word we were down the ladder and around the back surrounding Dede trying to offer our help as if we were the heroes to the rescue. "I am so sorry I THREW THAT ROCK Dede!!" , were the first words out of my mouth, doing anything to distract from what really happened. Anything but a BB!!
She eventually calmed down and as she tried to accept our gift of concern we tried to win her over even more by inviting her up to the Clubhouse. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that girls were never allowed up there. This would be a major privilege and she took the bait. Up the ladder she went with us following right behind. She was fascinated by what she saw. A glimpse into the secret lives of boys. It must've been so disappointing because there was NOTHING there. We hid the BB gun down below behind a stack of burlap bags so she couldn't put the rock together with the BB.
I asked if I could see her "boo boo". She pulled her hair away and there was about a dime sized red welt swelling up with a deep red blood spot right in the middle. I was shocked! My brothers instantly stepped away after viewing the damage and stood back along the side wall of the clubhouse.
I again apologized passionately to her and she accepted without any blame. She felt honored to be in our domain and we told her she was welcome any time. After a few minutes of scoping the room it was apparent to her that there wasn't much else to see and we escorted her back down the ladder and out the front barn door. "Thanks for being such a good sport Dede", I said as she left back for home. I could only hope her mother didn't decide to cut her hair for a few days. She didn't and we never heard another word about it.
Karma is such a strange thing. I lost my interest in guns after that until I joined the Marines. Having never fired another rifle for years I was the only one in my boot camp platoon to shoot expert on the firing range with an M-14 rifle. Due to extraordinary circumstances I wrote about in another story, I was put in a situation where I was given a sniper rifle with a scope alone atop a hill in Vietnam where I replaced a wounded forward observer for several days. My job was to alert our troops below the direction of the enemy and whenever I saw an officer being saluted to take the shot. Who would've ever thought my childhood experience would be relived again in such a violent way? It did.
Being the only "expert" among my comrades earned me the position, one I never trained for nor ever wanted to do. Yet, there I was, paying for my childhood crime!! Boys will be boys!!
This was a bad feeling of panic in your gut I'm sure, when you actually hit little Dede? I bet you asked for Gods forgiveness in church that Sunday? It really is bizarre that you would go on to have to use a rifle and launcher as an adult. God was preparing you for these things and the repercussions of the fatal shot or bomb. I think the lesson for anyone young reading this would be you can never take back the pain of a shot fired that reaches it's target so be sure that is what it was intended to do before you pull the trigger.
Boys will be boys and here is one example of why having a large family is hard on the parent who has to monitor everyone 24/7!
Well written, I was there visually. I'm sure as a kid I did something stupid like throwing rocks...
Thank God for Statutes of Limitations, eh Tom? Otherwise we both might have numbers on our shirts. Most of my boyhood friends were raised around and with guns. Mostly .22's and various gauge shotguns. Dad bought me a .22 single-shot Winchester rifle for my 11th or 12th birthday. My grandson now has it. Still working and still accurate. Dad's guns were always loaded because he wanted me to know there's no such thing as an empty gun. He also "preached" that I should never point a gun at something I'm not willing to kill.
Oh, my,Tom, what a well-written story! I was laughing my head off one minute and then feeling that pit-in-the-stomach feeling for you when the shot went where it shouldn't.
Spell bound! The details and the feelings of this story cross the generations and the experiences that come with growing up. Life seems to have its cycles--what goes around comes around. Thanks for sharing your story. I think we boys did similar things but ours was with bow and arrow (the arrow being made out of sticks that we shot at everything!)