Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Smoking Cap Guns

~ Looking for a movie to watch, I came across the DVD of A Christmas Story among the other titles on the shelf of my entertainment center. The story line triggered a sojourn to the good old days of the fifties back in rural West Virginia. Like Ralphie, I too had wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun. Like the bespectacled hero of that movie, I had tried a few plots and had cleverly dropped some hints. Unlike Ralphie however, I never did get that gun.
~ Nonetheless, Santa did leave a number of beloved toy guns over the years. To a young strapping lad that I was, or a whippersnapper as my uncle called me, the double holstered replicas of the pistols Davy Crockett used were the envy of the neighborhood. They weren't six-shooters, but the thrill of cocking the hammer to expose the cap plate was sweet. I had learned, but never did share the fact, that three caps from a roll folded to size of one laid upon the plate would result in a louder bang. The resounding blasts from two guns at the same time, hands down made my guns the loudest in town.
~ Kids being kids, we had been involved in a serious territorial war with the Hurons for hours. My mighty guns were ringing out above all the other kids' guns. The sun had already set, but there was still a glow of dusk in the sky. We were in the midst of planning a raid on the Indian's camp, nothing could cause us to stray from our play.
~ That's when the local policeman, Officer Parker had driven up. At our age, a policeman was held in awe, because he had a real gun. The Great Indian War was called off, a truce was in effect. The lot of us, frontiersmen as well as the Indians, gathered around him as he approached. We wondered what could be so important that he would come to our neighborhood. Secretly we were all hoping he was here to investigate a crime. Maybe, just maybe we would witness the capture and arrest of a dangerous criminal.
~ To our horror, he told us that were the perpetrators! It appeared that crotchedy old Miss Snyder had called the police. He was there to investigate a lousy disturbance of the peace! Our faces were white with fear. We were going to be arrested, led away in handcuffs, and tossed into the city hoosegow. In a small town like Clendenin, WVa., in the fifties, all of us kids had heard about those dungeons there. There were torture devices. You were fed moldy bread and given dirty water to drink. There were crazed prisoners there, who'd become cannibals with a taste for young children.
~ Some of the kids, especially the ones on the outer perimeter of the ring around the officer, took off in every direction. Our friends had abandoned us, sacrificed us for their own escape. Parker ignored them, kneeling down amongst us so that we were face to face. He told us about the complaints of a large racket, namely a series of single bangs. These bangs had caused the neighbors to think we had cherry bombs. He said he knew that we didn't have any fireworks. I realized then that we were being interrogated, aand it was a first time for us!
~ "Who has the loud cap gun?" he asked. He seemed to be paying a lot of attention to my Davy Crockett pistols. "It wasn't us," I lied. "It must of been one of those guys," I said pointed in the direction the others had fled. He placed his hand on my shoulder and motioned to the other boys, "Go home all of you. I have my man." His face was stern as he looked at me, "Hand over the guns,son." I nervously obeyed and a dread came over me. How was I going to explain to my parents that i had lost my pistols. I certainly couldn't tell them that they were confiscated by the law.
Facing my parents terrified me more than being tossed in jail.
~ He examined my pistols closely. I saw him peel the off the folded caps, unspent, from the cap plate. He looked up straight into my soul, so wide were my eyes. The big bust on Elm Street, as the incident would become known years later, centered on me. I was shaking like a leaf. Perhaaps to soothe me, or to get the questioning over with, he smiled knowingly.
~ "That's a pretty good trick, son, using three caps at the same time. Pretty neat.," he said to me. He stood up still looking me in the eyes and handed me my pistols. "Okay, here's what's going to happen," he declared. "You are going to take your guns and go home. It's dark outside and it is too late to be playing with cap guns." He then smirked and pointed to Miss Snyder's house, "You darn near scared the daylights out of her!" Then he laughed.
~ "Aren't you going to book me? Or fill out a report?" I asked sheepishly.
~ "No," he answered, "Not this time. But maybe I should drive you home."
~ "Oh, no sir! I live just down the street. The white house on the corner."
~ I think was inside my house before he even started the engine. I never even looked out the window, lest he see me as he drove by. After that day, I cut back on the caps. That had been my first and my last run in with the law. Yes, he had the goods on me that day.
~ Where there was a noise, there was a smoking cap gun.
~No. 48

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