Loading Your Own
JD and my second attempt at producing a hand crafted firearm was much more ambitious than our first and came about two years after the time we blew a hole through the side of his dad’s garage. Our hearing had mostly returned to normal by then, although the tan on our backsides seemed to be rather permanent. We were inspired to make a new attempt by Mikie’s dad’s brand new hobby of reloading his own shells.
This new “black powder” gun utilized manufactured gun powder thoughtfully supplied by Mikie’s dad. Or to put it another way, we borrowed a few of the several boxes of 12ga. shotgun shells he had reloaded for an upcoming dove shoot. We were under strict orders not to touch the many guns around our houses without an adult’s permission, but nothing was said about the ammunition. He was, at least, smart enough to keep the loose powder secured. The powder the #9 shot supplied was much better than the rather crude though effective type that we had made using sulfur, charcoal and nitrate for our first black powder gun.
To avoid detection, we decided to use only part of the powder in each shell so that the number of boxes remained the same. JD uncrimped the ends and dumped contents of each one till he had emptied them all. Mikie and I, meanwhile, separated the gun powder and shot into two piles, and then separated out the powder that we needed for our project. The shot and remaining powder was divided up into equal piles and we carefully started replacing them into each empty shell.
I was first to hear Mikie’s dad’s old sedan rattling up the dirt road to his house. I don’t know why they called it a dirt road since it was mostly paved with fist sized rocks. The rocks, incidentally, were the ideal size to use as ammunition for our catapult. The catapult, contrary to popular adult opinion, was not a weapon but an aid to gathering pecans, catalpa worms and little brothers when they were out of reach in the top of trees. But that’s another story.
Panic set in and we decided that the best course was for us to return every thing to its former status.
“ I thought your dad wouldn’t be back till tonight.” I told Mikie as I hurriedly scooped piles of shot and powder into shells.
“Lets just get them all back together before he starts looking for us. JD, you go stall him.” Mikie said as he busily recrimped the ends.
“Mikie, I’m out of empties and there is still some powder left.”
“Just pour it in some you already filled” Mikie replied as we heard JD say over the squeak of his bike wheels as he pedaled down the drive,
” Hi, Mr. Wheeler, They’re down at the creek. I gotta go. Bye.”
We finished packing up the shells and returned them to the storage room where we put them on the other end of the shelf from where we got them before Mikie’s dad came to find us. Most of the time, our parents had us on some type of probation requiring us to check in periodically. For some reason, Mikie, JD, and my parents all had nervous dispositions that didn’t clear up till we were well into our thirties.
Dove shoots at that time were social affairs, with friends, neighbors and relatives turning out for the shoots. We ringed the recently harvested field, Mikie and I off to one side of his father with our trusty 20ga single shots. The season opened promptly at noon and we quickly had three doves while Mikie’s dad, setting on a five gallon bucket on the edge of a drainage ditch, fired repeatedly, missing birds that usually would have dropped in a small burst of feathers as they tumbled into the open field. Mikie and I from the side, could see the shot kicking up little puffs of dust where they fell, a mere fifteen yards in front of him. We looked at each other with a sinking feeling as we realized that he must have gotten hold of one of “our” boxes. The question of which box he was using was quickly answered.
The cat calls really started when Mikie’s father fired three times at a slow moving bird going straight away. “You forgit to put some shot in those shells?” was a popular question. Mr. J got red in the face but refused to dignify such a stupid question with an answer. We watched as he seemed to fiddle with his lunch bag but we could see he was really digging open a shell with his pen knife. Satisfied that he hadn’t forgot to put in the shot, he looked quizzically at his gun and reloaded.
A pair of doves came in low, quartering toward him. Mikie and I watched as he mounted the 12ga. to his shoulder and tracked the birds as they came closer and closer. At the last moment, he fired two quick shots. The two loud explosive “BARRUMPHS” came almost as a single shot as the overloaded shells went off. Everyone on the field looked with mouths hanging open as both birds literally disappeared in a cloud of gun smoke that snowed small feathers across the field. Mikie’s dad had also disappeared, only the overturned bucket laying under one end of the cloud marked the spot where he had sat when he fired the last shots. We heard some splashing and saw bushes shaking as he crawled up out the ditch that he had tumbled into from the force of the recoil.
We checked our reflexive urge to run, pretty sure that nothing would point to us this time. The good natured kidding started for real now as the other hunters helped pull his shoulder back around to the side of his body where it belonged. Mike’s dad tried to sell the reloading equipment on the spot, but maybe not so surprisingly couldn’t find any takers even at the give away price he named – except for me and Mikie. But like he said, “I dang near lost my shoulder, not my mind.”