Ain’t good for nothin’, but put a man six feet in a hole…

This started as just a small part of a story concerning Mamaw and Papaw’s old house on Miami Chapel, but as I kept adding details, it gathered a life of its own and wound up being too long for inclusion, so while waiting for the album I thought I’d release it as a single.

Mamaw and Papaw slept in a bedroom situated at the front of their old house on Miami Chapel. You entered it through big double doors to see the tall four poster bed right in the middle of the room, high off the floor.  In my mind it was up that high to keep the mice off of you while you were sleeping, as the old house had plenty of mice running around. When playing hide and seek, we could crawl under it on our knees and still have plenty of headroom.

Just to the right of the bed there was a tall dresser.  While I could barely see into the top drawer, one day I was snooping around while everyone was outside and found a tiny little toy cowboy pistol in the top drawer.  It looked like a cap gun to me so I pulled it out and drew a bead on a picture on the front wall and pulled the trigger…and just about crapped my pants as it loudly went off in the quiet bedroom…

It, of course, was not a toy, but a small caliber revolver that Papaw kept loaded in his sock drawer for protection. It scared me to death and, in shock, I quickly tossed it back in the drawer, covered it with handkerchiefs and socks and took off running through the house and out the back door as fast as I could.

The adults were all sitting out on the front porch at the time, so as I ran out the back door I lurched to a stop, took some deep breaths, tried to compose myself and, being as nonchalant as I possibly could, started walking around to the front of the house where everyone else was.  I ran into my mom about half way,  as they were all running around the house to see what had happened.

She asked me what I had been up to and I said the standard answer of all Profitt kids when challenged with being up to no good: “I didn’t do anything”.  She just stared at me while a cold sweat broke out all over my little body.  She told me I was as white as a ghost and shaking and told me I was not in trouble, I just needed to tell her the truth. Not in trouble?  This, to a kid in our family at least, meant you had done something tragically wrong since we might get spanked just for dipping a finger in an icing bowl.

I immediately started crying and trying to get the story out between sobs about how I-found-a-sob-cap-gun-sob-that-sob-wasn’t-a-cap-gun-sob-and-I’m-really-sorry-sob-and-will-never-sob-do-it-again. Dad was rapidly walking up behind her from the front of the house with “that look” on his face.

This was surely an offense that required maximum punishment. I was expecting dad to pull off his belt and fold it or even cut a switch off the huckleberry tree. But mom gave him a look and hand signal to back-off and he stopped in his tracks. Oh lord, I thought, this is so bad they are going to take me to jail and don’t want to leave any switch marks.  I resigned myself to wait for the police and take whatever I deserved for being a naughty seven year old. I was going to juvie for sure.

Mom led me back to the scene of the crime and had me re-enact my transgression on humanity.  Dad was standing over by the front wall with his pen knife blade poked into the bullet hole like he was a forensic investigator getting the trajectory angle just right. The hole was, in fact, only a few feet above where Papaw was rocking on the front porch. The entire family had been sitting out there.

Still waiting on the cops to arrive and handcuff me, I explained in great detail what had occurred, taking pains to show her how the tiny gun looked just like our cap guns at home. It really did, it was one of those cheap pot-metal looking things that were called Saturday Night Specials back then. Papaw probably picked it up down at the local bar for twenty bucks.

If I may, in defense of my my youthful, dumb-ass self: “The legal definition of a Saturday Night Special, or “junk gun”, usually specifies the materials that used in the manufacture of the gun, targeting zinc castings, low melting point (usually 800 degrees Fahrenheit, powder metallurgy, and other low-cost manufacturing techniques. Nearly all guns made this way are chambered for low-pressure cartridges, such as .22 long, .25 ACP, and .32 ACP . which allows these techniques to provide sufficient strength and desirable weight while still keeping a low cost. The low-strength materials and cheap construction result in poor durability and marginal accuracy at longer ranges, but as most of these guns are designed for use in self-defense, accuracy and durability are not primary design goals.” 

Mom explained that, while it did in fact look like our cap guns; A) I should not have been snooping in Papaw’s drawers to begin with. B) That I had nearly shot Papaw sitting on the front porch and could have easily shot any of them or even myself. C) I was now going to have to wait until I was old enough to understand how to safely handle firearms before I would get a gun of my own, or in other words,”You’ll shoot your eye out kid”.  (I had been begging for a gun of my own to go hunting with dad forever, which to a seven year old, was about a year. It would be a few more years before that would happen.)

As I sipped some water and calmed down, I could hear Mamaw out in the kitchen giving Papaw an ass-chewing using words I had never heard come out of her mouth before. Hmmm I thought, why is Papaw getting yelled at and I am not getting my hide tanned?

It felt like something out of the Twilight Zone show to me.  It was not until later that I found out from mom that Mamaw had been warning him about that gun being loaded with all the grandchildren coming to the house all the time.

It was a hard, scary lesson, and one of those moments in life that never really leave you.  I did get a pellet gun the next year, with warnings not to shoot at any living thing and detailed instructions from my drill sergeant father about how to properly handle guns of all descriptions.

While written in a humorous manner, this could have easily been yet another tragic story. They always seem to start with “I didn’t think…”  especially concerning improperly handled firearms around children. Please get proper training and treat your firearms with the respect they deserve.

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