The Red Ryder Incident
Dad was working in the field and mom had gone on a quick trip into Hughson. I was perched up in the magnolia tree and David was hunting for a bird to shoot with his BB gun. He wasn’t having any luck so he called me down from the tree and told me to hold an almond while he shot it from my fingers. I was seven years old and he was ten. We were bored and I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea. I climbed down from the tree and stood by the front porch as he took aim.
I don’t remember if he ever had a successful shot but I know he shot three or four times. The last time the BB wedged under my fingernail. David started bragging about his aim because he had barely missed the almond. He neglected to think he had indeed missed the almond and gotten the bb stuck under my nail. I started screaming as if I'd been mortally wounded.
In those days just about the only cars that used our road were people who lived on it. When we heard a car coming David looked and saw it was mom. She was about half way between our house and the neighbors. He pushed me down into the bushes and told me not to say a word. Mom was getting closer. David picked up a tiny stick and told me to get the BB out and threatened not to tell what we’d done.
As mom pulled into the driveway he ran to the garage. I thought it was going to be the old “first one to tell is the innocent one trick” but he didn’t tell her what had happened. Taking advantage of him being there in the garage she started him carrying in bags of groceries from the car. I think he made three trips to the house and back. Each time he passed the bush where I was hiding he’d glare at me and I knew I was to shut up and not cry.
I heard mom ask where I was and he answered I was in the barn playing with the cats. All I could think was he’d nearly shot me to death and now he was lying about it. By the time I managed to pry the BB out my finger was throbbing. It wasn’t bleeding and I’m sure I hurt it poking it more than the BB.
I came out of the bush to sit on the front step. A couple of my cats came to me and started rubbing on my legs. I petted them and waited for mom to call me to dinner. Finally dad came to the house. I went in when he did. We washed our hands together in the big grey sink on the back porch. When he noticed I was favoring my finger he asked what had happened. I truthfully told him I’d poked it with a stick in the front yard.
When David came to the table he gave me one last harsh look. He never did ask how my finger was. He never did tell mom or dad what he’d done. Neither did I!