A Lesson Well Learned

Every school boy’s dream, every neighbor’s nightmare

“FLEABITE DID IT! FLEABITE DID IT!” Bubba came running out of the woods as fast as his little feet could carry him. He knew somebody was going to be in trouble and it wasn’t gonna to be him. A few seconds later (and quite a bit slower) His cousin ‘Bite came out holding a Daisy lever action BB gun, with the genuine solid wood stock. ‘Bite had a look of sheer fright on his face, as if he’d just seen a ghost. He and his cousin had been playing out in the woods that Saturday morning looking for something to shoot with the new BB rifle ‘Bite had gotten just that Christmas before. For some reason there were no squirrels or birds in the trees (they knew better), so Fleabite and Bubba had to find something else to use for target practice.

Just when they were ready to give up on the whole thing and find something else to do, they saw a truck coming up the dirt road. It was the McClacken brothers. The two brothers were renters on the Bowen property and they drove their truck up and down Piney Ridge Road several times a day. This would turn out to be a bad day to be doing that. Fleabite perked up, he had an idea. “Watch me shoot the tire when the truck goes by”. He lied down on the ground and took up a shooting posture, that of a sniper, but before ‘sniper’ was a household word. The truck slowly came up the hill, headed for the gate and cattle guard that kept the Bowenses cows in. Bubba watched the truck, turned to watch his cousin, then he looked back to the truck, “Shoot! Shoot before its too late!” The muffled puff of the BB gun going off could be heard throughout that section of woods. The driver of the truck hit the brakes and the tires skidded to an abrupt stop. A yelp could be heard emanating from the cab. “I been hit!’, the driver put the truck in reverse and the brothers backed up to the driveway where Fleabite’s family lived. The man jumped out of the truck and ran over to Bite’s father, who was busily changing spark plugs on his Chevrolet Impala station wagon. Mr. Jenkin’s head was under the hood of his car. He could be found in that position most any Saturday evening, Sundays too. “They shot me”, the bigger of the two brothers came toward Lonzo, one hand clasping the other for support, tears were flowing down his face. That’s when Bubba came barreling out of the woods proclaiming his innocence.

The other smaller brother rolled out of the passenger’s side of the truck laughing as loud and as hard as he could, “You got shot in the finger! It was a BB gun. I heard it go off. What are you yelling about?” The younger McClacken stood, bent over laughing while his older sibling winced in pain, showing Lonzo the spot under his fingernail where he’d been hit. He’d been driving with his elbow on the window sill and his hand resting on the outside top of the window.

Lonzo Jenkins looked at the red mark made by the pellet and told Mr. McClacken that if he wanted to go to the emergency room at Fauquier Hospital, he could bring the bill back to him for what it cost him. Without uttering another word, Mr. McClacken and his little brother went back to the truck, got in and headed back down the road. You could hear snickering coming from younger brother as they drove out of sight. Lonzo turned to his son and held his hand out, “Give me that before you shoot somebody’s eye out! What in the world were you thinking? Don’t ever expect to get this back!” Fleabite began explaining that he was only trying to hit the tire but his aim was off. He realized he wasn’t helping the situation by making excuses, so he gave up and let his words kind of trickled off to nothing. Lonzo sent him into the house then he sent Bubba back to the ridge, play time was over for the day.

Dolphus McClacken came back from the hospital with a bandaid on his finger.

About an hour and a half later, the two brothers pulled back into our driveway and they got out. The younger of the McClacken brothers (both being at least 40 years old) didn’t even let his brother start talking, “They put a band-aid on it! It wasn’t even bleeding!?”. He was getting a real kick out of this whole ordeal. He teased his big brother relentlessly, “They didn’t even charge for the band-aid. You drove from Remington to Warrenton to have a Band-Aid put on your finger”. Lonzo apologized again and assured them that it wouldn’t happen again.

Even though Lonzo promised Fleabite that he’d never see his gun again, about a year later he gave the gun back to him with a stern warning. Just as promised, it never happened again. Fleabite Jenkins didn’t so much as point that thing at another living creature from that time on. As humorous as it may have been to some at the time, what transpired on that fateful day when Fleabite Jenkins decided to recklessly aim his gun in the wrong direction, was a lesson well learned.

Post Script

This incident happened over 40 years ago when things were much different, for instance:
1) A 12 year old could traipse around the neighborhood pointing a BB gun at anything that moved and no one considered calling the police.
2) The victim went to the boy’s parents to resolve the situation and it was successfully resolved without government intervention.
3) Someone went to the emergency room and was treated without being charged an outrageous fee. Actually, there was no fee charged at all!
4) Race was never an issue in a situation that would most likely have been first viewed from a racially charged perspective, if faced today.

Over the years we seem to have lost the ability to use common sense. We need to get back to letting common sense resolve day to day problems, not the federal and local authorities.

About S.P. Brown

I really enjoy writing stories about my childhood, growing up black. I began writing when I was 7 years old, after being assigned to write an essay by my 2nd grade teacher. The essay was entitled "What I Did Over The Thanksgiving Break". I enjoyed retelling that story so much I've been writing ever since . The essay I wrote for that assignment was The Long Way Home, I hope you enjoy it,
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2 Responses to A Lesson Well Learned

  1. macmsue says:

    I’ll bet your family isn’t the only one that retells this story with a laugh! I have to agree with you about all the humbug now.


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