This story of snap judgment takes place in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny valley.
One night I was jolted out of sleep by the sound of gun fire. I came out to the front room to see what was going on, to find my mom on the phone to the state police. Someone was shooting at our house! Mom motioned me to get back in the hallway and continued talking to the police. Let me correct one thing that is running in your brain cinema, Mom wasn't frantically talking to the dispatcher or clutching the phone to her. The dispatcher was telling her the cops wouldn't be coming and Mom wasn't particularly disappointed . While this was going on I was standing in the hall listening to the bullets hit things in the yard. Mom told me to get out the back door, get behind the big cedar tree and wait for her. Standing behind the huge tree I could hear what was happening. Someone was not just shooting at our house, they were shooting DOWN at our house from the railroad tracks that formed one side of our valley. A nearly straight up and down forty foot tall massive dirt wall covered in blackberries with railroad tracks along the top. It's dark, red-necks are shooting at our house and the cops aren't coming..this is not the scary part of the night.
The scary part was seeing the light on in front of mom's closet. Inside that closet were neatly pressed womens suits, perfectly shined womens shoes, oh and behind that, a small arsenal. Mom had hanguns and rifles aplenty. When predators or prowlers showed up she would reach into that closet with the same smiling calm you would see when other moms reached into a spice cupboard. Mom was cookin' now, now it was scary. Those jackasses were playing around and might accidentally kill somebody, Mom wouldn't do it accidentally. Mom was a Vietnam era Army Drill Instructor. If you picture a busty blonde possessed by the ghost of Lee Marvin, you begin to get the idea.
So as I'm behind the tree just wanting these idiots to call it a night before it gets out of hand, my mom appears out of the night beside me. I can see something slung over her shoulder and I'm thinking , "The rifle, Ok... now it is out of hand."
"Where are they?"
"They are edging to the left. I think they are by the dead tree." Why was I taking part in this? From a young age Mom made it clear to me that in emergencies I wasn't so much her daughter, as I was her loyal sherpa.You didn't disappoint Mom, you did your job and stayed out of her way. She pushed some things at me to hold for her, that's when I realized what was on her shoulder was NOT the rifle. It was something that usually only came out for holidays.
What I was holding were leather pouches. Leather pouches that held everything you need for the care and feeding of Mom's favorite. The moon glinted off of the barrell of.....the muzzle-loader. The night was still full of the sounds of a .22 rifle and red-necks laughing. Mom wasn't making a sound, just calmly working the tamping rod. Oh God, that's more powder than I've ever seen her use before!! This is going to happen, right now, right here.
Mom listens, gets her bearings and steps out from behind the tree. She raises that huge muzzle-loader and fires with certainty. A huge tongue of fire lashes out from the end of the barrel, and a boom rips through the little valley. All smooth and calm, Mom's reloading for another. Through my ringing ears I can hear guys screaming and cussing. I just watched my Mom........Oh God.
That's when I realized the pouch with the shot in it was still closed. I heard the guys screaming and I start laughing, watching Mom listening to their progress down the embankment. Mom had packed an extra big charge with no bullet, she was treating them to the scare they wanted to give us. It was all just theatrics. Those guys crashing and sliding down through the dirt, boulders and thorns would never know how lucky they were. Mom smiled, "Want to see it again?" Again, the gun ripped through the night.