Ricky Harpole column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moccasin Bend tale mixes old dynamite, new ‘supersonic’ firearm and Scotch

We had the annual Moccasin Bend pre-season poker game last week, so we will hopefully have our skills re-sharpened before deer season.

We have decided that a little spare cash before Christmas goes a long way towards pacifying a cranky spouse as she approaches the “spending season” after Thanksgiving. Whereas old timers usually go home with the gravy, the freshly minted don’t have to answer to spouses they don’t possess yet. After the game Friday night the the losers get a chance to recoup their losses on the gun range.

They seldom do well there either. Youth and skill are no substitute for old age and treachery. The old timers have discussed this phenomena, as to why they show up at all. Knowing that sooner or later they are going to “shell out” at least a portion of their “spending green,” it has been suggested that they are just paying their dues.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

It has also been suggested that the fee is an entertainment tax for the privilege of listening to the conversations that invariably surface concerning narrow escape, outraged significant others, equipment malfunctions and  dumb stuff in general that we have had more time to do, being old and reptilish by the Grace of God.

Some of us have scales by now but we’re getting short on teeth. Often as not, on this sacred occasion there will be an empty seat that in the past was occupied by a member no longer standing. The placemat before the seat will sport an upside down shot glass to mark another passing.

The young woodsmen are intrigued by this simple ceremony. I think it gives them pause for thought about the inverted cups that will be there next year. They are the new blood that will be responsible for succeeding generations of sportsmen and campfire liars like us.

Not to dwell too long on the morbidity of traditions, I offer one of the Tales from the Fireside that got spit out last week. It was brought to our attention by one of my old flight instructors, Steve Sharpe, who showed up for the festivities for the first time in about 10 years. Any tale that involves dynamite, supersonic firearms, hangovers and sudden surprises goes over well with a crowd like that. It went something like this:

I was the one with the hangover. It was one day after the first gun season for deer. It was raining and cold and it was my intent to lay about the house and be miserable in comfort.

Didn’t happen. I had to stumble out in the cold wet to feed dogs and horses, re-stoke the fire, find the aspirin and read last week’s mail. Just as I’d finished the chores one of my Daddy’s men knocked on the door, further interrupting my hangover.

“Your father,” he said, “wishes me to tell you that Ms. Debra requires the use of the ‘one ton’ truck to move some household appliances to another dump where she plans to live.”

“He requests that you remove anything that might be in the vehicle that might cause it to be impounded and also any company equipment that don’t have no business in Tennessee and needs to stay here on the farm”

Well people, the goodies that accumulate in a farm truck in a six-month period are beyond belief. Among other things there were fresh Pampers for emergencies, a flask of Scotch (for different emergencies), a shotgun loaded with rock salt for belligerent stray cows to direct them back to the pasture they broke out of and which was also occasionally used on juvenile watermelon thieves and also one stick of 40-pound ditching dynamite, — old, speckled, sweaty, unstable and left over from a beaver dam party.

You could see the nitro that had leached into the paper, and I treated it like a newborn baby, carrying it 75 or 80 yards out the back  and sticking it in a knot hole in a fence post to let it air or leach. By this time I was wet, cold, nervous, tired and still hungover.

On top of that the fire was almost out and during the re-stoking process a delivery showed up with a new “boy toy” in the form of a 30-caliber Ruger pistol that my aforementioned sister had donated to my cause.

The thing about a new “boy toy” is, grown men can’t resist playing with it. Since it was still raining a little and cold as a lawyer’s heart outside, I decided to test it out the kitchen window, which faced the fence post with the knothole, with the dynamite sticking out the side.

“Aha,” I said to my hungover self, “a worthy and challenging target.”

Donning my earmuffs, I expended the best part of a box of cartridges, trying to hit it. Along about then ol’ Steve the pilot showed up. He didn’t seem to see anything unusual about indoor-outdoor range procedures and asked me what I was shooting with and at what.

“Well, you see that stick stickin’ outta that fence post down yonder?” I asked. “I’ve burned down a half a rack of carbine ammunition in this pistol and I ain’t hit my stride yet.”

While he depleted the rest of the rack I turned my attention to the remains of the emergency Scotch. He didn’t do any better than I had and it hurt his pride.

“Well, by Westmoreland” he said, “I’ve got something I can hit it with.”

He walked out to his Lincoln and retrieved one of those souped-up, 500-yard varmint rifles they use on prairie dogs and woodchucks out west, equipped with a really souped-up Redfield “Light Accumulating” scope.

He asked me what the range was and I told him 75 plus yards. After some quick adjustments he nailed it on the second shot.

I had carelessly not re-donned my ear protection device. He didn’t have one anyway and also thought he was shooting at an ordinary stick. On account of the Scotch, I’d neglected to tell him that the target was wet nitro.

It was a surprise to me  how much racket and demolition that he caused with that shot. It was an even greater surprise to him.

It was a good thing it was a 75-yard shot because it demolished an outhouse (thankfully not in service at the time) that was 25 yards from Ground Zero. We were both deaf for two or three days which was alright because I’d heard enough to last me a while, and he couldn’t think of anything to say. Replacing fence posts and finding what’s left of property lines, as activities, don’t generate much conversation.

The memory of the expression on ol’ Steve’s face  as he felt the recoil of the rifle while watching a pasture fence go airborne during what could easily have passed for an earthquake, is still priceless.

Well, Steve is in the back office marking cards, loading dice and talking loudly to himself (he’s still deaf as a post). While there’s not an ounce of Scotch in the camp, I’m going to the range to see if I can’t figure out a few new ways beat those children out of their money, which they would be certain to waste on high cholesterol food anyway. It’ll serve ‘em right.

Still enjoying the game,

Ricky Harpole
(Contact Harpole at www.facebook.com/harpolive or www.colespointrecords.com)