Ricky Harpole 8-10-12

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

‘Goose Gun’ proved overkill for 10-year-old firing from Jon boat

We lived about a mile above Moccasin Bend. I’ve written about that geography with fond memories, but I’m sure we scared Mother into conniption fits.

Any river is dangerous whether it’s dry or at flood stage. The banks are slippery and steep or the current is swift and deceptive. It might be different from one week to the next.

The moccasins would travel according to the food supply. The lower the river got, the further they would move for their groceries. We had several dogs over the years that traveled with us like nannies. One that sticks in my mind was “Ugly Mugly.” He was a mixed breed mutt, black as the ace of spades and had no fear when it came to the welfare of us children.

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One of my older friends and I lived on or in that river at every possible moment from May to November. Deer weren’t as prolific then as they are now, but squirrels, rabbits, catfish, and other Southern delicacies were abundant. We usually went armed with a shotguns and my little sister. She was born more dangerous than that pea shooter shotgun. The CIA would have made her a field agent but she had dated a scoundrel named C.T. Langley and she’d be darned if she would attend an academy named after that bunch.

My buddy Keith had a 16-gauge “Goose Gun,” single barrel with about twice the range of the anemic .410-gauge. (It actually belonged to his grandmother, Miss Annie, but we could “borrow” it if she wasn’t watching us too close.)

There was something strange about that season and the squirrels were wilder. That .410 wouldn’t get us close enough. We still packed it in the boat because it was light,  short, good for snakes and easy to get into action in a hurry. Sis could handle it like a baton.

We used a jon boat for these misadventures in the Coldwater River but one thing we kept a sharp eye out for was “old smut.” He was the size of a full grown Timber rattle snake and had an attitude that an executioner would have envied.

He was famous for his aggressive propensities and probably older than most of our parents. He was nine feet of mouth and muscle and a proficient “line raider.” He had been shot at so often he considered it a sport and was better at ducking and dodging then a Quitman County judge.

I was pretty busy taking a 10-pound catfish off the hook. Keith was in the center seat holding the line and in charge of the artillery and Sis was in the stern seat with nothing much to do, but look around. She spotted Ol’ Smut sunning on the bank.

Sis tapped Keith on the shoulder and said, “Pass me a gun.” Keith was preoccupied with the line and handed her the goose gun. He realized immediately that he’d given the wrong gun. That would have been a piece of anti-aircraft  artillery to a 10 year old girl. He whispered, “wrong gun, take the 410.”

She had the goose gun in hand by then and Ol’ Smut had taken notice and commenced his attack.
She said “It don’t matter I’ve got him.”

She turned that goose gun loose, which almost capsized the boat, bruised her shoulder, missed Ol’ Smut, caused me to lose the catfish and Keith almost got caught in the trot line.

She missed Ol’ Smut by about three feet, somehow managed to hold on to the goose gun, hollered out some language that is unprintable in a family newspaper and said, “Give me another shell!”

The fish got away, Ol’ Smut turned tail and made for the north bank while she reloaded for the kill. She missed again and that’s when I realized that despite being her big brother with five years of seniority, she knew more cuss words than I did.

It was a Moccasin bend disaster of the finest order and an embarrassment concerning my anti-social language skills.

Ugly Mugly killed the snake on the north shore.

Barely a’float,

Ricky Harpole

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