I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine why my daddy would buy my brother a gun. But, he did. Junior was not a hunter, so that was not the reason. He gave it to him for Christmas when he was about sixteen. It was a shotgun. I did not know what kind it was then, but later I learned it was a sixteen gauge. I do remember he was very happy that Christmas when he got the gun. My Mother was not happy.
“Why in the world would you buy him a gun, Elmer?” she asked my daddy.
“He is old enough to have a gun.”
“But, what does he need it for?”
“I wanted to get it for him, Ellen.”
“That’s not a very good reason.”
They argued for days about the gun. My mother was always the boss around our house, so I figured Junior would not get to keep the gun. I think Daddy wanted to do something for Junior that was just between the two of them. They were never very close because of my Mother. She always told Junior what he could and could not do.
I think my daddy wanted a relationship with his son, but my mother prevented that for some reason. As I said before, he was never punished for acting up. He could do anything and get away with it. More than once, Daddy was going to spank him when he did something wrong, but she would not allow it.
She treated Junior like royalty, and I never knew why. If there was anything he wanted, she tried to get it for him. But, the gun was something he wanted, and Daddy got it for him. I believe that was the whole thing. If she had bought it for him, it would have been all right. I could be wrong though, but I don’t think so.
Mother was insisting that Daddy return the gun, but he would not give in to her on this one.
“I want you to take that gun back, Elmer.”
“I am not taking the gun back, Ellen.”
“He doesn’t need a gun.”
“You might as well hush. I’m not taking it back.”
“Somebody could get hurt with that thing.”
“Nobody will get hurt. It’s locked up.”
On and on they went. For days, they argued about the gun. I was getting real tired of hearing it. My daddy was not a person who liked to argue. When she would start talking about it, he would just go outside. Mother would not give up though, and Daddy would not give in to her.
Daddy was in the back yard one day, and I went out to talk to him. Sometimes we would just sit and talk while Daddy drank his Progress beer.
“Maybe she would stop arguing with you if you took the gun back, Daddy.”
“No, Ruthie, I can’t do that.”
“Because I will not let her win this one.”
“Is it worth all this, Daddy?”
“Yes, it is, Ruthie. I wanted to do something for my son.”
“Is that why?”
“Yes, it is Ruthie. Junior and me are not very close.”
“And you think the gun will change that, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, but I am hoping it will.”
“I hope you’re right. Junior is pretty spoiled.”
“Yeah, he is. Your mother is easy on him.”
“I wish she was easy on me.”
“So do I, little girl. So do I.”
Things kind of quieted down for a while. The gun was locked up most of the time, so I guess it was out of sight, out of mind. I know my mother though. Once she has her mind set on something, it is hard to change it. Maybe that is where I got it. I am the same way. When I had something on my mind, I was going to do it or die trying.
However, this was different. Or, at least I thought it was. This was my daddy trying to do something for his son, his only son. I felt so bad for him. He wanted to be friends with Junior so bad. Why couldn’t my mother see that?
One day when Mother and Daddy were at work, I walked into the bedroom, and Junior was sitting on the bed with the gun in his hands.
“What are you doing, Junior?’
“Just messing with my gun.”
“I thought it was locked up unless Daddy was here.”
“I know where the key is, and it’s my gun.”
“I know it is, but you might get in trouble for having it out when Daddy is not home.”
“No, I won’t get in trouble. I think I will try to load it by myself.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
“How would you know, brat?”
He had a box of shells sitting on the bed, and he opened the gun to put a shell in it. I moved away to the other side of the room. I was scared that he didn’t know how to load it. He put the shell in and closed the gun.
I was just about to say, “Take your finger off the trigger,” but it was too late.
The noise it made almost deafened me when it went off. Thank God, he had pointed the gun at the ceiling! Paint, plaster, and wood chips covered the bed, the floor, and us. Junior looked scared to death. He dropped the gun on the floor. Margie came running into the room.
“What was that?” she asked.
“The gun went off by accident.” I said.
We all looked up at the ceiling at the same time. There was a big hole there. I don’t know how bad it was, but it did not look good.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” Junior said.
“I know you didn’t,” I said.
“Will you tell Mother and Daddy what happened, Ruthie? It was an accident.”
“I will, Junior, but I think you better lock the gun up.”
He picked the gun up off the floor, put it in the cabinet, and put the lock on it. He still had such a scared look on his face. I was scared, too. My ears were still ringing from the shot. This was really a mess!
“I think we better clean this room up before Mother and Daddy get home from work.”
“Not me. I didn’t do anything,” Margie said.
“I’ll help you, Junior. I gotta get the broom.”
I went to get the broom, and I told him to shake the covers on the bed to get all the pieces of the ceiling off them.
“I got the broom and the dust pan,” I said.
“I shook all the stuff off the beds. It is just all over the floor now.”
“No, it’s on the dresser top and the chest of drawers, too. I’ll go get a rag to dust it off.”
Junior was sweeping when I came back. Margie was doing nothing, just watching us work. I started dusting, and that’s when I knew just how much dust was on everything. It was a mess. We cleaned almost all afternoon until it looked like Mother had cleaned it. Well, maybe not that good, but it looked pretty good.
There was only one problem left, the big hole in the ceiling. There was nothing we could do about that. We couldn’t hide it anyway. We had to tell them. It’s not like we could hide a hole in the ceiling from our parents. Junior was going to have to tell them. He fired the gun, so I thought he was mostly to blame. I just stood there and watched him.
“You have to tell them, Junior.”
“Yeah, I know. I will. You didn’t do anything, Ruthie. You just helped me clean it up.”
“I’m sorry, Junior. I don’t want you to be in trouble.”
“That’s okay; I’m not a kid anymore. I can take it.”
“She never spanks you anyway. She will just yell at you.”
“I’m probably gonna lose my gun now. I feel bad after Dad fought her for me to keep it.”
“Well, maybe not. Just wait and see.”
Our parents got home at the regular time. Mother got there first, and Daddy came in just a few minutes later. I didn’t say a word, but Margie the little snitch ran in the kitchen and said, “Guess what? Junior shot a hole in the bedroom ceiling with his gun.”
“It was an accident. He didn’t mean to,” I said.
“It’s alright, Ruthie. I had to tell them anyhow.”
“What has been going on here?” Mother asked.
“I was messing around with my gun, and it went off and put a hole in the ceiling. I’m sorry, Dad. It was just an accident.”
They both went in the bedroom to look at the ceiling. They were just standing there looking up when my mother just went crazy. She began to scream at Daddy for buying the gun. Then she was screaming at Junior because he could have killed one of us. I had never seen her so mad.
“I knew this would happen, Elmer. He could have shot himself or Ruthie.”
‘Not Margie. She wasn’t in here. She just told on us,” I said.
“Ruthie didn’t do anything. She just happened to be in here,” Junior said.
“Well, he didn’t shoot anybody. Thank God. I can fix the ceiling,” Daddy said.
He was trying to get her off the subject of the gun by saying he would fix the ceiling. I knew my daddy. He was smart. But, it didn’t work this time.
“That gun is leaving this house,” Mother said.
“Now, Ellen,” he started to say.
“Don’t you ‘Now, Ellen’ me. One of these kids could be hurt or dead right now.”
“Okay, the gun will go. I’ll try to sell it.”
Junior didn’t say anything. I think he was glad the gun was going because it had caused a lot of arguments. I think he knew what she said was true. One of us could have been shot that day.
“It’s okay, Dad. I took the gun out, and I shouldn’t have. Don’t feel bad about selling it.”
The next day, Daddy did sell the gun to a guy he worked with. He gave Junior the money out of the gun because it was his gun. Mother got mad about that. She didn’t think Junior should get the money because of what he did, but Daddy gave it to him anyhow.
Junior and Daddy became a little bit closer after all that happened. I was happy about that. I was really mad at Margie for sticking her nose in where it wasn’t needed. I told her I was going to beat her up for what she did to Junior. I didn’t do it, but I sure wanted to. I knew I would get a spanking if I did. She was always like that when we were growing up. I don’t know why. I never told on anybody just to get them in trouble like she did.
But, she was Mother’s favorite. She was frail and sickly my mother would regularly remind us. I didn’t believe that for a minute. She was just a little snot nosed, spoiled brat. Well, this is another story in the life of little Ruthie, and believe it or not, I am still alive.