Rural gunshots common at Brownspur

Published 4:29 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

I suppose it was inevitable.

We live, as most of you know, in the country. Certain things may be attended to outdoors, whereas in town they probably could not be done thataway. If an armadillo walks across the yard within sight, I automatically reach for the 22 rifle on the porch gun rack, and whack him. If a skunk does a walk-by at night, I grab a shotgun and flashlight to try to prevent seconds tomorrow night. If a coyote spends the night in the foxtail cane patch and happens to pause for his morning toiletries within sight of me or my neighbor, expect to hear a 30/06 report. If Betsy runs across another copperhead in her flowerbed, expect to hear a flurry of shots from the closest firearm she can get to. She doesn’t panic, but she does kill her own snakes, that woman! I jump from the den recliner early in the morning when a yellowhammer or sapsucker starts drilling a tattoo on the facial boards around the house, reaching for rifle or shotgun, whichever is available. In other words, gunshots are not uncommon sounds at Brownspur.

We often dove hunt early in a dry season out by the Swimming Hole, which is probably nigh unto baiting doves, and I really have shot bluebills out there during a hard freeze (the which we ain’t had in years). Prior to Opening Day of dove season, hordes of youngsters descend upon the pasture behind the Swimming hole to sharpen their eye on clay pigeons, and the skeet range turns into a 100-yard rifle range later in the fall. Pistols are also welcome, and Jake Boateater once comshawed a shipment of surveyed compooter monitors for targets. If you have not tried it, you cannot imagine the stress-relieving value of walking up to a compooter with a loaded 44 magnum, or a sawed-off shotgun, and shooting that sucker pointblank!

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It’s not common, but not uncommon either, for a shell or cartridge not to fire when you pull the trigger. Shotshells and cartridges are loaded by machine nowadays, and sometimes the primer may be inset a little too much, or sometimes there’s an obstruction within the shell itself. If you reload your own shells, you know better than to gather your shot shells and stuff them into your game vest along with the dead doves, because the feathers get into the shells, and a feather between powder and primer causes a misfire – however, just about the time you pump that shell out of the chamber, the primer burns through the feather, and there goes the powder! Safest thing to do with a misfire, is to grab the shell and throw it away from anyone, in case it does go off later. Sometimes much later.

I was mowing the pasture for the first time last week. Wonder of wonders, the mower had cranked and run at the first try! However, the muffler blew off in the first half-hour, so when I refilled with gas, I plugged in earplugs, then put on a pair of earmuff protectors over them, to keep out the engine noise. I was in the short rows, when suddenly I heard a louder noise than usual, and the mower seemed to lift briefly, bog down slightly, then surge forward. I eased the throttle back and raised the deck, glancing behind me to see if I’d just leveled a big fire ant mound. Behind me was a shallow hole in the ground, about the size of a dinner plate. It seemed to be smoking slightly.

The mower was still running, so I eased forward to see was it still mowing. It was. I surmised that I had run over an unshot shotgun shell, which had now fired under the mower deck. I flipped the blades off and drove to where I could straddle a ditch with the mower, cut it off, and crawl under it to inspect the blades, one of which had a chip about the size of your thumbnail. There was none of the usual dried, caked-on grass around the rim of the deck. It was cleaned off slicker than goose grease. I’m glad the shell wasn’t pointed upward, obviously!