Most days at Uncle Caskie’s were hot. Other than hog butchering days and Thanksgiving all the other days I recall were hot, so hot that one Nehi orange drink or just one Frosty root beer or one Orange Crush were not enough to see you through the day.
A visit to Uncle Caskie’s and Aunt Clara’s was an outdoor day, a day of exploring cornfields and woods and rambling around the area, a day of wrestling in the hay; then there was that one particular day in which Wilson and I paired off against my cousin Jimmy and my brother Bill in a slingshot showdown. I don’t recall what started the shootout, it wasn’t as if the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated or Helen of Troy had been absconded with or that there were economic or territorial ambitions – maybe we were bored? Maybe slingshot target practice with trees and tin cans that couldn’t shoot back didn’t have quite the excitement of ducking a projectile launched from an opponent’s weapon or of shooting at a moving target? I’m certain that if we had press secretaries we would have produced moral justification for the shootout.
Perhaps this is why wars start? What’s the point of weapons development if you never get to try out the toys? Was it a “look”, an insult, or just plain orneriness that precipitated the event? The answer is shrouded in the mist of the past.
In retrospect it is probably well that we limited our weapons to slingshots and marbles and rocks (yes, we used marbles for projectiles as well as rocks – nice touch don’t you think?). I say it is well we did so because we were capable of planting high explosives. A case in point is the time when Uncle Caskie, Uncle Cleve, my Dad, and a couple of other men were sitting outside eating watermelon (I remember Uncle Cleve cutting and distributing the melon to us kids); the men were sitting on cinder blocks and Uncle Cleve’s cinderblock had the solid side turned up which meant the holes were facing outward.
We turned Uncle Cleve into a ballistic missile when we snuck up behind him and set off a cherry bomb inside the cinder block – NASA would have been proud of us. As my Dad taught us, “It was all in fun.”
Now you might think that there were repercussions once Uncle Cleve came back to earth but there weren’t. Maybe this is because he wasn’t burned up in reentry? Maybe he had been dozing prior to liftoff and wasn’t aware of exactly what happened? Maybe prior to the explosion he’d been dealing with a toothache and his trip into space made him forget his pain? Or it could have been respect that the boys were growing up with a spirit of innovation or even that we were demonstrating a predilection for rocketry – after all, just suppose we developed a method of sending men to the moon without spacecraft?
It could also have been a basic sense of equity and fair play on the part of Uncle Cleve, for while I don’t know about Uncle Caskie, Uncle Cleve and my Dad were known to play practical jokes.
So you see that while we did have access to heavy weaponry we didn’t use it in the Great Hog Pen Shootout; we limited ourselves to small arms.
To be continued…