Keith and I were fourteen. Just starting to emerge into adulthood, or so we thought. Back then, you had to be fifteen to get your driver’s license. In Mississippi, a lot of us were already driving. Just don’t act a fool.
My grandmother would let me drive her car on the back roads. “Stay off the highway.”
We boys liked to shoot. I had a box of 38 Special bullets. Granny said I could take my Grandfather’s pistol.
Keith and I shot turtles off the Homo Chitto Bridge. We put holes in tin cans and a hub cab we found in a ditch.
I carried the pistol in a leather holster. Low slung, like the cowboys on TV.
We ran in the knee deep waters of the Homo Chitto, playing the good guys with a real pistol hanging on my hip. Somewhere between John Wayne and Roy Rogers.
Acting a fool.
A snake, sunned itself on a log at the river’s edge. A perfect target. We could save the swimmers from snake bites and worse.
I reached for the pistol. I could kill it or scare it, it didn’t matter.
The holster was empty. Grandfather’s pistol was gone. We were on the far side of the river, one hundred yards from the car. There, I had loaded the pistol and dropped it into my holster. We were knee deep in a river of water. The beach was between Keith and I and my Grandmother’s car.
My Grandfather would not take to such foolishness. Me, losing his pistol.
I had to find it.
It had to be in the water. The river was wide and we played on the far side. I had no idea.
I was wanted to run away from home. Right then. It was my Grandfather’s pistol. I had to take the car back. Fools meet with panic.
We tried to retrace our steps. You can’t do that in a knee deep river. An hour went by, we walked over every square foot of that river bottom. We needed to get home. We were already late.
I was fourteen, desperate and scared.
I lost my Grandfather’s prized pistol. The pistol he kept to protect my Grandmother and his home. The one he bought for ten dollars before my Mom was born.
I wanted to cry.
My Grandmother had said “Be careful, don’t get in any trouble.”
I was a fool in trouble.
I gave up. It was gone. Soon, I would be also. Disowned by the family.
What would he do to me for losing his pistol?
Then I saw a dark ring in the river bottom. The water was about a foot deep, near the beach. For some reason I reached down, maybe just to see if I had any luck left.
I was lucky.
It was his pistol. I cleaned it, as best I could. That evening, I cleaned again.
My Grandfather, well, he never knew what a fool his grandson had been.
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