I wish there had been more than just me.
It was December 1957. I was defending the town of Waterproof. I had set up on the west side of the levee. The enemy was on the river side, just over the levee’s crest. I, alone, stood between the gentle townspeople and the enemy.
I had most of a box of cherry bombs, a bag full of silver salutes and some rockets.
I had my Dad’s chrome Zippo lighter. I was a busy soldier, throwing silver salutes and cherry bombs over the top of the levee. They exploded on the river’s side. No one could advance under my barrage.
I was having the time of my life.
A year before, the town Marshal shot and killed a man on Waterproof’s main street. The man did something wrong. The Marshall didn’t attend to any foolishness. He shot him dead. Just like on TV.
We kids watched Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, the Rifleman and Wyatt Earp on TV back then. The Marshal was one of those. He had a gold badge. He carried an ivory handled revolver on his hip. He always wore a Stetson hat and cowboy boots. Most often he had a stub of a cigar clinched in his teeth.
He patrolled town in a big green Pontiac, with a red light on its roof. He was always cruising town, looking for trouble.
I was scared of the man.
I was busy. Protecting a town is hard work, especially right before Christmas.
I never looked up, lobbing Cherry Bombs over the levee, into the midst of the imagined enemy. I’d light the fuse, throw the firecracker then hunker down. The explosions rattled windows a block away.
I was having fun.
Until the levee caught fire.
There was a crackling sound between explosions. I started smelling burning grass, mixed with burnt gunpowder. When I looked up, there was a grass fire about the size of the house I lived in.
As I turned to look towards town, he was parked under a pecan tree, looking out the Pontiac’s window. Looking dead on at me.
“He’s going to shoot me dead!” I thought.
I was just plain scared to death. I wanted to run home to my Mom and Dad.
The green car, with the red light, pulled away, headed towards town hall.
“He’s going after more bullets, maybe the bloodhounds, and a posse. I’m done for.”
A group of men came back with the Marshall. A half hour later, the fire was under control.
The Marshall walked over to me. I was standing by myself, alone. I knew I was headed for prison, at least life plus 99 years.
“Boy, you need to be a lot more careful up here on this levee. I don’t want to see you get in no trouble. OK?
“Yes Sir!” I said, standing at attention.
“Just be careful.” he said, then turned and walked away.
It was a year later before I fired off another cherry bomb.
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