The word gun control has a totally different meaning in the South than it does anywhere else. Where I come from, gun control means that you learn to control your gun at a very early age. In other words, you have a gun and know how to use it. My parents had a gun rack over their bed. That’s right, over the bed, in plain sight, and the kids of the house never went near it.
Let me amend that comment. The only time we ever went near it was when Dad would yell, “Go get the shot gun!” When we heard those words, we knew that trouble was a brewing, and that we’d better skedaddle.
On one occasion, our neighbor, John Henry Claxton, decided to build a fence fifty feet over onto our property. He’d come to Dad earlier and tried to strike a deal in which he would give him fifty feet of his junk property in the back in exchange for fifty feet of our good property in the front. Of course, Dad said, “No way.”
John Henry decided that he was going to build the fence anyway. When Dad looked out and saw what was happening, he went out and had a few choice words with John Henry. When no amount of talking could convince John Henry not to build the fence, Dad yelled, “Go get the shot gun!” And that’s when John Henry left.
A few hours later, we got a knock at the door, and there stood the sheriff along with John Henry.
The sheriff looked at my dad. “Mr. Poole, I understand that you threatened Mr. Claxton with a shot gun.”
Dad straightened himself up to his full height and looked him in the eye. “Yes, sheriff, I did.”
“He was trying to build a fence fifty feet over onto my property.”
The sheriff looked at John Henry with a raised eyebrow. “Is that true?”
“Yes,” John Henry admitted, “but I offered him fifty feet of my property in exchange for fifty feet of his property.”
“And I said absolutely not!” Dad said. “Then he started building the fence anyway, so I yelled at the kids to get the shot gun.”
The sheriff gave John Henry at hard look. “Well, if you tried to build a fence on my land without my permission, I reckon I’d shoot you too.” He tipped his hat at Dad. “Sorry to bother you. Have a nice evening, Mr. Poole.”
And that was the end of that.
Anyway, back to the watermelons. It was one of those sweltering summers in Alabama where you feel like your face is going to melt off and you couldn’t draw in a good breath if your life depended on it. Our family had gone to visit some relatives who lived on a big farm out in the country. I was thirteen and Page was ten. We arrived a few days early and had plenty of time to roam the woods before the other relatives arrived at the end of the week for a family reunion.
Not wanting to have to entertain the kids all week, our parents handed us bee bee guns and said, “You have an entire farm at your disposal. Go shoot!”
Page and I, along with our boy cousins, practiced shooting aluminum cans, tree branches, rocks, and any unlucky squirrel that crossed our path. After a while, we grew bored and decided to try our hands at more interesting targets—the watermelons lying under the shade trees in the yard.
The satisfying plunks let us know that our aims were improving as we fired again and again at the watermelons. What we failed to realize is that the watermelons were too big to fit in the refrigerator, so they had been placed in the cool shade of the trees in preparation for the reunion
The day of the reunion finally arrived and relatives came in droves, carrying casseroles and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Everything went fine until we all gathered to eat watermelon. Mom’s eyebrows furrowed as she turned over one of the melons and examined the tiny holes. “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. They all have holes.”
A few people gathered around, trying to decide what type of bug had been eating on the watermelons.
We, the culprits, looked wide-eyed at each other and scattered like flies but were soon roped back when an elderly aunt nearly cracked her denture on a bee bee. Mom scolded us, but we could see the laughter in her eyes. Nevertheless, as any good mother would, she made us eat every bite of those watermelons.
And that year, we weren’t just spitting out seeds.
To read other funny stories about the South, check out my latest book on Amazon Kindle.