The Marksmen

by

Marty McKimmey

I have been many places and done many things in my life. I am similar to butter spread over a piece of hot toast. I melt right in. Like anyone I guess I take on the persona of what is presented and try to become part of it. It is in our nature after all. It is what defines us as social creatures.

Some people are more malleable than others. Some learn the rules and mores more quickly than others. Some of us are continually learning what our feet taste like. You would think that after a while we would learn. But that is not really accurate as one situation is rarely similar to another. You might think that the frequency of foot tasting has an inverse relationship with experience or age. You would be wrong. It is more of a direct relationship to the number dissimilar situation into which we manage to inject ourselves. Those in their comfort zone rarely make mistakes. Those outside said zone tend to have more variety in their lives. They understand what puts that foot in their mouth but are incapable or unwilling to avoid it. Eventually, the taste of foot becomes palatable.

Now, I have been around county folk since I was about 12 years old. Before that I lived in a medium sized university town with friends from the neighborhood, school or church. At the age of 12 I was introduced to country folk, people far different than myself at the time. The school bus was not my favorite time of the day. I did not fit in and I had not yet learned to become butter. It was painful enough that I took to riding another bus to school, requiring me to walk another quarter mile to my friend's house. But like anyone, as I grew older I met many people from all walks of life.

Still the experience taught me that people are different. In order to get along there must be some common ground upon which to communicate. As years passed, I learned how to approach a stranger; how to engage them in conversation and learn yet more about that person. I met some interesting people along the way. Each taught me something about themselves which in turn taught me something about myself. Many taught me skills that I would have never considered in my young life. I learned to fish, hunt, shoot a weapon, drive like a bat out hell.....Oh wait! That was self taught. These things that many country kids already knew, I learned in my late teens. I felt that I has missed out and did all I could to catch up. I even went coon hunting a couple times just to see what it was about.

There are two kinds of coon hunting. One where the old geezers turn the dogs loose, build a fire, sit around and drink moonshine saying, "Why that is ole Blue on the trail. It sounds like he's got scent of a 'possum. They could tell the prey according to the sound of the hounds bark. I know this form of coon hunting from the many summer nights listening to the hounds bay as they follow their nose across the holler and on down into the river valley while I was trying to sleep. No air conditioning so the window were wide open. The other kind of coon hunting is chasing some damned fool of a dog through the woods, at night, pitch dark....in the woods (yes I said that twice), in 10 degree weather. The former type of coon hunting is for recreation, companionship and companionship. The later type is for making money from selling hides. I found the later form of coon hunting a rather disappointing expedition to say the least. It was a one time endeavor.

After high school, I attended the university for a year...maybe two. I found the subject matter of my choosing not what I had envisioned in my young uneducated mind. It seems that the discipline of forestry was about tree farming rather than conservation and betterment of nature. But back then the current conservation movement was in its infancy and not part of the curriculum. I dropped out for a year...two....maybe more. I took up various jobs that were unfulfilling and non-supporting of my basic needs. I realized that sometimes you have to take the bad to earn the good. Seeing as I was going nowhere really fast I decided to change my direction, something I have learned to do very well.

The first time I left my hometown was to attend a forestry program in a vocational and technical school in southwest Arkansas. I moved into a real shithole of a mobile home....worse than the shithole mobile home I had just left. But being young this was okay with me as I was free, or so I thought....a subject for another time.

People from all across the region attended the forestry class. Most were from Arkansas, a couple from Oklahoma, and one abrasive ex-marine drill sergeant from Louisiana. I liked that guy. His abrasiveness was just part of the show. He was actually a very warm hearted person willing to help and share in any way he could. He did not have any issues with my long hair and beard. He also got me hooked on Cajun coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes. But don't blame him for my smoking. That was all me. "Maady! Stand twicet so's you cn make a shadow!" or �Don't turn sideways! I can't see ya!" I admired Louie. He went to school during the day and hauled chickens at night. He was a very hard working man. He taught me more about ethics than many people. He taught me to blame the chainsaw when I got tired.

As people will do when away from their homes and support groups, a few of us without family responsibilities would gather after class. We would congregate at a fishing hole or some hunting spot we learned about from our forestry instructor, a lifelong resident of the region. There was nothing sinister about any of it but it was just boys being boys, having a good time. But sometimes boys being boys and having a good time can turn south.

The following is a fabrication and to some extent a reconstruction of several events from the past.

On one of these occasions the gang was gathered around a campfire watching the fishing poles and drinking beer. One guy was named Larry. He was of the Choctaw Nation (Native American) in Oklahoma. Larry was short, thin, and loved armadillo meat. Jeb was a young man fresh out of the army, general infantry. Jeb was tall, thin muscular build, with red hair that had the audacity of a Brillo pad. The third good ole boy was Dick, the son of a pig farmer. Dick had a big gun in the big gun rack of his big red 4wd pickup. Dick was short, wide, with hair that could not decide whether it wanted to be black or blonde. All three dipped and chewed; thus, completing the mental image.

While watching the fire and the fishing poles, a conversation started about who was the best shot. It was kind of a "Mr. Badass" contest, if you will, that often crops up in gatherings of young males of all species. Of course, each in turn was required to illustrate how they were better than the other. The Choctaw proclaimed he was best because he was an "indian" (his words). The infantry hack proclaimed it was he because he was a professional marksman, and he had the sharpshooter meddle to prove it. The red neck claimed superiority simply because he was a red neck (again, his words) and carried a gun. Each had shot countless critters...in a dead run...both he and the critters...in winter...in 6 ft of snow (this is Arkansas)...uphill.....both ways.

---As I type this the movie "Dumb and Dumber" begins to creep into my mind. Hopefully "The Three Amigos" does not!---

Meanwhile, back to the story.

While bragging about the trials and tribulations of killing furry animals, the subject arose of how merciful each one really was. The idea was that each would limit themselves in the slaughter by allowing some measure of grace to the poor animal in the sights. But in reality it turned out to be just another euphemism for "mine is bigger than yours" and yet another cog in the "Mr. Badass" contest.

The infantry hack said that he gave his target three shots, one too far left, one too far right, and one dead center. If the target wasn't dead he let it go free. There was a flaw in his logic. His bragging left room for improvement in the "Mr. Badass" contest. So the red neck stated the obvious. He only gave two shots, one miss and one on target. After that the target goes free. Same mistake moron. So the "indian" states the next obvious remark in the escalating "Mr. Badass"; contest. He says he never missed. Obviously, no conclusion was going to be reached this night.

A hunting trip was planned. As they all were in school the next day they decided to congregate the following afternoon. The idea was a grand hunt for game. Each would hunt until dark. They would all gather after the hunt around the campfire and see just who was "Mr. Badass". All three agreed that the game of choice would be squirrel. They were small, slinky, quick, a perfect subject for the next step of the contest. No one asked the squirrel.

The next day found the "indian" building a campfire at the chosen spot. He had brought a fifth of George Dickle sippin' whiskey for the celebration afterwards. Remarking that neither of his competitors was present he cracked the bottle and took a shot, just to "loosen up".

Thirty minutes and several more "loosen up" shots later, the infantry man showed. As he noticed the not so sharp state of his competitor he decided to cut him some slack and "loosen up" as well. Thirty more minutes later, the redneck showed up complaining about the ticket that the asshole sheriff in Horatio had given him. He was stopped for speeding but after seeing the weapon on the gun rack...loaded...he had to go spend some quality time in the sheriff's cruiser while having his license run through the wants and warrants. Good thing he did not find the Southern Comfort in the glove box...already opened with some "loosen up" missing.

All three were gathered at the campfire. Discussion about the local sheriff and the day's timber cursing session flowed back and forth. There was more "loose up" passed around, more discussion, and more proclamations of being "Mr. Badass". But none declared a start to the competition. They had "loosened up" too much. Before they realized it, it was dark. What now?

The competition had degraded to spotlighting whatever came across the ray of sunshine in the form the headlights of a truck. They ended up driving down a dirt road in a faded/rusted green '63 Chevy pickup truck, in the dark, the three of them standing in the bed of the pickup truck leaning forward on the top of the cab. Each one had their weapon of choice laying on the top of the cab, loaded, and at ready. The marksmen and rifles were jumping up and down with the rhythm of the pot holes and washboards in the dirt road. The red neck's rifle suddenly went off, (that happens on a bumpy road with your finger on the trigger and safety off). No one ever knew where the round went, nor cared. The dude was using a .223 so the bullet is probably still going.

With much cursing from the driver of the truck and howling laughter from the three marksmen the hunt continued. It was pitch dark. There was no moon. They were on an unknown dirt road, drunk, with loaded weapons, and well loosened up. Nothing good was going to come of this.

The truck lights scanned down the road at what appeared to be a much slower speed than the truck was moving. The rattling of the old truck was suprassed only by the noise coming from the hole in the exhause manifold. It was a wonder there was an animal within a half mile of the rackett. Nevertheless, a poor rabbit got caught in the headlights. Let's call him Buggs. Buggs jerked left, jerked right, froze! The nose of the truck dipped toward the road as the driver slammed on the breaks. The dust continued its wispy journey down the road past the marksmen, past the driver, past headlights and obscuring Buggs. The three marksmen slammed forward and down striking top of the truck lifting their feet off the bed and busting their guts into the back of the cab. The redneck's rifle went off again, 2 rounds, 0 kills. Dude, by your rules, you're done.

Mr. One Shot Choctaw raised his body off the truck swearing in Cherokee. He saw the rabbit. Mr. One Shot raised his bolt action .30-06 with the 24x scope. He attempted to site in poor Buggs, but was too close. He waved the rifle around trying to get the critter not 15 ft away into the field of view of the scope. He did not get the critter in the scope before Mr. Infantry emptied a 30 shot clip from his Ruger 1022 in a span of only a few seconds shouting, "IWO JIMA BE DAMNED!". He created a perfect circle of mini-craters all around the cowering critter frozen with fear, dirt flying up like a sand worm from "Dune". The red neck fearing humiliation rose up and started firing in rapid succession before even sighting in on Buggs. One bullet ricochet off the hood of the truck. Another went through puncturing the radiator hose. This should have been the first warning and a call to action by both the driver and marksmen. The remaining shots dissected the perfect circle left by Mr. Infantry, making the circle and slash symbol right where Buggs was cowering. Only Buggs had said, "F@#k this shit!"; and took off down middle of the road melting into the dark.

Oblivious to the damage to his truck the driver slammed the accelerator to the floor. His attempts to keep Buggs in the high beams were fruitless. Yet he endeavored to persevere and kept his foot in it. All three marksmen fell into the bed of the truck.

Darkness, an unknown road, a whole bunch of "loosen up", and maybe toss in a bit of vengeance and ignorance all make for a grand ending to the night. Buggs exited stage left. I often like to think that Buggs stopped to watch the coming spectacle.

The truck split the silent darkness as it sped down the road in pursuit of the rabbit. Like a horse with blinders, nothing could be seen left nor right; only that path of sunshine just in front of the truck racing like a turd through a sewer pipe. The three marksmen flailed around in the bed grasping for some sort of a hold other than dust. The red neck's last round left the rifle muzzle shattering the rear window of the truck.

In the instant the back window suffered its demise, steam began to erupt from the hole in the radiator hose. Flying glass and a steam the geyser erupting up through the bullet hole in the hood diverted the driver's attention. In that fraction of a second a 90 degree left turn in the road knocked on the door. But the driver was not fast enough in opening it. As the steering wheel was jerked left the front right tire dug in to the dirt. The driver had a brief realization of success as the truck turned.

"YES!"

The realization was crushed by the sudden awareness that the rear of the truck was quickly going to pass the front. The right rear tire slipped into the ditch as the truck turned sideways.

"SHIT!"

The truck slid down the road sideways for a short distance dropping speed as it went, that is, until the rear tire caught on a rock flipping the truck onto its side at the precise instant it came to a stop. The driver was tossed out of his driving position only to be left clinging to the steering wheel like a 6 year old kid on the monkey bars, dangling like a side of beef ready for the saw.

As the ass end of the vehicle was looking for the ditch the redneck jumped from the truck, his rifle slipping from his hand. He had hoped to clear the barbed wire fence as he bailed. He cleared the fence ok...right into a wild rose bush. His rifle hit the road just as the truck flipped up on its side, right under the rear wheel. It pinned the rifle by the barrel bending it beyond all use, shattering the stock and ruining the workings in the dirt and rocks.

Mr. Infantry stayed with the sinking ship, though he did fall the width of the truck to the dirt road as the truck came to a stop. The barrel of the gun got caught in the rail post holes on the bed of the truck twisting and breaking his finger along with his wrist and shoulder. This weapon was rendered useless as well as the barrel was bent and the stock was shattered.

One Shot Choctaw was tossed unceremoniously into a mud hole and destiny. Cradling his .30-06 rifle like a child, it took several attempts for him to get up right. It might have helped if only he had just let loose of the '06. He reached the road and realized that he had not even fired his weapon. Silhouetted by the mingling dust in the glow of the headlights, out of sheer frustration he raised his rifle high, let out a tribal scream, and pulled the trigger. The mud clogged barrel exploded. He is now known as "Lefty".

Instead of winning the "Mr. Badass" contest, all three won the "Mr. Dumbass" award.