Other Voices: Stories of the terrible twenty-twos | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Stories of the terrible twenty-twos

You’ve all heard of the terrible twos, but now you’ll learn of the terrible twenty-twos.

We had just got a new rifle ” a crack shot .22 ” and one of those rifles in the hands of kids is not pretty. My brothers Ray, Floyd and I joined some other boys to go hunting. There were five boys and two rifles in all. We went down a gulch where scavenger birds ” crows and magpies ” offered an opportunity for target practice.

A telephone line that served all the ranchers in the valley also ran down the gulch. In many cases the telephone was the only way ranchers, and especially their lonely wives, had to contact the outside world. On each pole a gleaming green insulator protected the line from grounding out.

“I’ll bet you can’t hit that insulator,” Ray challenged me.

“Oh, yes, I can!” I retorted.

Thus set in motion the disabling of the telephone line. Ping, ping, ping, the insulators would burst when hit, with a spray of glass flying out like a star burst.

“Wow! Look at that baby fly apart,” Floyd exclaimed.

This only fueled the game of who could hit the most insulators. We never gave a though to the damage we were doing. But the next day an irate rancher, who owned much of the land on which we were shooting, had heard the firing and collared us.

“You destructive little bleeps. You have put the phones out of service for the entire valley. That’s going to cost you big bucks for repairs.”

“I ain’t got no money,” I told him.

“Then you’ll have to go to jail or work on my ranch until the damages are completely paid,” he demanded.

“Oh, well, that’s better than going to jail,” I said.

The rancher made out like a burglar as we had to work each weekend for a month to pay for the repairs. In return, the rancher got all his crops planted at minimal cost.

My next episode was with a .22 pistol with which I was practicing my quick draw. I had read many stories of western outlaws such as Jesse James and Billy the Kid. I thought if I practiced long enough I may get as fast as they were with a six-gun.

I was in my bedroom practicing my quick draw when I laid the pistol down to play with the rifle. After getting tired of the rifle, I picked up the pistol to continue practicing my quick draw and shot a hole right through the bedroom window.

“Oh, my God! I forgot it was loaded!” I exclaimed in shock.

Mom let out a scream, rushed into the bedroom, and grabbed the pistol. She told me, “This thing is going where the sun doesn’t shine!”

I was too shocked to say a word, but when I recovered, I realized the outhouse hole was where the sun doesn’t shine.

My outlaw training had come to an inglorious end.


Tom Williams is a member of the Senior Writers’ Group at the Gold Country Community Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

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