RUFFIN-IT: THE DAY THE SHARPSHOOTER KILLED SOMETHING HE SHOULDN’T’VE, PART I
Back before my back condition started interfering with my fun outdoors, I shot a lot: rifles, pistols, shotguns, pellet guns, you name it. I shoot occasionally in the backyard these days, less occasionally at the range.
While I was doing some annual gun cleaning the other day and was handling a Springfield ‘03, I got to thinking about the time a friend of mine from the Army came visiting and we went out and shot an ’03 I had recently purchased.
This was a long time ago and back in Mississippi, and I was living with my first wife—not that any of this is germane to this piece. It just sets the stage a little.
We loaded up my Rambler station wagon—I TOLD you it was a long time ago—and drove down to a place where I often shot. It was a run-down piece of sorry ground , swampy and snarled with vines and underbrush, so I figured that nobody would mind if I shot there. And I didn’t particularly care. Likely as not, any damage I did would have been an improvement.
We hiked on back into the woods to a lane I had cleared with an axe: a corridor maybe twelve feet wide and a hundred yards long. The only thing in the background was just deep woods, so an errant round would be snuffed out fairly quickly.
I laid the Springfield down and set up a target, and we sent fifty or sixty rounds downrange before calling it quits.
And this is where the story starts.
When we got back to the Rambler, I was sliding the rifle into the back when my friend—let’s call him George Stubbs for lack of a better name—looked across and down the road.
“Whose place is that? Looks like something out of Tobacco Road.”
And it did. There was a small house, once painted but now a drab gray from the weather, and a run-down barn, junk scattered everywhere. An old black car sat in front of the house, and behind the car sat a tractor propped up on concrete blocks. Let’s just call the style Country Mississippi.
“That’s Hobb Scofield’s (name changed) place. Why?”
“What kinda car’s that? A Plymouth or whut?”
“Look at that hood ornament. What is that thang? Big as my fist.”
“I’ll check it out.”
I reached into the Rambler and pulled out my binoculars and studied the car a few seconds.
“It’s a swan.”
I handed the glasses to him, and he confirmed my sighting.
We sat back on the tailgate then and had a beer and started talking about good shooting.
“You know,” he said, “my granddaddy was the best shot I ever knew. He was a sniper in World War I and used a rifle kinda like this ’03, only it had a weird-shape bolt. And it had a scope.”
“Probably an Enfield,” I said. Then: “I wanted to be a sniper, but I just didn’t get around to it.”
“Whatever it was, he could sure’s hell shoot it.”
“He ever kill anybody?”
“Nope. Shot the head off a rooster on top of a barn in France—he said they eat good that night.”
George grinned big. “He used to set on his front porch—had a house up near Millport, and it looked down onto Highway 50, which was maybe as far as from here to that guy’s house over there. He’d set on his front porch with that rifle, which somehow he managed to brang back with him from the War, and ever so often he’d take target practice on cars on the highway.”
“He’d pick out one with a big ol’ hood ornament, like the one over there, and he’d blow it clean off the car. Get hisself a nice lead, with proper elevation for that long range, and shoot that ornament right off the car. He could kill crows flyin’. He was that good with his rifle.”
“Get back to the ornament story. If that highway was as far from the house as Scofield’s place there, you’re talking about maybe 300 yards.”
(Next week we get back to the ornament story.)