I think the name Gary predisposes a person, especially a guy, to certain acts of either bravery of foolishness. Gary lived at the edge of the bike trails. There were miles and miles of fields with the most elaborate system, if you could call it that, of dirt tracks that led to every place a boy could imagine wanting to go in the days before video games, Atari pong and Pac-Man notwithstanding. It was a time of go-carts, mini-bikes, ten-speeds and collecting beer cans. Gary had a large collection of fire-arms, knifes, dead grenades, swords, beer cans and Nazi gear. As I said, they lived where the trails started at the edge of farm country. They also had big stack of Johnny Cash and Elvis records. This too was the area where Garison Keilor was raised and in fact he attended the haunted, boarded-up brick schoolhouse that was at the end of our street a few years before we discovered all the places and people he talks about in Lake Wobegone. We were all very interested in collecting beer cans in 1976. The country’s bicentennial was a good year for that and Gary had invited Marty and Mike to come over to “make some trades.” If the reference to the Elvis and Johnny Cash records mixed with the Nazi stuff isn’t enough I’ll digress a bit here to give you some insight into this guy’s psyche. Not long before this little tale transpired Gary and I had been messing around with some swords in his basement. After I nearly lost my hand to a vintage civil war saber I proposed we do something else. With a deviant look in his eye Gary invited me to see his dad’s new .357 magnum. Now this gun is a revolver with a long barrel. You can load a .357 with either magnum shells or smaller .38 caliber bullets. The 38’s are a lot cheaper and many people will shoot those for target practice and keep the magnums handy for fending off intruders etc. Gary removed the firing pin. I didn’t see it. What I did see was the large .357 magnum bullet he dropped into the cylinder. He spun the cylinder then he pointed the gun at my head. I remembered a story I had heard about someone who had “lost” playing a game of Russian roulette. That was fresh in my mind.
Both Gary and I considered ourselves hunters. We were pretty savvy about guns and shooting stuff. We had also attended firearm safety classes and seen the gory filmstrips and movies designed to scare a kid into good firearm etiquette. (Much like the ones they showed us during driver training.) Maniacal chuckling was coming out of him as he clicked off empty chambers at my head. I was waiting for the one with the bullet. Actually I wasn’t waiting, I was running through his house cursing and looking for the nearest door while Johnny cash was singing about a boy named Sue in the background. He just chased me clicking the gun at my head laughing like an idiot. He finally told me the gun had no firing pin. This was the fellow we were dealing with.
As Mike and Marty approached the drive they heard an explosion in the house. Before they had time to react the front door burst open and a fifteen-year-old named Kevin came out screaming, running for his life. A moment later Gary appeared with a shotgun aimed at him. It was a 12 gauge pump. As Mike and Marty looked on in amazement the shotgun barked, Kevin fell, the gun blasted again and Kevin went to has face not 20 feet from the other two. At that moment Gary leveled the gun at Mike and Marty. The smaller of the two fell to his knees to beg for mercy. Marty, being a very fast runner and, by some accounts, used to this sort of thing, ran for his life. As the one pleaded for his life in tears and blubbering, Kevin got up out of the tall un-mown grass and both he and Gary had a long and cruel laugh at Mike‘s expense…They had removed the lead shot from the shells leaving just the powder and the wad. When the gun was fired it looked and sounded real but only flame and a small piece of cardboard came out the end of the barrel. We didn’t play much with Gary after that.