J, L, and I went out to the farm with Mr. H every Saturday. Mostly, we goofed off, though we did help put in a lot of fresh barbed wire fencing and did other chores as needed. J, L. and I were probably in junior high school, and the farm and its cattle and its deep woods with the branch (creek) filled with water moccasins and copperheads was about as far as Shangri La was from those boring classrooms as we could get in those days when there wasn’t time to spend the weekend sailing in Apalachee Bay.
J and I often carried .22 rifles when we were hiking down by the branch because, in addition to the copperheads, there were dangerous beer cans down in those woods that could kill a guy in a New York minute. We lived down by the branch, J and I, because we both had bedrooms filled with fresh and saltwater aquariums that constantly needed new residents.
L, who was several years younger than us on the day in question had gotten a plastic pirate ship for Christmas and apparently had allowed it to set sail upstream from where J and I were catching crayfish. Out of nowhere comes this ship, orange and brown and riding fine in the swift-flowing water.
Something just snapped because J and I filled it full of lead from our trusty .22 rifles and it sank to the bottom of the branch next to a stump where a copperhead was swatching the action. To this day, I don’t know why we did it. Bored, perhaps. Target practice, maybe. A good laugh, to be sure.
At the end of the day, L asked if anyone had seen his pirate ship. Nobody had. J and I volunteered to help look for it the following weekend. L was so grateful we both felt like shit. Even now, I still feel bad about that toy ship. Only the copperhead knows where it is today.