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In the shadow of World War II

August 1, 2013

At age 4 during the time my father died of cancer I lived with my grandparents.  I played with the stuff PFC (Private First Class) Carl Ralph Bonde, Jr. left behind when he went away to the army.  (Later I found out he went to Alabama and Arkansas.)  I used up or broke many of his things, sold a few things to a kid named Ted who lived down the hill and across the road, ruined some (like a book on the infantry that I left out in the rain).  There were a couple of rifles.  One of these was a .22 bolt action that my cousin, Dave Judd ended up with.  Another was the .30-30 lever action Winchester that I played with frequently.  I think my grampa hunted deer with it.  The .30-30 was the USA’s first small-bore, sporting rifle cartridge designed for smokeless powder. It was impressive.  It smelled of gun oil and precision.  I spent hours admiring.

An example of playing with the rifle:  As you know, the lever action rifle is a marvel of machinery.  You operate the lever and parts slide down, other parts slide toward the stock, and the hammer is cocked all the way back. It makes important sounding clicks.

I squeezed the trigger, and “click.”  The hammer strikes the firing pin mechanism.  I didn’t have any real .30-30 ammunition, although I looked all around.  I did have some .22 long rifle bullets, though, so I pointed the 30-30 at the ceiling and dropped a .22 down the muzzle.  I cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.  The result was the hearty “click,” and the bonus was the whole .22 long rifle bullet, lead and casing together, lobbed out of the barrel, propelled by the firing pin.  I had me a pretty neat toy!

Next, I dropped the .22 back down the muzzle and carefully lowered the barrel to horizontal.  There were some toy soldiers on the bedroom floor.  I aimed.  I squeezed the trigger.

“Bang!!!”  The .22 discharged and the lead bullet shot out the barrel and skittered across the floor past the toy soldiers where I could find it later.  The .22 casing fell to the floor when I tipped the rifle, all bulged out in the middle.  Of course, the .22 cartridge is a rim fire, vulnerable when lying horizontally near a center-fire firing pin!

The summer after my brother Thomas Tod graduated from high school he told my mom that he was going to hitch hike all around the country with his friends. These friends were Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouak style.

“How are you going to eat without money?” she asked.

“With this!” said Tom, producing a bunch of greenbacks from his pocket.  That’s when I found out that Tom had pawned the .30-30 carbine, never again to be seen.

Tom left with his friends as planned and perhaps 2 weeks later he returned.  He looked worn out, but happy.  I think it was a rite of passage.  He took a bath.  I went in and cleaned the tub. It had what looked like a half-inch of disgusting skin cells that I had trouble flushing down the drain.

He had spent all of his money.  His friend, Larry Miller, ended up losing his wallet that had a fake drivers license.  Larry got in trouble with the law and his real license was suspended.  Larry advocated weird, by doing disturbing stuff, like having sex with his parents.  His parents were friends with our mother.  Harriet, his mother was an elementary teacher and his father David was a pilot.  Both of them used to get drunk and call me years later in the 1980s.  Larry Miller, according to Tom, moved to a city somewhere and became a heroin addict.  Tom and I smoked some nicotine tobacco, drank some beer, and long ago even smoked marijuana and hashish, but we were in awe over Larry Miller’s misbehavior!  I saw Larry only once more in my life, in Dillon, Montana, when Larry visited Tom for a day or so.

Bud’s sister, Corinne Ackley, hinted that Carl had been a bit of a troublemaker in the army–perhaps he refused to obey an order he considered to be stupid.  Carl’s friend Bill Moomey could not corroborate that Carl got into any trouble in the army.

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