A childhood memory shows how an event may take on legendary proportions.
One summer afternoon when I was a boy of twelve, I was witness to just such an event. Years before I recognized the legendary potential of a single event; yet I believe I felt a tingle of its potential even then.
It was a hot day, late in the afternoon, humid with giant cumulus clouds mounding high in the air. Birds were chirping, insects were humming and sweat tickled down my chest. A normal lazy day on a small farm in rural Nebraska. A green wall of corn stalks edged the yard and I stood on one foot listening to my grandfather and Mr. Childers, his friend who had just stopped by. They were talking about the usual topics: weather, crop prices, farm policies.
I paid only nominal attention to their conversation but watched my grandfather, his shirt sleeves rolled above his elbows and his overalls grease stained as he lubed the tractor. As they made small talk a bumble bee, hairy, black and yellow, buzzed loud and soft as it moved in an erratic fashion from petal to petal and flower to flower. The incessant buzzing began to intrude on my grandfather’s concentration and he stopped work and stepped into the shadowed opening of the machine shed. He reached into a cabinet just inside and took out a worn 22 rifle. Returning, he took aim, the barrel of the rifle making small adjustments as he tracked the insect.
Bang! Silence. The buzzing stopped, the bee vanished, and a look of amazement grew on Mr. Childers face as he let out a bellow of surprise.
“My gosh, Ray. I had no idea you could shoot like that,” he said. He pounded my grandfather on the back in excitement. “That’s the πgreatest shot I ever saw. You shot that bee right out of the air.”
“It was a big bumble bee, not a honey bee,” said my Grandfather.
“Sure, but you shot a moving bee out of the air with a 22 rifle. One shot and it just disappeared. Wow!” he said.
I still stood to one side, out of the way as Mr. Childers enthused over the amazing shot. My grandfather returned to his work on the tractor and Mr. Childers, continued shaking his head in awe as his pickup turned into the driveway. The birds began chirping again, bees still buzzed among the flowers, and the shadows lengthened.
I broke my silence then, “Grandpa, do you think Mr. Childers knew you had birdshot in the rifle?”
“Probably not,” he said.
“Should we tell him?” I said.
My grandfather looked up, smiled, gave me a wink and continued his work. My smile grew wide and nothing more needed to be said as we shared this tiny secret.