The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Gun Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

When little Charles was ten years old, Uncle John thought he was big enough to have a gun. So he bought a new gun and gave it to him. It was really for little Charles and little John both, but little John wouldn't be big enough to use it until he was ten years old. Little Charles was very glad to have a gun, and it made him feel like a very big boy. As soon as he had it, he wanted to shoot something with it. So Uncle John showed him just how to load it and fire it and clean it, and then little Charles went after another boy who was just as old as he was, and he asked that boy to come to the farm-house the next morning, and then they would go to shoot some squirrels.

The next morning, that other boy, who was named Charles, too, came to the farm-house very early, before little Charles had finished his breakfast. And little Charles was in such a hurry to try his new gun that he didn't want any more breakfast. And little John was going, so he didn't want any more breakfast, either. So little Charles got the gun, and some shot and some powder in a horn. They used to carry powder in a real cow's horn. It had a wooden stopper in the big end, and in the little end was a fine hole, so that when the horn was tilted, the powder ran out of the fine hole in a little stream. And when little Charles had got these things, he and the other Charles and little John started.

They walked down the little track and out of the wide gate and along the road until they came to the little lane that went up between the fields. They turned in there, and walked along the lane to the woods where they had caught the woodchuck, and along the road in the woods for a little way. Then they began to go very carefully and to look about in the trees, to see if there were not some squirrels there.

Pretty soon little John called out, "I see one." So they all looked, and there was a fat gray squirrel, sitting up on the branch of a tree, eating a nut. He held the nut with his paws, just as if they were hands, and he cracked the shell off with his teeth and got the meat out. A squirrel's teeth are very sharp, and some of them are long, like nut-picks. The squirrel saw the little boys, and he watched them while little Charles loaded the gun. Then the squirrel thought it was time for him to go away, and he dodged around to the other side of the tree, so that the little boys couldn't see him. Little John ran around to the other side of the tree, but the squirrel had run up into the top of the tree and along some branches to another tree, and had gone away, so that they didn't see him any more. Little Charles was sorry, and they went on, trying to see another squirrel.

A great many squirrels were in those woods, so after a while the other Charles saw one. That one was on the ground, poking about among the leaves, looking for something to eat. The gun was already loaded, this time, so little Charles raised it up and put the big end of it against his shoulder. Then the squirrel saw the little boys and the gun, and he hurried to a tree and began to run up on the bark, holding on with his sharp claws. Little Charles pointed the gun at the squirrel as well as he could, but it was too heavy for him to hold it very steady, and he was excited, thinking what he was trying to do, so the end of the gun waved around a good deal. And the squirrel wouldn't keep still, but kept dodging around the tree. Little Charles knew he couldn't hit the squirrel, so he didn't shoot, but waited.

Then the squirrel got up the tree, part way, and he came around and sat on a branch, to see what the boys were doing.


Then little Charles asked little John to stand up in front of him, so that he could rest the gun on little John's shoulder and make it steady. And little John stood up in front, and little Charles rested the gun on his shoulder and made it steady, and when he thought it was aimed just right, he pulled the trigger, to fire it.


Little Charles rested the gun on his shoulder.

But just as little Charles pulled the trigger, the squirrel dodged around the tree to the other side, and the shot only hit the tree and rattled among the leaves, and didn't hit the squirrel at all. Then that squirrel ran away.

Little Charles didn't like to miss the squirrel, so they went along looking for another. And when they saw another, it was the other Charles's turn to shoot. So little John stood in front again, and the other Charles rested the gun on his shoulder and aimed it. But squirrels are hard to hit, because they dodge around the trees to the other side, and the little boys hadn't learned how to hit them. So that squirrel got away, too. And they kept looking on for more squirrels, and they saw three more, but they didn't hit any of them.

After that, the boys didn't see any more squirrels, and when they had looked a long time, they thought they might as well go home.

So they walked back along the little lane, and between the fields to the road. And they went along the road to the farm-house, and in at the wide gate. And there they saw Uncle John. And Uncle John said, "Well, boys, what luck?" And little Charles didn't say anything, but he looked so sorry that Uncle John knew they hadn't shot any squirrels. So he laughed and told little Charles not to mind, because he would do better another time.

Then little Charles had to sit down and clean the gun. And the other Charles helped him, and little John watched.

And that's all.