When a bullet, for the second time, went right through the garage door, the boys decided to take the gun down to the river for further testing.
Chuck had built a successful crossbow and decided to convert it into a gun. I won’t give you a blueprint. All he needed was a bow string, a piece of spring steel, the end of a two-by-four, a narrow gauge iron pipe, and a short steel rod. And bullets. They were easy to get from one of our friends. There were a lot of sportsmen in our neighborhood.
Soon we were on the wall overlooking the Ohio River. It was about a third of a mile wide. On the other side was the Jones & Laughlin Steel Works.
Chuck held the gun “stock” to his shoulder, pulled back the bow string, secured it, and pressed the trigger. There was a tiny splash where the bullet struck the water, about a hundred yards off.
We took turns, everyone achieving the same result. It was pretty slick.
“Why don’t we find a target to shoot at?” someone asked. “It doesn’t take much skill to hit the river”.
We looked about for something to shoot at. Behind us was a railroad embankment. Across the tracks was the Ohio River Boulevard. There were no trees suitable for hanging a target.
“We better not risk it. We came down here to keep out of trouble.”
“Let’s just shoot up the rest of the bullets and go home. We can always go target shooting in Legionville Hollow.”
The box held about two dozen more bullets. We aimed a little higher to make it more interesting. What harm would it do to shoot up the Ohio River?
A booming voice came across the water –
“Please. Hold your fire. Do you want to kill someone?”
Evidently someone at Jones & Laughlin was using a bullhorn.
We didn’t have to be coaxed. We dropped the gun and the bullets in the weeds and lit out for home. Just as we got to the top of the stairs where the locktender’s quarters once were, we heard a police siren.
It was time to go underground. We went down into the basement of the ruined building and crouched out of sight.
We heard several sets of footsteps overhead. They trailed away in the direction of the river. About ten minutes later they were again overhead.
“You don’t think they’re hiding in these ruins, do you?”
“You want to go down there and find out?” One of the policemen was standing over the entrance hole. It looked like he would find it a tight fit. He didn’t want to risk it.
“They’re probably in the woods by now. Let’s head back.”
We tried to figure out what had gone wrong. “Do you think those bullets were skipping all the way across the water like a pebble on a pond?”
Some years later I was working at the J&L steel plant. An older worker and I were on the river bank. I pointed across to the old lock on the Legionville side. “That’s where we fished and played when we were kids – right over there.”
“Some knuckle-heads were shooting a gun from over there once. They probably didn’t know it but the bullets were flying all around here. We took cover. We were afraid to lift our heads. The shooting didn’t stop until the foreman got on his bullhorn. Crazy.”
He turned to me as though struck by a sudden insight. “That wasn’t you, was it?”