from Rolling Stores and Country Cures, A Living History of Northeast Alabama
The Outhouse Showdown
By Don Laney of Lacey’s Spring, Alabama
He shot at me first; at least that’s the way I remember it. It was a warm July day in 1958 in the Eddy Community just outside Arab, Alabama when Dad brought my brother Phillip and I BB guns for my birthday. I was eleven years old and my brother was nine. I never quite understood why Phillip got one as well, but I was so excited about having my own BB gun that I didn’t give it a second thought. Now we wouldn’t have to use sticks when we played Davy Crockett and the Indians. I wondered if there were still any Indians hiding in our woods.
Dad gave us a lengthy lecture about gun safety and we listened intently as he explained the dangers of abusing and misusing our weapons. We nodded our heads in agreement with everything he said. We went outside to practice and within thirty minutes, I had been shot. Phillip swears to this day that he didn’t shoot me, that he just fired straight up into the air. But I have a vivid memory of him pointing that cannon at me as I thought, “He won’t shoot me. He wouldn’t dare.” I then felt the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. The BB hit me in the knee, causing me to go down like a heavy sack of potatoes. I guess I must have let out a scream or two because Mom was there in a split second, wondering what had happened. She tried to soothe me, but I was livid with anger at my brother. I was afraid I would be crippled for the rest of my life. Phillip was punished and we were allowed to resume our hunting activities, albeit we now did so separately.
Just a few days later, I was out hunting with my usual fruitless results, when I suddenly got the urge to visit our outhouse. It was the typical plank outhouse, with graying walls and a door with a latch on the inside. It also was air conditioned due to the many cracks between the boards. I rushed to the outhouse and yanked on the door. To my dismay, it was locked! Someone was in there. It turned out to be Phillip, delaying my much-needed visit. I yelled for him to hurry up and get out, that it was a matter of life and death. Phillip just giggled and gave me the raspberries. I began dancing around, impatiently waiting for him to finish. I finally realized that he was taking his time on purpose. “Get out!” I desperately pleaded. I heard him giggle again. I couldn’t wait any longer; I backed away from the outhouse, cocked my BB gun and began blasting away. I fired as quickly as I could cock it and shoot. The BBs were bouncing off the walls with a loud whack. Since the outhouse had so many cracks in it, each shot had a legitimate chance of going straight through. Apparently Phillip realized that also as he began screaming for me to stop. I guess I had made my point, for as soon as I ceased fire, Phillip came bursting through the door, tugging at his pants and waddling hurriedly back to the house. I laid my BB gun against the side of the outhouse, stepped in and proceeded to do my business. I hated that I had to shoot up the place to reserve me a seat, but Phillip would have stayed in there all day just to be spiteful. I wondered if he was mad.
I got my answer as soon as I stepped back outside. Phillip was standing about fifty feet away with an angry look on his face. He was holding his BB gun in his hands. Obviously, he was mad. We stood there staring at each other. My BB gun lay resting against the outhouse, just a couple of feet away, we were in a showdown. I knew he would shoot me because he had already done that before. I stood there motionless as I considered my options. I could step back into the outhouse but that would be foolish. I could run—I was very fast—or I could grab my own BB gun and have it out with him. As I was contemplating these options, Phillip slowly raised his BB gun and aimed it at me. I reacted immediately. I reached back, grabbed my BB gun and stepped behind the outhouse. No sooner had I disappeared behind the safety of the outhouse when I heard the whack of a BB bouncing off the door. I instinctively cocked my gun, stepped out from behind the outhouse and fired at Phillip. I missed. Big deal, I always missed. I was the worst shot in Alabama. I heard another BB ricochet off the building. Knowing that Phillip had to cock his gun and aim again, I stepped out and fired and just as quickly ducked back behind the outhouse. As I stood there with my back to the wall, the sun shining on my face and my adrenalin flowing I suddenly realized that this was kind of fun. I had a brief vision of Gary Cooper in High Noon as he was running all over the town, hiding and shooting bad guys. “Yes, that’s it. I’m Gary Cooper and Phillip is one of those bad guys that came in on the train and deserved to be shot,” I thought to myself. About then another BB banged off the outhouse, alerting me back to reality. I thought to myself, “Okay, Mr. Bad Guy, you asked for it.” I stepped out and fired, once again ducking back behind the saloon, I mean outhouse, for protection. But this time I heard a scream coming from Phillip’s direction. Could I have possibly hit him? Surely not. I had never hit anything. Perhaps it was a trick. Or maybe he got his hand caught in the cock of the gun. I did that once and it hurt like the dickens. I worked up the courage to take a peek. I eased my head around the corner of the outhouse and saw what I was afraid I would see. Philip was lying on the ground in pain with his hands holding his face. “Oh no, I must have shot him in the eye,” I thought. That was the one thing Dad had emphasized that we were not to do. According to Dad’s justice system, I would probably lose one of my eyes now. Mom, obviously hearing all the commotion, came rushing out of the house and stooped over Phillip. I inched closer just to see how bad the damage was. As I got within a couple of feet, I realized that I had not hit Phillip in the eye after all. Upon closer inspection, I saw that I had indeed hit him, but it was on the fatty part of the face, just below the nose and just above the lip. It really looked kind of cool. I smiled and said, “Ready to go to jail, varmint?” Apparently Phillip wasn’t hurt all that bad after all, as he came up swinging. I barely escaped his wrath.
Needless to say, that was the end of our BB gun days. When Dad found out what had happened, he took both BB guns and bashed them against the outhouse. That was the end of our BB guns and almost the end of our outhouse. Somehow, Phillip and I survived our childhood without inflicting any serious injuries, other than my knee and his lip. To this day, every time I see the movie High Noon, I think of the showdown at the outhouse of 1958.