One Shot From A 44
Could you please let me know how my uncle Ronald Leyland is doing?
NURSE: His blood pressure was really low this morning, and when I took it again later it had gone down even more. 50 over 28. There’s not a lot more help we can offer. He’s coughing up quite a bit of fluid. At his age he should be in a coma. He has unbelievable strength. Mentally he’s very agile and strong. All we can do from a medical standpoint is let nature take its course. We, in the medical fraternity are surprised — he’s not confused at all. 100 years!!! We’ll just take each day as it comes.
Is it possible to speak to him?
NURSE: We’ve got him lying down, feet elevated. I’ll see how he is. He may be able to talk to you. … Peter, it’s your grandson, from Auckland. Here’s the phone.
Hello John. And how are you?
I’m good thank you. They thought I was your grandson and told me …
Auckland — that had to be you. I’m doing okay. What I find is that I can make a lot of noise if I please, and that gets some action going. Quite effective. Noise. I’ve learned that.
I got the impression you’re trussed up like the Christmas turkey. Anyway, it’s good to talk to you.
I can listen. I’m a good listener. Talk to me boy, talk to me.
If that’s what you’d like, I will. I was quite amused by how you ventilated Old Phil’s ceiling with a shot from your lever-action 45 and …
It was actually a 44 calibre, not a 45. It came back to me. I’ve been roaming around in my mind again, thinking about it all, after we had our talk. Yes, a 44.
A 44 calibre? I know a poem about that.
Do it. Let me hear it.
Years ago I visited Tombstone City in Arizona, and went to Boothill Cemetery where the victims of the shootout at the O K Coral are buried. To get into the cemetery you had to go through the gift shop and …
It’s an old ruse. It’s a bit like having to go past the merchandise at Collinson’s to get at the tearooms. We had to do that. They set a trap for you, but us boys tried to dodge all that and just get at the cakes.
Exactly. The Boothill gift shop was jammed with all sorts of souvenirs, so I bought a fridge magnet. It was a miniature copy of Lester Moore’s tombstone, complete with a poem on it, like an epitaph.
And? Recite it boy. Tell me.
‘HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44. NO LES, NO MORE.’
That’s good! I like that! See, the 44 was a SERIOUS weapon — a heavyweight. If you got a proper hit from a 44 it was probably the last time you got hit by anything. Four slugs would’ve made a proper job of Lester Moore.
In those old pioneering days the ancestors got around on horseback — that was the mode back then — and if you wanted a bit of beef, a good hot roast meal, you sometimes needed to do what was necessary and take matters into your own hands and go and get it, sort it out so to speak, and you’d ride up to a cattle beast on your horse — chasing it down if necessary — and you’d put a bullet, a 44 maybe, into the back of the head. One shot. BANG. That would completely paralyze the nervous system. One THUMP! Very effective. Meat on the table.
One slug from your 44, one hole through the roof.
It’s all coming back to me now. It was Old Phil who was around at the time, but after I’d loosed off that shot through the roof I remember that I sort of got a bit alarmed, and I thought I’d better be a bit clever — show a bit of cunning as it were.
First of all I patched the ceiling by finding a right-sized cork to plug the hole. Then I rushed about and accumulated a few hand tools. Yes, I got a bit alarmed about blowing a hole in the roof, and was glad I was a bit handy with the right sort of tools. That’s a good thing — to be able to fix that sort of damage when the need arises.
As a matter of fact my alarm made me get the gear together, and I shot up the ladder onto the roof in a bit of a rush — the old tin roof, corrugated iron, that’s what was used — and I got to work. So I patched the hole — used a small piece of galvanised iron — the bullet hole was about the thickness of your finger — and got the soldering iron to work, and flowed a bit of solder around the patch to seal it on. DONE!
Now when Old Phil came in and noticed the hole in the ceiling, with the cork shoved in it, he acted a bit shrewd about it all. He didn’t make a fuss. ‘No future in fussing,’ was always his motto. He went outside and noticed that the roof had got patched, so there was no danger of rain getting in, so when all was said and done there was no need for repercussions or strong words. It was fixed. That was the Leyland way. Got a problem — fix it. Of course I don’t think he exactly approved of me shooting a hole in his roof with my 44, in fact I think he was pretty angry, but he was satisfied that there was no real harm done.
Of course us boys got a real kick out of messing around with guns. Old Phil knew that.
What happened about the cork in the ceiling?
Well, it was sticking down a bit, and didn’t look too good, but I fixed that with my razor. See, in those days we shaved using the old ‘cut-throat’ razor, the one with the long blade. You’d lather yourself up with shaving soap and scrape away your stubble or beard, but first you’d swipe the blade on a long leather strop, a sort of heavy strap that we used to really sharpen up the edge. So I got up there with my cut-throat blade and carefully shaved away at the protruding part of the cork. It’s a job that requires a bit of care, but I made neat work of it and sliced it off flush without damaging the ceiling. Fortunately it was about the same colour as the ceiling timber, so it didn’t need painting — it just blended in fine. It might still be there. 309 College Street.