Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Snake Bit, Part 4



Spoon 2


Carpinteria, California  is a small seaside town in southeastern Santa Barbara County, northwest of Ventura. In the latter half of the 1970’s my parents used to spend six months of the year there to avoid the inclement winter weather of North Vancouver. My guess is that sending me a plane ticket from Hawaii to Carpinteria  (or the nearest airport) was their way of assuring themselves that they would actually see me on my return to the mainland.

At this point several months remained of their stay in California and there were two bedrooms in their condo, so I opted to stay with them and visit for a while. However, due to the fact that I had not worked for a while before leaving Waikiki my financial situation left a lot to be desired. I felt that my parents had already done more than enough by sending me a plane ticket and allowing me to stay with them, so I thought that I had better get a job. Carpinteria being such a tiny town, it’s really amazing that I actually managed to accomplish that, but I guess being a beach town it was probably very transient like Waikiki.

I found a job my first week there tending bar in a tavern on the main drag, the only drag really. My boss was a gun-toting Republican named John and quite notorious in those parts. We had absolutely nothing in common and did not see eye to eye on pretty much everything, but he thought that I would be good for business. There were rifles in the office, a tommy-gun in his truck and he had a tendency to flash around other firearms in the bar in the evenings. Although he knew absolutely nothing about Canada he believed that all Canadians were left-wing wusses and treated me with thinly veiled contempt.

Considering that the man had the IQ of grape jelly this didn’t particularly bother me, and I just ignored him as much as possible. It really wasn’t a bad job, I made very good tips and quickly met just about everyone that lived in Carpinteria. Thankfully very few of them were of John’s ilk and I enjoyed the company of most of them and even made a couple of good friends. It was nice spending some time with my parents and all in all I had a few very pleasant months there.



Then the Snake raised it’s ugly head. One evening John was showing some of his cronies a 357 magnum that was not registered and apparently belonged to his wife. He told me, when I showed some concern, that “of course it’s not loaded!” After that the bar got quite busy and I forgot about the gun until we had closed and I was cleaning up and restocking for the morning shift.

John had gone out back to dump the garbage and left the 357 magnum on the counter behind the bar. He had assured me that it was not loaded and so my curiosity and better judgment (which was sorely lacking at 23) warred with each other for a minute or two before I gave in to curiosity and picked up the weapon. I did not aim it. I was holding it on the flat of my hand. It was so honed down that I had actually cocked it without realizing as I picked it up.

When the gun discharged (as overly honed down 357 magnums are wont to do) the noise was deafening. I stood in stunned silence, my ears ringing, as John came running into the bar yelling “quick, call the cops, someone’s taking pot shots at me!” “I’m sorry John, but you did say that it wasn’t loaded” I answered. He stood there staring at me, shaking, his skin becoming unlikely shades of red and purple, and saying “you” over and over again.

The gun, which most definitely was loaded, had sent a bullet through the bar, through the office, through the beauty salon next door and finally into the outer wall where it came to lodge about 3 feet from where John had been dumping garbage. John slumped onto a barstool and I poured him, and myself, a drink. We discussed our options.The local police would have given their eye teeth to have a reason to arrest John and at that moment it looked good for them.

John suggested that perhaps if we went to the beauty salon very early in the morning and intercepted the owner arriving that maybe we could explain and offer to make repairs to her mirrors. This sounded like a pretty good plan to me, but then I was somewhat shaken and not taking snake bitteness into consideration.

The salon opened at 9:00 am and we arrived at 8:00 am. There was a police car outside the salon and two policemen inside. Oh crap! For some unknown reason the salon owner had come in two hours early (to do paper work or something, I don’t recall) and had seen a bullet hole in the mirrors at either end of the salon. Needless to say, she had called the police and we had saved them the effort of coming to look for us. With heavy sighs, we went inside and explained the situation to the police.

According to John’s rendition, the accident had happened earlier while the bar was still open and the 357 magnum had mysteriously been stolen thereafter. How convenient, I thought, the man was good under pressure. For my part, I didn’t dispute what John was saying but otherwise told the truth and we were asked to come to the police station later and make a formal statement.

That afternoon we went to the police station and John went into a room with a policeman and I sat at a desk with another. I explained again what had transpired and then the policeman went on to explain to me why this could not have been the case. He explained that if I had indeed, shot that particular firearm, that I would have dislocated my shoulder. He also gently explained that I was not strong enough to have cocked the gun, particularly by accident, then just as gently asked me to admit that it had really been John who had discharged the weapon.

They really wanted John! I told him that no, I was the one who had done it and I didn’t know why I had not dislocated my shoulder but that is the way it was. I was terrified that I would be discovered working illegally and deported, but the policeman was so focused on getting me to admit that I had not fired the weapon that after asking my name he didn’t ask me anything else about myself. He continued to try to convince me that my scenario was unrealistic by handing me his (empty) sidearm and asking me to cock it. It took both hands.

“There, you see?” he said “you couldn’t possibly have done it.” Well I really had been trying to do the right thing but at that point I just smiled at him and said “yes sir, I see that now”. Nothing much more came of the “shooting of the beauty salon” incident. John wasn’t about to admit anything, I wasn’t about to say that John had done it, and the 357 magnum had been stolen, so there was no evidence. Naturally I was canned again though. No big deal, we were heading back to Vancouver soon anyway, and so I had a short holiday before we left.

Now I imagine you are thinking that this is all very interesting but what does it really have to do with anything in the here and now? It all began a little over a week ago. I had recently broken another set of screws in my broken leg and was about to go in for my eighth surgery, actually my tenth in the seven years that I have been living in Mexico, but the first two were on the ankle I broke shortly after moving here. I was sort of contemplating this run of bad luck while I was getting a glass out of the buffet and hutch pictured at the top of the post.

As I retrieved the glass and shut the door, I had to push a little as it is the rainy season and the wood was a little swollen. The pushing dislodged the giant wooden spoon, also seen in the photo at the top of the post, which fell on my head. It landed just above my left eyebrow, hitting a blood vessel and immediately forming a huge egg there. Over the next couple of days I developed a pretty good shiner to take to the hospital with me and while I was there I had some time to think about my dad’s old joke. When I returned home I thought that I would like to share it with you. 


  1. My gosh, I could never, never have imagined this story. The fact that you lived it is totally amazing! You are a gutsy, snake bit lady.

    1. LOL, I think I just sort of blunder naively along s--t happens.

  2. What an interesting life you have had!

    1. That's definitely one way of looking at it Cheryl, LOL. At least it is never dull. There is an old Chinese curse that says "May you live in interesting times". I may have been cursed by an old Chinaman at some time in my past.

  3. What an amazing story! This, in my view, is yet one of many good reasons for people not to have guns. John thought it wasn't loaded, but it was, and had a hair-trigger to boot. What a good fortune that no one was hurt.


    Kim G
    Boston, Ma
    Where we have a good friend who's into guns, but she has locks on all the triggers, and then locks the guns into a safe.

    1. I think John knew all along that it was loaded at that point, Kim. He was more than a little crazy, but you are right, both he and I are very lucky that I didn't shoot him!