Content warning: guns, gunshots, bullet, danger, gun danger, potential for death.
I heard the gunshots, but I didn’t pay much attention to them until Jerico the dog tried to hide from them. He’s scared of gunshots (and most other loud noises) and he tried to get away from these in the corner where wires connect solar components. I didn’t want him damaging the wires, so I coaxed Jerico out of the corner and into the bed with me. I told him everything would be fine.
Gunshots are not unheard of where we live, but they are certainly not a daily occurrence. Occasionally we hear someone pop off a few rounds, but we chalk it up to target practice and go on with our lives. We live in the Wild West. Tumbleweeds roll down the dirt roads (for real) and sometimes guns are shot.
On this particular day, the shots went on and on. They were coming fast, but we could tell they weren’t close, so we went on with our lives that Friday afternoon.
I was lying in bed, messing around on my phone. We’d gone a little hike earlier in the day, and the heat and the sun had worn me out. I’d been lying in bed, messing around on my phone since about 3:30. I’d told myself I’d get out of bed at 4 o’clock and start dinner. Four o’clock came and went, and I was still lying in bed, messing around on my phone.
The Man was lying in bed too, watching television. He got out of bed and went into the kitchen. He stood at the sink facing the long window that runs across most of the width of our little trailer. I’m not sure what he was doing there in front of the window. Maybe he washed his hands. Maybe he prepared and ate a peanut butter sandwich. When he completed his task, he walked back to the bedroom in the back of the trailer and flopped down onto the bed. I’d heard shots the entire time he stood in front of the window, but I didn’t think the shots were close enough to worry about.
I’ll get up in a few minutes, I told myself. I’ll just finish reading the most recent column, I told myself, then I’ll get out of the bed and cook dinner.
Suddenly I heard a loud thunk! Something had hit the trailer!
Get on the floor! The Man yelled. Get on the floor!
I jumped off the bed and crouched between the exterior wall and the platform that lifts our mattress a few feet off the floor and provides under-bed storage for our three solar batteries. Jerico followed me out of the bed, and I held onto him so he wouldn’t leave the bedroom to meet The Man where he was lying on the floor between the bathroom and the hallway cupboard.
The Man grabbed the first phone he saw (mine) and dialed 911.
Some manic is shooting at my house! I heard him say to the emergency dispatcher who took his call. My window is busted out!
When I’m lying in bed, my view of the kitchen and the kitchen window is mostly blocked by the wall between the bedroom and bathroom. While I’d heard the thunk of the bullet hitting the front window, I couldn’t see that the glass had been shattered from the impact. From The Man’s side of the bed, he had a clear view of the window and the sink below it. He’d seen the shattered glass before he jumped out of bed and threw himself onto the floor.
I heard The Man tell the 911 dispatcher that the police would never be able to find our place. He said we would meet the officer on the main road.
Com on, come on, The Man said to me once he hung up with the emergency dispatcher. We have to get out of here, he said as we fumbled around for our shoes. I managed to slip my feet into my grey Crocs; The Man ended up in his bedroom slippers.
We hopped into the truck, not knowing if another bullet was headed our way. The Man drove us to the main road, expecting to see a police officer at any moment.
Immediately after fastening my seat belt, I texted our nearest neighbor.
Someone shot out our front window, the text said. I sent the message at exactly 4:30pm.
The next event of note was the call from the deputy sheriff who had been dispatched to handle our emergency. He called to say he wouldn’t be able to respond to our situation for some time. He said we should give him directions to our house, then go home and wait for him there. It was as if he didn’t realize that someone had shot a bullet through our window and into our home. Maybe gunshots and bullets weren’t a big deal to him, but they certainly were important to us that afternoon.
While sitting in the passenger seat of our moving truck, I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened. I had many questions and no answers. Who had shot the gun? Where had the shooter been standing when the shot was fired? Was there a sniper on the loose? Had someone just killed his whole family and the bullet through our window was a byproduct of a massacre? Had the shot that sent a bullet through our window been made on purpose or by accident? Had a gun been fired at our window because the shooter thought our trailer was abandoned?
After calling the 911 dispatcher twice more and making known his displeasure with the runaround the deputy sheriff was giving us, The Man pulled the truck off the road. Neither of us knew what to do.
After a few minutes of sitting on the side of the road, we saw a sheriff’s department truck heading in our direction. The Man laid on the horn and the truck pulled over. The Man whipped our truck around and pulled up behind the deputy, but left quite a bit of distance between the two vehicles.
I really don’t want to see you get shot, I told The Man, so he got out of the truck with his hands high in the air. I kept my hands where the deputy could see them too.
The deputy was a woman, but she looked more like a girl. She probably wasn’t older than 25, but she looked about 15 years old. The Man talked to her outside, so I couldn’t hear their conversation.
Another sheriff’s department truck pulled up behind our vehicle. A short man walked over to where The Man and the female deputy were talking. I couldn’t hear what the new arrival said either, but The Man was back in the driver’s seat shortly. The deputies were going to follow us home.
We drove down the long dirt road with the deputy sheriffs behind us.
When we arrived at our property, we showed the deputies the shattered glass of the kitchen widow at the front of our trailer. When The Man and the male officer looked for the bullet on the floor inside, they found a small hole in the platform supporting our mattress. They then went outside and found the exit hole in the back wall of the trailer.
I think it was the female deputy who found the bullet. It was lodged in a wooden block supporting a small propane tank. Usually we had a bigger, taller propane tank sitting right there providing fuel for our refrigerator and stove and furnace and water heater, but when the large tank was empty, The Man put the small tank in its place. If the large tank had been sitting there, the bullet would have struck it instead of a block of wood. We imaged there would have been a large explosion and a fire.
(We are probably wrong about the explosion and fire of our imaginations. According to the Propane 101 website,
…it would be hard to say that a propane tank will explode if it were hit by an airplane or bullet.
Yes, you can watch YouTube videos of people shooting propane tanks and ending up with fireballs, but the ones I’ve seen have involved a source of flame like a garden torch or road flares. In retrospect, without some additional fire source, I don’t think a propane tank would typically burst into flames upon being shot.)
After taking photos of our shattered window and getting our names, driver license numbers, etc, the cops took the bullet and set off to do some further investigation.
About that time, I received a text from our neighbor They had been out on a hike and only received my text about the shooting when they returned home. She said her husband JayJay was on his way over to our place.
Our neighbors are good people. They’re in our age group, funny and pleasant to talk with. Whenever they visit, they leave while I’m wishing they’d stay longer. They’ve come over for dinner, and JayJay has helped The Man with several repairs on our truck. Sometimes when we’re out for a walk, The Man and I stop in at their place, and sometimes they stop at our place to say hello. Of course, COVID-19 and the required physical distancing precautions have put a damper on our in-person friendship. However, a bullet through our window seemed to take precedence over the virus, and JayJay came right over.
Based on where the bullet entered our trailer, it seemed like there were only a few places from which it could have been shot. The most likely location, in JayJay’s opinion, was a place that seemed impossibly far to me. It was about half a mile away, but JayJay said the direction of the wind and the size of the gun (a .308) made it entirely possible for the bullet to travel that far.
JayJay asked The Man if he wanted to go talk to the people at the house where he thought the bullet had come from. I understood if The Man was a little hesitant. Those people had guns and (obviously) bullets. JayJay said he’d go with The Man, and The Man agreed. I stayed home with Jerico.
The Man and JayJay found the place from which the bullet that went through our window had been fired. The deputies had been there earlier. The cops asked the young men at the house if they’d been shooting. The young men told the cops they’d been shooting a .22; of course, the bullet that struck our trailer was from a .308, so the cops left without arresting anyone.
When The Man told the young men that a bullet from a .308 had shattered our window and traveled through our entire trailer, they all grew contrite. The fellow whose property they were on began weeping and embraced The Man.
Most of the young men at the house worked on a crew together. They somehow knew our neighbor and had come out to his place for a Friday night of fun. They had been partying for a while, and their party consisted of drinking whisky, eating barbecue, and shooting guns, among other things. The property owner told the visitors they could shoot the .22 but to leave the .308 alone. Of course, as soon as he walked away from the party, the visitors fired the .308. They told The Man and JayJay they’d heard the bullet ricochet, but the hadn’t been aiming at our trailer and they certainly hadn’t meant to hit anything.
The property owner offered to pay for our window. I don’t know it that’s actually going to happen, but I do appreciate the sentiment and the $20 bill he insisted The Man take. It’s difficult for me to stay mad at someone who is truly sorry for making a mistake. Of course, if The Man or I or (Heaven forbid!) Jerico had been injured or killed, forgiveness might have been a little more difficult for them to come by.
The next morning, I moved in front of the shattered kitchen window and calculated where I might have been standing had I been cooking dinner when the bullet came in. Had I been stirring vegetables cooking on the stove, I would have been ok, even with a bullet moving through the house. Had I been doing something in front of the left sink, my right arm would have probably been hit, grazed at best. If I had been standing at the right sink, I would have been hit between my breasts and my belly button. If I had been standing in front of the right sink, I might not be telling you this story today.
The Man measured the bullet’s path. If it had come straight through the trailer with no downward movement, it would have hit him where he was lying in the bed.
Luckily that bullet had neither of our names on it. Luckily, neither of us was hurt. Luckily, no one’s life was ruined because some young men allowed alcohol to ruin their judgement.
No, I’m not scared to live where I do. A stray bullet could go through a window in Dallas or Detroit, Phoenix or Fargo, New Orleans or Nashville. For real, it could happen anywhere. Surely, a bullet through our window is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
On Saturday morning, we removed all the shattered glass from the kitchen window and covered the big window hole with cardboard. Now we’ll add “kitchen window” to the list of all the things we’ll eventually need to buy. Still, a kitchen window is a small price to pay. That bullet could have taken a life instead of a bit of glass.
I’m glad to have lived to see another day. I guess you could say Dear Prudence and procrastination saved may life.