My mothers people are New York “hillbillies. A cousin of mine ( Maybe his kid by now?) still farms at least a small part of what once was the Family “Hill “ ( Like Walton's mountain) from just before the revolution. Back in the Hollers of Appalachian upstate New York. Of my mother's 9 siblings, there are 2 professors, 5 college degrees and 2 Farmers among them. The Farmers are the favored sons of the family tradition.
They inherited the Family farm.
My Family of Mom and my 5 brothers and I would spend our summers there, when I was in elementary school. Dad would drop us off after memorial day and pick us up on Labor day. Many of my cousins also “summered” there, in from wherever my aunts and uncles jobs or marriages had taken them.
One set of cousins was always there, on weekends at least. They lived in Ithaca, New York, home to Cornell University and the anti- establishment movement. Mom's older sister had married a prominent local Lawyer and politician there, and plunged into a Liberal career of bettering mankind and saving the world. I hold her directly responsible for both the Hippies and the SDS.
This was the early fifties, close enough to WWII that as far as most people my parents age were concerned, it was still not quite over yet. Almost all the men had served in one capacity or another.
Feelings still ran high in favor of both “Destroy the implements of Destruction!” and “ We must be prepared to fight the Communists!”
Mom's sister wore the pants in her family, and was very much on the the side of destroying weapons of destruction. Uncle Harry was a “pinko communist liberal lawyer New York City politician”, so we were never sure whether his position was just “letting his wife rule”, or whether he actually was “actively in favor of letting our defenses lapse so that the communists could take over”. ( I admit those thoughts are somewhat colored by the opinions of my father and my grandfather and other uncles as expressed “in the day”)
At any rate, violence of any sort was forbidden to her children. This emphatically included GUNS., even and specifically TOY guns.
Her eldest boy was Mike, 2 years older than me.
Mike was a pain in the ass. ( As a Professor of Political Science Emeritus, he still is)
As the younger brother of an intellectual shrew sister, and the elder brother of a sister and 2 much younger brothers, all forbidden “violence”, Mike developed into the most vicious and cutting weasel mouthed Jesuit of a Bully I have ever known. A true Torquemada of emotional violence, terror, and skillfully deceitful “reasonableness”. ( Not that he wasn't above sly pinches, kicks and slaps when he thought he could get away with it). His 3 year younger sister hated, feared and worshiped him. Another story for another day.
My brothers and I came to the farm fully armed with BB guns. ( mom had expressed the concern that we'd “shoot our eyes out”, but had been brought to see reason)
Mike would install himself as “in charge” of activities quite often, and since he was older and had a certain big city slickness and told interesting and “off color” jokes and stories, and knew all kinds of games, my brothers and I let him organize us, as often as not.
He would, of course, always take the “best” BB gun ( the Crosman CO2 lever action repeater) and leave us to divvy up the others- All in all his imaginative tiger hunts ( the farm was once invaded by an army of giant ants) and combat patrols against “japs” and “krauts” ( being German, my brothers and I got to be Krauts- my Latino cousins got to be “japs”- Mike was conscious of "diversity" even then) ( Mike of course, was heroically English, being descended from a New York line of aristocracy that wasn't killed off soon enough by Aaron Burr to prevent its reproducing) He was disappointed that we wouldn't actually shoot at each other ( boy scout training -and He quickly learned that his shooting any of us resulted in his getting the crap kicked out of him ) but mostly he got to exercise his Napoleon fantasies, with us as willing participants.
I'm not certain why he was allowed to use the BB guns on the farm, in retrospect I believe it was because his mother was too busy saving other peoples kids and his father was too busy saving the world to pay much attention, so most of the time they just dumped him and his siblings off at the farm to be tended by Grandma and my farmer uncles, who thought guns are part of what kids need to learn about to become adults.
Then there came the day when he decided he wanted a gun of his own. My gun, specifically.
I had a Marksman single shot BB pistol, patterned on a 1911 Colt, that had been given to me for Christmas. Mike decided he wanted it, probably because it was more easily concealable than any of the BB rifles, and I was usually pretty agreeable to listening to him, to see what sort of “dirty” stories he'd tell or games he would come up with. ( I admit it, I was a lecher even then)
The upshot of it was that he played a little verbal game of some sort, I don't even remember what the manipulation was, game of chance, or some sort of “deal”. but it turned out at the end of it that my pistol was now Mikes pistol. When it became clear to me that he really did intend to keep my gun, I warned him that fun's fun, but it's mine, give it back.
He took the position that he'd acquired it fair and square and besides, he was bigger than me.
What Mike never seemed to remember until it was too late, was that size only counts for so much when all you've ever been in is “Bitch Slaps” with your older sister and your opponent fist fights with his brothers on a daily basis. I took my gun and left.
It happened that Mike's Lawyer father, Harry, was there that day, to pick up his kids. Probably that was why Mike decided to acquire my gun just in time to make a getaway. Mike went to him and told him that I had sold him the gun, then stolen it back.
Harry came roaring out ( He always Roared) to “settle Things”. He demanded that I turn the gun over to him, and then spanked me when I wouldn't. He allowed that his son shouldn't have guns, he was above that, but that I had better give him back the $5 he had supposedly paid me for it. I was dismissed.
I went and told my father, who was also there to pick up his kids.
My father had been in the Navy as an engineering officer aboard a landing craft during WWII. a Lt j/g. He had been in command of the ship when it was sunk by kamikazes off Okinawa, one of which had killed the Captain and the Exec. He'd received the bronze star with a V for pulling wounded sailors out to a life raft as the ship went down. He'd received enhanced hand to hand combat training as the leader of the ship's landing party. He was very much of the notion that his kids would be prepared to fight off any invasion or usurpation of their rights by enemies foreign or domestic, and to that end had become Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop in which he unabashedly trained Boys for the military.
My Uncle Harry had been a Captain in the New York National Guard Coastal Artillery, a position altogether fitting for the scion of a distinguished influential New York Family such as his own. He spent the war playing cards and patrolling the bars in New York City.
My father commenced negotiations with my Uncle Harry by slamming him into a wall and informing him that if he ever touched one of my brothers or me again he would die. As a Lawyer, politician and artillery captain, Uncle Harry wasn't accustomed to being addressed that way and, and after making a few ineffectual moves to break my fathers grip, he informed my father that he would have him arrested for assault.
My grandfather, who happened to be mayor of the adjoining town, allowed as how that wasn't very likely, since he knew the parties involved in the original dispute, and Harry's kid was a troublemaker and a liar, a I was a pretty good kid. My uncle Paul, one of the farm boys, mentioned that he'd overheard the “transaction” in the barn, and Mike had pretty much gotten what he'd asked for. Granpa at that point stated that any spanking that was done on his place would be done either by him or by parents, not tricked up city people.
Harry gathered up his kids and went back to Ithaca. I was blessed by not having to put up with Mike again until the next summer.
Moral: Might doesn't make right, but often it is all that prevents wrong.