Of course it wasn’t really THE OK Corral. It was Dale Stapp’s father’s old hay and feed barn. There were lean-to roofs added to the sides of the old barn all around, with plenty of pens and feeding stalls. Gates on rusty hinges led to different parts of the maze of storage rooms and corrals. Up a wooden ladder was the hayloft that now held only a few boxes of personal things. The complex had long ago been abandoned. But to us kids it became, in our fantasy, a turreted castle on the Rhine, or a Roman fortification in England or a log frontier fort on the Mississippi River. However most of the time it was “The OK Corral of Tombstone, Arizona.” We each had made our own rubber shooting guns from apple box ends, mothers clothes pins, and car inner tubes cut into loops for ammunition. We swaggered around shooting each other with our guns and having a grand time in and around that barn. We had only one rule, “No shooting in the face.”
Charles, Roy, Donald, Dale Stapp and me were from the “east side” of the railroad tracks in our town. We were kind of proud of that label, for we felt a little tougher, more rugged, and certainly dirtier that the boys from “down town.” We played a mean game of “rubber guns,” and felt we could whip anybody.
The clean boys from the down town group felt the same way. They had fancy store bought guns and pretty frontier hats and jackets. It was not long before we got a challenge from them to a shoot out at the barn next Saturday.
The day arrived and their leader, Jerry, a tall red headed boy and his buddies came in all their fancy gear and we had a few skirmishes just for fun. Jerry then announced the next game was for the bragging rights of being the best. We won the toss for being the defenders of the corral. We all decided the hayloft was the easiest place to defend. In talking about our defense plans we noted most of us had been shot in the face by Jerry. We decided to do something about this flaunting of the rule of the game.
In the loft we pulled and pushed the old boxes into a line in front of the place where the ladder came into our hiding place. We agreed to stay hidden behind the boxes, and hold our fire, until Jerry entered the loft. One or two of the “down town guys” stuck their heads up into the area. Seeing nothing, left. Then Jerry climbed the ladder, and in his bold manner stood up; looking around. At that moment Charles gave the command, fire! We all stood from behind our cover and fired at once…straight into the face of Jerry. The rubber missiles found their target. Jerry was stunned, surprised, but unhurt. He turned with a cry and beat a hasty retreat, taking his crew back to town with him.
I’m not sure we really won that shoot out. We bragged about winning, and no one was there to challenge us. I know we taught a bully a lesson that day at the “Shoot Out at the OK Corral.”