I was 14 years old when my brother Glenn and I opened our Christmas presents and were delighted to find our first guns. Mama and our stepfather Cecil, gave us stern warnings to never take the guns out unless an adult was with us. My 15th birthday came in January, and we loved getting to shoot our own guns, but always with an adult. One Sunday, in the following Spring, our parents left the house to go visit the Taylor family at their farm across the river. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of sneaking the guns out to the rock quarry, but since I was the older brother, I’d say it was my suggestion. We grabbed the guns, stuffed our pockets with ammunition, and ran to the quarry that was near our house. We fired until we were completely out of bullets, but before that, we decided to switch guns. Glenn had a single shot 22 caliber rifle, loaded with long rifle hollow point bullets, and I had a 20 gauge shotgun. He fired the last couple of shotgun shells, and somehow I had one round left in the single shot rifle. I don’t remember the details as to why I didn’t fire that last bullet, but suddenly we remembered that we had to get home before our parents returned. We ran back home and Glenn gave me the shotgun, and I handed him his rifle. I was on my bed, cleaning the gun and wiping off the evidence that we had disobeyed strict rules. Suddenly, there was a loud pop, and I tasted, and smelled gunpowder. Glenn started screaming “ I’m sorry”, and at first I was confused as to what had happened, then I realized I couldn’t move my right arm, and there was a hole in my new shirt, just under my collar bone. I rolled off my bed and started running toward the front door. My brother was ahead of me crying to my my elderly grandmother, who was repeating “Lord help us!!” I ran past them, out the front door, then sunk to my knees and fell backwards, on our whitewashed sidewalk, looking up at the clouds, and wondering what mama would do? Johnny Jones, our neighbor, saw me fall, and came over and asked if I was ok. I told him that Glenn had accidently shot me, and he ran to his old truck, pulled it up to our fence, and loaded me into the back. I remember it was a very bumpy ride, 4 blocks to the emergency room of our small community hospital. Everyone at the hospital knew me, because I was a regular patient in the ER, so I heard them shouting that James Moore has been shot. I didn’t cry…until I was on the bed in the ER, after they X-rayed me, and all of the doctors, nurses were hovering over me, frantically determining the damage to my chest. Then, someone said we can’t do anything for him here. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the word “here”, and I remembered from the movies and television, when someone said “we can’t do anything for him”, that meant I was going to die! I knew I probably wouldn’t make it to heaven, so I started kicking and screaming that I didn’t want to die,. They finally calmed me down with injections, and told me I wasn’t going to die, but I was going to be transported to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga so that a chest specialist could determine what to do . At that time the interstate didn’t exist, and I’m not sure why there was no ambulance, but I wound up in the back seat of my Uncle Carl’s car, with my head in my aunt Mary’s lap, as we traveled up Hwy 41 to Erlanger Hospital. The police went across the river to the Taylor farm to inform mama that one of her sons had been shot, and she nearly burnt the engine up in our old green Comet car, getting to the hospital in Chattanooga. By the time mama got to the emergency room in Chattanooga, they had IV’s in both of my arms, and had already X-rayed my chest and arm. The hollow point bullet had entered my body, just below my right collarbone then it mushroomed and tore down into the anterior muscle, lodging under my arm. The chest specialist determined that it would be best to not remove the bullet because in time, it would move out of the muscle, and then could be removed without causing more damage. A week later, I was back in school, and was letting my cousin feel the lump of bullet that was in my body, when I heard the magic words from another kid…”I’d give my milk money to feel that!”. Gunshot marketing was invented at that moment, then at the end of the day, I walked out of school with both pockets bulging with nickels, and everyone that got to feel my bullet, was in awe.
A year later, I was playing basketball in the gym at Richard Hardy Memorial School, and went for a layup, and suddenly it felt like a nest of hornets stinging me under my arm. Mama was called, and she took me to the doctor. The bullet had moved out of the muscle due to contractions over the past year, and the surgeon told us that it was time to take the bullet out. I remember they gave me anesthesia that made me fall asleep, then I remember waking up and startling the surgeon that had just cut me open and was in the process of using a tool to grab the projectile. He jumped when I asked if he had it yet, and he told me that I wasn’t supposed to be awake, and to be still and not to move. Then I asked if he would save the bullet for me, then fell back asleep. I woke up in a hospital room, and on the table next to my bed was a medicine bottle with a pile of gauze in it, and resting on top was the mushroom shaped bullet that had been inside of me for a year. There was also a little note telling me that anytime I have a chest X-Ray, I need to tell them that there’s some bits of shrapnel in my chest. He also warned me to be careful when handling guns, and that I was a very lucky boy. After a few days, I went back to school …with a business plan. If they had paid a nickel to feel the bullet inside of me, they should pay a dime to see and hold it. The plan worked seamlessly and my Levi jeans were full of dimes until Ms. Stroup, the school Principal discovered my little business. She called Mama to the school, and I sat in the office listening to the adults discuss the matter. Ms. Stroup determined that I should give the money back to the kids that paid me to see the bullet, then she announced over the loud speaker, “anyone that gave James Moore a dime to see his bullet, come to the office!”. Students were lined up, all the way down the hall, and I reluctantly gave each one their dime back. When we got home I told mama that it wasn’t fair that I had to return the money because they got to see and hold the bullet that came out of my chest. Mama just looked at me, laughed, shook her head, then told me to go in my room and play my guitar. Whew!! I wasn’t in trouble, but when mama looked at me and just shook her head like that, I know she was thinking what she always said when I did something that wasn’t “normal”… “Lord…that boy is not right!”