I have almost been shot. Sort of. Twice. I suppose these two stories are somewhat dramatic. They are also somewhat funny. I was a kid, so I’m sure I didn’t look at them the same way a parent would. Speaking of that, Mom and Dad… you know about the first one. The second one I realize is news. Sorry about that.
In the summer of 1980, our family moved to Great Falls, Montana. It was late June or early July, because I remember watching Wimbledon on tv in the VOQ (Visiting Officer’s Quarters) where we were living until we found a house.
My dad was coming in as the new Base Commander, and the exiting officer was the father of a friend of mine. We had gone to school and been in Girl Scouts together back in elementary school in San Antonio, Texas. Our families had planned it so that our time overlapped and my friend could show me around. She decided to take me to the mall.
We got dressed up. Let me be as specific as possible. We put on 1970’s style hooker dresses (short, tight, polyester) and wore short bunny-fur jackets and high heels. Before you give me crap about this, go look through some old photo albums and see what you find. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Anyway, the idea was to look grown up and rich (we may have missed the mark on both counts), and we wanted to be taken seriously while clothes shopping at the ritzy department store. I would love to find the saleswoman today and ask her opinion. Okay, maybe not. Anyway…
We had finished and were sitting in the front foyer, looking out onto the parking lot, waiting for my mom to come pick us up. There were benches placed in a hexagon shape surrounded by a crap-ton of planters.
All of a sudden we heard a loud POP POP POP behind us. I was startled, but not afraid. My first thought was that it was some kid setting off fireworks, since the 4th of July had just happened. We stood up to look behind us, and at that moment, a man yelled loudly, “Get down!”. At the same time, more pops rang out and with the last one, the glass in front of a candy store shattered. Things went into slow motion about that time. We both dived down in front of our bench (in our hooker dresses and heels), candy spilled out of the bins and onto broken glass, and a man ran past, bleeding from the leg. It didn’t take long for us to decide to make a run for it, and we flew out the front doors.
Mom was waiting patiently in the Pontiac. We flung open the doors, jumped inside, and began screaming, “Go Go GO!”.
Now, let me mention… my mom isn’t someone you scream at. Ever. So after giving us “the look”, and telling us to knock it off, we calmly (relevant) explained what was going on. We then noticed that we were parked behind the Wells Fargo armored truck. As we drove away, mom says, “Hmmm, I saw the driver get out and come to the back and open the door and take out a gun. There was an arsenal hanging in that door. I thought that was unusual.”
It turns out, a man had tried to rob the Wells Fargo guy while he was picking up the bank bag from JC Penney. Aside from the guy who was shot in the leg, I don’t think anyone else was hurt. The driver apparently heard the shots and ran in to help. We were running out at the time. Also, I remember reading in the paper the next day that the bank bag didn’t even have any money in it. It only had credit card receipts.
Later that fall, I was with some friends at a kegger. We were standing around the fire when some strange noises began happening. I didn’t recognize them, but everyone else did (remember, I was in Montana… these boys were raised on hunting and guns), and my boyfriend grabbed me and told me to get down. His friend jumped in the pickup and began to back up to come get us. We were crawling toward the truck, and as I went to stand up, the sleeve of my ski vest caught on the bumper and he began to drag me across the ground. My boyfriend grabbed me and yelled at his friend to stop, so I wasn’t run over, and we jumped into the truck and left. In a hurry.
It turns out, two drunk kids were up on a bluff and saw a fire in the distance and began shooting at it for fun. The sound I didn’t recognize was ricocheting bullets. I don’t remember how, but a year or two later I found out the names of the two guys who shot at the fire, and by that time, one of them was a good friend of mine. Small, weird world.
And I didn’t need a comfort raccoon to get me through the rest of the school year. Although, had I known…
Notes: I wrote this a long time ago and set it aside for further editing (or maybe I just wasn’t ready for my parents to hear I was at a kegger. What exactly is the cutoff age for getting grounded? Anyway, since I wrote this I found out my dad did not come in as Base Commander (that was a different base), but I’ve already forgotten what his position was. I’m a horrible daughter.
Also, in all the years since the mall shooting, I have never heard anything about it, and I rarely discuss it. I wrote this based on my own memories, and sometimes I actually wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing. About a month ago, someone posted on a Great Falls group page on Facebook about the shooting, and the memories began popping up in the comment section. Including the NAME of the guy who was shot (turns out he was shot in the butt and not the leg… I can only assume the blood was running down his leg and that’s what I saw), and many of the other details that I had remembered. In all the comments, however, none were from anyone who was actually there. So I guess between word of mouth and the newspaper, it had been a big deal at the time. Funny how your brain can downplay a memory. Once I realized that my memory was actually real, I reached out to my friend (the one who was with me that day) and asked if she remembered. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done that sooner. Maybe it’s because I really wasn’t entirely sure it had happened. Of course she remembered. And she added that it was one of the most traumatic things to happen in her childhood.
And finally, I have a blogger friend who will catch mistakes in grammar or spelling while reading my (already published…so clearly I’m not the best self-editor) blogs. Yesterday I received a random message from him with one word. Raccoon. It had been a while since I had heard from him, so I really had no idea what the message meant. Was it code? A drunk-message? A warning? A final, dying word that the world would have to spend forever trying to find the meaning of (think: Rosebud)? Nope. I had misspelled the word “raccoon” (I had gone with “racoon”) in a blog somewhere. The bigger mystery was WHERE? I don’t write about raccoons. I couldn’t even remember thinking the word “raccoon”. So I returned the message and asked for more information. “A recent blog” was his response. Balls! I began scanning my recent blogs, and questioning my life. I mean really. How could I have typed something as specific as “raccoon” and not remembered? I began to think about the movie “Heathers”. (I’m not really sure why, but I feel the need to add that in case it is somehow relevant and I don’t realize it now. Sorry if my mind has wandered outside your zip code. It’s early.) ANYWAY… he found it before I did and let me know. It was “Playing Hooky” (published less than a week ago), but I immediately realized why I hadn’t remembered typing the word. It’s because I wasn’t typing about the actual animal, I had used it in a description (“raccoon-face tans”). I corrected the spelling and thanked him, only to find out that since messaging me, he had looked it up and discovered that actually BOTH spellings were correct. Screw it. I’m leaving the extra “c”.
This morning I randomly decided that “Bang Bang” was the blog to edit and publish. When I got to the bottom line, I saw it. Raccoon. Spelled correctly. Or not. It would seem my subconscious not only likes the word, but disagrees with itself on the spelling.