Tales From My Youth: My Shotgunned Leg

Growing up in the country in the 80’s with few neighbors meant that there were a number of times where I had to find or make my own entertainment. Some days I would take my BB gun and go traipsing around in the acres of woods behind our home hunting small birds, setting up cans for target practice, riding my bike around the dirt roads that surrounded the house, or whatever else I could find to do.

I was always more of an inside kid though. I enjoyed playing in the house, watching TV, playing with my G.I. Joe figures and Transformers, etc. But at the time my dad worked in restaurant management. He worked crazy hours, often leaving home long before I got out of bed or getting home late at night. On his days off he liked to stay inside and rest, something that was not always easy to do with me playing in the house given my rambunctious nature and high levels of energy.

On this particular day it was just me and my dad at the house. I don’t recall where my mother and brother were but it was just the two of us at home. Dad was tired and wanting a nap. It had been suggested that I play outside for a while so he could have some peace and quiet.

I grabbed my BB gun and headed outdoors. I roamed around our yard shooting random things and just looking for things to do. At some point I stumbled across an unshot shotgun shell. I wiped off the dirt and considered the possibilities for the unspent round. Eventually, I decided to use it to help me get rid of one of the large ant mounds in our driveway.

This area of Texas has a lot of ants. Fire ants, red ants, and more are all common around here and in the summer months our driveway was dominated with two massive mounds swarming with ants. It was a common exercise by me and my friends to kill, annoy, and harass the ants as often as possible because they were everywhere and we were always getting bit by them.

With the shotgun shell in hand, I decided to cram the shell into the largest of the two mounds. The idea was that I would shoot the shell from a distance, causing it to explode, and that the blast would eradicate the mound. I mean, it sounded good in my head but the reality of the physics behind what would happen to a shotgun shell being exploded outside of the confines of a barrel had escaped my juvenile mind.

Stupidly, I put my plan into action. I shoved the shell into the mound’s opening leaving the shell’s back exposed. I backed up several feet before taking aim at the back of the shell. I squeezed the trigger on my gun and sent a BB hurdling toward the buried shell. In a bit of blind luck, the BB struck the shell perfectly on the blasting cap and the shell exploded.

In an instant I felt my body being pelted by things. I assumed it was all just debris from the mound as the dirt, rocks, and ants were being blown out by the force of the exploding shotgun shell.

I decided to take a look and started to walk toward the mound only to stop after a few steps. I felt a burning sensation in my left leg that wasn’t there before. I looked down and noticed holes in my blue jeans and the first signs of blood around the holes.

The blast had also been pretty loud so I was concerned that my dad might have been roused from his slumber. I limped back into the house to find my dad still peacefully sleeping in his recliner. I made my way through the house into the bathroom, locking the door behind me, before pulling off my pants that were steadily becoming more stained with the blood draining from my leg. To my amazement, I could see the pellets from the shotgun shell embedded in the holes in my leg. Some had penetrated deeper than others but my left leg from my thigh down to my shin had been peppered with part of the shell’s load since there was no barrel to contain and direct blast which allowed the pellets to be sent in every direction when the shell’s casing exploded.

For the next several minutes, I carefully squeezed each pellet that had been lodged in my leg out into the trash. It was not a painless experience but one that needed to be done and one that I hoped to keep my parents from discovering. Each hole was quickly bandaged and eventually I had successfully extracted every pellet I found from my body. 

Next, I had to decide what to do with my pants.

My pants were ruined. Not only was there a fair amount of blood on them by this time but the numerous holes would not have gone unnoticed. There was no way I could leave these pants in the laundry for my mother to wash without her seeing the damage and asking questions about it. The only choice was to get rid of them. I contemplated burning them but thought it risky. Instead, I took them to the main trash can in the house, after sneaking past my sleeping dad once again, I shoved them deep into the bag, being sure that they were covered under enough trash that my parents would be unlikely to find them.

The pants were taken out with the rest of the trash. The holes in my leg healed with a few small scars. My parents were never aware of how I riddled my leg with holes and could have just as easily inflicted far greater harm to myself with my stupidity. And all that effort was for naught. There was a substantial hole in the ant mound upon later inspection but the ants hardly noticed it and continued to thrive for years in that mound.

Now, fast forward 20+ years, and I’m sitting in the ER after suffering a major injury to my left leg waiting on the X-ray results to come back. The first thing the guy says to me is, “have you ever been shot?” Instinctively, I say “no” but then he points to some areas on the map around my knee and says “well, looking here it looks like you have shotgun pellets in your leg.” “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s possible,” I reply before explaining how that might actually be possible. He seemed kinda shocked by the story but only said, “yeah, that makes sense with what I’m seeing here.”

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