The term “lock down” is an expression that modern folks use to indicate that a building is closed and no one is to leave. This usually means an emergency where it would not be safe to go out for a pleasure stroll! We old timers would have thought they were talking about a prison condition or some similar area where locks were required.

Our relatively new school house, constructed after consolidating several smaller school districts, was a two-story, brick building with four large school rooms, a library and the superintendent’s office, on the ground floor. The second floor had two large class rooms and an auditorium with dressing areas behind the stage. It was a real “state of the art” facility. It was designed to accommodate the families of the many workers who had moved into the area to work in the new oil fields and refineries that had recently appeared in the area.

The new building was just one block west of our main street. Our main street was actually the same as the unpaved road that connected Brownwood and Cross Plains. Country roads were not numbered in those days. Early settlers had officially named our little town Cross Cut. It was legally platted but no city officials were ever elected or any of the streets built or identified. During these few booming years it was full of people!

Clifton and I were in the fifth grade when the new school opened. The wide halls, large rooms and fancy facilities created an atmosphere that was unknown to us and we really liked the new system.

My brother, twenty years older than I, had a service station and garage on the main street and Clifton and I walked over there to eat during the lunch period. He had built a small kitchen on one side of the building and the whole family had lunch there.

One nice day we were patiently waiting for the lunch bell to dismiss us for an hour. For some reason that we didn’t understand the teacher called it a “gong”, but it sounded like a bell to us. Clifton and I were on the edge of our seats waiting for the signal. We always tried to make a quick “get away” and join the other anxious diners who were ready to get away from school for a while and enjoy a hamburger and soda pop. We usually had pinto beans and cornbread with turnip greens, if in season, and canned beet or cucumber pickles. For dessert we mixed a big plate of peanut butter and syrup and spread it generously inside hot biscuits. Once or twice a week a warm layer cake with candy-like icing replaced the peanut butter and syrup!

Just before the bell rang and we jumped from our seats the door opened and students from the other rooms rushed hurriedly into our area. The superintendent, who came in ahead of the group, told us not to leave the room. There is some shooting over on Main Street and we feel that all students would be safer on the side of the building that is as far as possible from the action. Everyone crowd inside and keep quiet until I give you the all clear!” He left the room, closing the door behind him.

The bell soon rang and we raced for our private lunch room.

When Clifton and I and his two younger brothers entered the station we got the full story. A local bootlegger and a community resident had been shooting at each other with shotguns. The bootlegger lived in an old building two doors south of my brother’s station and he had been surprised by a shotgun blast from the street that shattered the large plate glass window. When he went to the window and looked out into the street another blast from the gun hit him and he fell to the floor.

The man in the street probably thought he had finished the fight but the injured man evidently exited through the back door and emerged unexpectedly from behind the adjoining building. He fired both barrels of the double barreled shotgun and the opponent in the street ran among the houses on the west and disappeared. Neither man was in the area when we arrived at the scene. No more gunshots were heard so it was assumed that the fight was finished.

We later learned that the man in the building had been injured by buckshot from the street assailant’s gun. One pellet had hit him on the cheek and broken several teeth, another had seriously injured his right forearm and a third one had entered his abdomen, causing unknown damage. A Good Samaritan had taken him to the doctor in Cross Plains. The street shooter had many small pellets penetrate his clothing and skin but because the shells were loaded with small bird shot no serious damage resulted.

Was there any fun connected with this tragedy? Of course there was, just don’t be too choosy about your fun!