By Norris Chambers

         Clifton and I learned many things that are not taught in elementary school. We were fortunate enough to have a brother and a father (my brother was Clifton’s father) in the auto repair business in a very busy little wide place in the road. Some referred to it as a town, some preferred village but to most folks it was a mess. Its real name was Cross Cut, one of the wildest of the wild oil field towns of the twenties and early thirties. To Clifton and me it was a place to go to school and a place to buy just about anything you had enough money to pay for. Its greatest asset, to us, was the huge junk yard below the hill.   

We were comfortably “lollygagging” behind the garage when I heard Clifton complaining and rubbing his left leg from the ankle to the thigh. “What’s wrong?” I asked. I knew he had a problem.

            “Something is stinging me!” he replied, at the same time pulling the pants leg up as far as it would go. There were five of six big red ants crawling around and apparently searching for a place to sting. A little slapping, brushing and kicking soon removed the intruders, but they apparently left their stings behind.  Clifton was extremely unhappy and was still rubbing his leg vigorously.

            There was no reason for that!” he complained. “I hereby declare war against this den of rogue ants!”

            “He turned to me and continued, “Do you think it is necessary to go through any preliminaries, or do we just jump in and start stomping?” I gave it a moment's thought and said, “A war is a serious thing. I think we need to plan a campaign and be properly prepared when we start fighting. We wouldn't want to lose the war, you know.” he rubbed his leg again and answered, “I guess you're right. Where shall we start?”

            I suggested that we build a new weapon and catch them without a defense. After a quick agreement by the injured party we retired to the blacksmith shop to prepare for war! Like two engineers we sat on the work bench stools and began the first phase of the great war between Clifton and Ant Hill No. 13. We named that group No.13 because that is thought of as an unlucky number and we wished that fate on our enemy. My first suggestion was fight them with electricity. To my mean-thinking mind that meant a Model T ignition coil. A one inch spark from a coil, powered by a six volt battery, would stop a mad bull in its tracks! What would it do to a red ant? Clifton agreed quickly and we got busy. He took a coping saw and began sawing a three-quarter inch board into of pistol. He mounted a switch where the trigger is normally installed and connected it to two small wires. A thin nail was connected to the from of the pistol barrel and a long ignition wire connected to it and emerged from the bottom of the handle, along with the two switch wires from the trigger switch. A little putty and paint made it a beautiful little weapon. The two switch wires connected to a portable battery and the long ignition wire connected to the high voltage connection on a Model T Coil. The two wires connected to the input terminals and were controlled by the trigger. Every time he pulled the trigger on his pistol a long, hot spark jumped from the point of the nail to any item connected to ground.

            He approached the ant trail and shot one of the busy workers with his new weapon. If any of the ant could be found, it was definitely dead! The trail was not busy at this time so waiting for an ant to zap was a slow process that might become boring. This prompted an idea for my weapon. I decided to   try a simple process. I took a length of the ignition wire and after peeling about five inches of insulation off the end I mounted it between two wooden supports directly across the trail. I adjusted the height so an ant passing beneath would furnish a ground for the high voltage. If this system worked properly I would not have to press a switch to get an ant! Two ants approached and ignored the obstruction. As they walked beneath the electric arc there were two sharp cracks and two more ants disappeared.

            As the afternoon progressed the ant traffic increased. I had zapped hundreds on my trail and I knew that Clifton had accounted for many with his electric pistol. I asked Clifton if he were about ready to postpone the battle until another day. He agreed and said that he was well pleased with the way the war was going. “I haven't received another sting.” he said. “The new weapons work well. We can probably win the war in a short time if something doesn't change!” Clifton disconnected his gun from the battery and coil and prepared to leave the battlefield. I started toward the battery and coil to disconnect my equipment. Just as I reached for the clip I saw Clifton fall forward on his face and start using some unacceptable language as he struggled to regain his standing posture.

            Clifton had stumbled across my execution wire just before I disconnected the equipment. I tried to apologize but he was too upset to hear me. Maybe we just weren't meant to be soldiers.