Halloween, Red Ryder BB rifles, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly
Red Ryder Riflemen
By Jimmy Reed Sunday, October 23, 2011
Anyone who has ever visited Pace, Mississippi, knows only a pace is required to be out of town. In this tiny Delta farming community, everybody knows everybody … except on Halloween, when kids, disguised in the get-up of ghosts, gangsters, goons, goblins and ghouls, roam the streets and terrorize the three hundred or so residents, who offer treats to avoid tricks.
One moonless Halloween Saturday night, my friend John and a pal, both ten years old, successfully pillaged the neighborhoods, and headed toward the main street to extort goodies from storekeepers and shoppers.
To get there, they had to walk across an unlit, rickety old footbridge traversing the Bogue Phalia, a Yazoo River tributary lined with gloomy, moss-covered cypress trees. According to local yore, the eerie apparitions of those who drowned in the miasmic, phantasmagoric slough or were devoured by its resident alligators, arise from their watery crypt on Halloween night to bemoan their dreadful deaths.
As they approached the bridge, John and his accomplice were not the least bit afraid. Decked out at as notorious gangsters John Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly, they were armed with daggers, pistols, and lever-action, long-range, Red Ryder BB rifles.
As they stepped on to the footbridge, they didn’t notice two bigger teenage boys in Casper the Ghost sheets, hiding in bushes on the bank, awaiting a signal from their similarly disguised partners on the other side.
When the gangsters were halfway across, the ghosts charged from both directions, shrieking and gesticulating, with their blood-spattered sheets flapping.
With his trusty rifle loaded and ready, my intrepid friend shouted to his partner, “You mow down the two thugs charging from behind, and I’ll slaughter these two big brutes attacking from the front!” The half-pint hoodlums kneeled and took aim.
To their painful dismay, the bigger boys quickly discovered that their sheets provided no protection against the stinging salvos, and after being hit by a fusillade of well-placed BBs, forgot all about the loot they intended to steal from the smaller boys, and fled in panic.
The would-be assailants attacking from the rear disappeared, while the two others fled toward the safety of Pace’s well-lit main street, with Dillinger and Kelly in hot pursuit, rapidly levering their weapons, aiming with the accuracy of seasoned marksmen, and inflicting mortal wounds on their intimidators’ derričres, who discarded their sheets and were running for their lives.
The gangsters’ bloodlust reached a feverish pitch, and in hot pursuit they fired relentlessly, as the terrified teenagers ran down the full length of the main drag, screaming and pleading for help from those witnessing their imminent demise.
The chase led them past Clyde Chatterley’s Convenience Store, a favorite hangout of local farmers, who gathered there on weekends to lounge out front, play dominos, and talk about the crops.
Diminutive John Dillinger and Mini Machine Gun Kelly were the talk of the town for a long time, and the farmers who witnessed the spectacle still tell the story of the Red Ryder riflemen.