Now he was ready to load the gun again and Laura and Mary must help him. A gun has to be loaded, and ready to shoot, before it can be used to shoot a bullet. Standing straight and tall, holding the long gun upright, while Laura and Mary stood on either side of him, her father said:
"You watch me and tell me if I make a mistake."
So they watched very carefully, but he never made a mistake.
Laura handed him the smooth, polished cow-horn full of gunpowder. Many people used a cow's horn or a bull's horn to keep gunpowder. The top of his horn had a very little metal cup. Her father filled this cup full of gunpowder and poured the powder down into the front of the gun. Then he shook the gun a little, and tapped (hit gently) the side, to be sure that all the powder was together in the bottom.
"Where's my patch box?" he asked and Mary gave him the little tin (a light grey metal) box full of little pieces of oiled cloth. These pieces of cloth were his patches. Her father laid one of these bits of oily cloth over the opening at the front of the gun. Then he put one of the shiny new bullets on it. Next with the metal rod he pushed the bullet and the cloth down the gun barrel.
Then he pounded (hit hard) the bullet and the cloth tightly against the powder in the bottom. When he hit them with the metal rod, the metal rod bounced up in the gun and her father caught it and thrust (pushed) it down again. He did this for a long time.
Next he put the metal rod back in its place against the bottom of the gun. Then taking a box of caps from his pocket, he raised the hammer of the gun and slipped one of the little bright caps over the hollow pin that was under the hammer.
He let the hammer down, slowly and carefully. If it came down quickly—bang!—the gun would go off. Now the gun was loaded and ready to shoot and her father laid it on its wooden hooks (a place to hang something) over the door.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat
Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter
Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night
Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book
Chapter 2 - Part 1: Winter Days and Winter Nights
Chapter 2 - Part 2: Jack Frost
Chapter 2 - Part 3: Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the Housework
Chapter 2 - Part 4: Churn on Thursday
Chapter 2 - Part 5: The Best Time of All
Chapter 2 - Part 6: Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and Sing
Chapter 2 - Part 7: Father Told Stories
Chapter 2 - Part 8 - The Story of Grandfather and the Panther
Chapter 3 - Part 1: Introduction (The Long Rifle)
Chapter 3 - Part 2: Making Bullets
Chapter 3 - Part 3: Cleaning the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 4: Loading the Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 5: Where and Why to Keep a Gun
Chapter 3 - Part 6: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 1
Chapter 3 - Part 7: The Story of her Father and the Voice in the Forest Part 2
by John Larrysson
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.