Read Culpepper's Cannon Online
Authors: Gary Paulsen
FROM THE LIBRARY OF
AUDREY GREENÂ Â Â Â Â Â
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MATTHEW JACKSON MEETS THE WALL
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are designed especially to [entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor's degree from Marymount College and a master's degree in history from St. John's University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.
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write to Dell Readers Service,
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Copyright Â© 1992 by Gary Paulsen
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DuncanâDuncâCulpepper sat on the ground with his back against the one good wheel of the cannon that stood in front of the county courthouse. He was watching Amos Binder, his best friendâfrom the day they were born to the day they died, his best friend for life. Amos was sitting on the ground in front of him and rubbing his forehead.
“What did you do this time?” Dunc asked.
“I bumped my head.”
“I can see that. What I meant was, what did you do to bump your head?”
“I was riding my bike down Cross Street, and I saw Melissa. She saw me and waved.”
“She waved at you?”
“I swear. If my mother was dead, I'd swear on her grave. She waved at me.”
Dunc didn't believe him. Maybe she looked as if she had waved, maybe she was trying to frighten a mosquito away and Amos thought she had waved, but Melissa Hansen would not have waved. Amos had been in love with Melissa for lifeâfrom the day he was born to the day he died, in love with her for life. Melissa Hansen didn't even know Amos existed, probably never would know, and probably never would care.
“So what happened?” he asked.
“Well, I turned to wave back, trying to be real cool, but when I turned I forgot I was riding my bike, and I turned the handlebars with me. I hit the curb and bounced across the street right into the bed of a pickup. I was going so fast, I flew off my bike over the bed and ran my face into the back of the cab.”
“Are you all right?”
“I'm fine. I just hope the owner of the pickup doesn't want me to pay for it.”
“Why, did he see you?”
“He didn't have to. He'll be able to recognize me from the face imprint in the back of his cab.” He rubbed his forehead again.
Dunc stood up and stretched. It was early March and the first warm Saturday of the year. He and Amos were going to go to the library, but as soon as they stepped outside, they had both realized that the sun was too warm to spend the afternoon there. Amos stretched and smiled at the sun on his face.
“So what are you going to write your paper on?” Dunc asked. Amos had Mr. Trasky for American history. Mr. Trasky loved assigning papers. Students hated getting Mr. Trasky.
“I don't know. I just don't want to think about it. I hate writing papers.” Amos quit rubbing his forehead and buried his face in his hands.
“What's it have to be about?”
“The Civil War. I hate the Civil War.”
“Because I can never remember anything about it. It goes through my head like water through a funnel.”
“For a paper on the Civil War, we're at the perfect place. This cannon was in the Civil War.”
Amos looked up. “You mean that thing is real? I always thought it was made out of plaster of Paris or something. You know, a decoration.”
“Don't you ever read?”
“Sure I read. I just finished a book about how to attract girls. It gave me some pointers for Melissa. You see, if Iâ”
“I mean this plaque.” He pointed with his thumb toward the other side of the cannon. “Haven't you ever read this plaque about the cannon?”
“Come here.” Dunc stood and waited for Amos to climb groaning to his feet. He was still sore from his adventure with the pickup. Dunc led him to the other side of the cannon.
The wooden wheel was broken on that side, and a concrete block with a plaque on
it supported the axle. “Â âThis cannon was part of the arsenal during the battle between the
, March 9, 1862,”Â ' Dunc read aloud. “Â âDedicated in memory of the men who served there.'Â ”
“Wow,” Amos said. “And I always thought it was a fake.”
“It isn't. You should read more.”
Amos leaned over and looked at the wooden axle that ran under the cannon. “I wonder what happened to its wheel?” he asked.
“I don't know.”
Amos's face brightened up. He got that look that came when he found an idea that was great. Or at least an idea that he thought was great. “Hey, do you suppose I could do my paper on this cannon?”
“On this cannon?”
“Yeah, you know, its history. Like how it broke its wheel.”
“I don't know. Where would you find something like that out?”
“I don't know.” The brightness left his
face, and he looked like he usually looked again.
Dunc looked at him and then at the cannon. He wanted to help Amos, to brighten him up again. After all, they were best friends for life.
“Why don't you write your paper about cannons? You know, all cannons. You could write about how the were made and how they were used and what kind of cannonballs they fired. You could use this one as an example.”
It worked. When Amos looked up, his face was bright again. “I could do that, couldn't I?” He reached out and touched the cannon with his hand. “I could write about all that and other things, too, like the tactics used with them. Old Trasky would like that, wouldn't he?” He walked around the cannon, examining it. Dunc followed him. On the other side was a stack of cannonballs.
“Say,” Amos said. “How much do you suppose one of these things weighs?” He reached over and tried to pick one of them up. It wouldn't budge. He planted his feet
more firmly and put all the muscles in his back and legs into it. It still wouldn't budge.
“I've never seen anything so little and so heavy in my whole life,” he said.
Dunc shook his head. “It's cemented down, you dummy.”
Amos examined the cannonball and saw the mortar holding it to the balls it was stacked on. He looked up sheepishly. “Gee, I guess you're right. Why do you suppose they do that?”
“Probably to keep people from blowing up McPhereson's department store,” Dunc said. McPhereson's was across the street.
“I guess you're right.” He walked back to the front of the cannon and tried to stuff his fist in the end of the barrel. “Do you suppose this thing would still work? Can it work with a broken wheel? I wonderâhey, check this out.”
“What's the matter?”
Amos looked at Dunc. His eyes flashed with excitement. “There's something in here.”
Dunc watched Amos dangling from the cannon, his forearm crammed down the barrel. “What is it?” he asked.
“I don't know.” Amos was trying to stick his arm farther down the barrel.
“Be careful,” Dunc said. “If your fist gets stuck, I might have to use a cannonball to blow it out. You could end up across the street at McPhereson's.”
“If whatever it is is furry and moves by itself, you'd better leave it alone. I saw on the news last night that a great fanged wombat had escaped from the zoo.”
“A great fanged wombat?”
“It's the nastiest animal I could come up with on such short notice.”
“Oh, another funny. I almost believed you.” Amos began to carefully pull his arm back out of the barrel. “I've got it. It's a piece of paper.” He had his arm out now, and his sleeve was covered with dirt and rust. A yellowed piece of paper was in his hand. He tried to unfold it, and a corner broke off in his fingers. The wind grabbed at the corner and carried it away.