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Captain at the Mouth

Charles Fletcher, or Captain Fletcher as he was often called, was a sailor who was the first to settle at the mouth of the Navarro River sometime in the early 1850s. He ran a ferry service for years where he had a dugout log boat for travelers, and a swim for their horses. Later he built a flat boat to better accommodate his passengers, and the tired, wet horses.

Captain Fletcher was a man of what we often call pioneer stock. Adventurous, independent, strong-backed and above all a character. Fletcher was all of these and more. He stood tall at a whopping six foot six and weighed in at nearly 250 pounds.

Fletcher built his home at a point very close to the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean but at his back lay miles of untamed wilderness along the banks of the pristine Navarro River. But, as all good things usually do, this solitary Eden disappeared with the coming of the seeking masses. The first to arrive were the small families, ranchers, farmers and homesteaders. Later came big business, logging, mills, and money giants.

Being that Fletcher was the old pioneer of the Navarro, he was often looked upon for advice, counsel and the lending of his hunting rifle. Hunting rifles were a scarce commodity in those early years. The practice of neighbors borrowing his hunting rifle became an annoyance beyond which even a gracious old pioneer could stand and it became a source of contention so much that he came up with a solution to the problem that would remedy the constant knocks at his door and the lack of deer meat in his cooler.

Fletcher wrote a letter back east to one of the large gun manufacturers and ordered what is known as a rifle blank. A rifle blank consists of a long section of barrel and the appropriate pieces to construct a gun that meets the needs of the owner. About the only thing one wouldn't get is the material for the wooden stock of which Fletcher would have to carve out himself. When Captain Fletcher was finished putting together his custom rifle it weighed over 30 pounds and was six feet long. 

Word got out about the Captain’s new gun and it wasn't long before the first neighbor was knocking at his door. This was the moment the old captain had been waiting for. 

The neighbor came in with hat in hand and asked “May I borrow your rifle, Captain?” to which the Captain said, “Why sure, it's right over there leaning against the fireplace.” The neighbor smiled and moved swiftly towards the new rifle, smug in the fact that he would be the first man around town to have used the old Captain’s new rifle. 

But as he grabbed hold of the heavy rifle barrel and went to yank it up to his closer examination, a sickening “CRACK” sound came from his arm as the huge gun hadn't budged from its spot. A sheepish grin fell over the neighbor's face with a glint of agony and pain streaking through his veins. The old captain hid his amusement behind the shadow of his smoking pipe. 

The neighbor, using both hands this time, heaved the heavy rifle up onto his shoulder, his knees buckling slightly from the weight, tipped his hat and left out through the door a bit wobbly legged and the look of uncertainty all over his face. The captain broke into a mighty grin and coughed out a puff of pipe smoke as he leaned forward in a belly laugh.

Then the old man lifted himself up from his easy chair and proceeded to walk outside to see how his neighbor was getting on with the rifle. As he peered out through the window he noticed that a crowd had developed around the neighbor and the old man’s rifle. Everyone was admiring the gun and an argument started over who was going to be the first to fire it. 

The argument was soon settled and the original neighbor having won out, proceeded to load the gun and head for the nearest fence post on which he could rest the rifle and shoot at some target. With half the town following behind him, the neighbor came to the fence post, crouched down a little and took aim at an old bucket a few yards away. The air became deathly quiet as everyone began to ease into a crouch trying to get the same position as the shooter. There was a flash of powder and a mighty roar from the rifle blast. Immediately came the sounds of fleeing footsteps from the townspeople, as well as barking dogs and babies crying from cribs a mile away. When the smoke cleared there was no sign of the neighbor or anyone else for that matter.

Old Captain Fletcher could see his rifle setting all by itself leaning on the fence post, so he casually walked out to the fence and with one hand easily lifted the rifle up onto his huge 6’6” frame and walked back into his house.

Captain Fletcher never had to worry about anyone wanting to borrow his hunting rifle ever again.

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