Weapon discovered linked to robbery and special lunch treat | News, Sports, Jobs

The winters being so harsh, it was necessary to make the most of them. Therefore, we most often traveled on skis.

I never developed much comfort with snowshoes; too clumsy and clumsy, though I’ve certainly heard of men who could cover ground at a runner’s speed. I know for a fact, since I timed it carefully, that I could cover the same ground on my favorite hunting trails three times faster in the winter on skis than I could make my way through the thick brush of the summer.

It was the way we moved. Since downtown Forestville was built around a soaring shopping mall with its flagpole and monument to the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I and World War II dead, the snow plows circled around, pushing huge banks of snow at each end.

My buddy Marc Welch and I, wandering aimlessly after Sunday school, saw a strange piece of money in the bank and thought it was just a lump of glistening salt.

But no, it was a silver-plated .357 Smith and Wesson magnum, a fierce looking weapon – a cannon for your hands. Our first instinct was to keep the secret – obviously it had been lost and someone would want it, but how did it get lost in the first place? How could such shiny material be casually thrown into the snowdrift?

We skied to our favorite spot; the waterfall under the bridge over Walnut Creek. The slate ledges that overlooked the pool below the waterfall were dripping with icicles like demon’s teeth in the crisp late morning light. The gun was loaded, and since we were about 12, we weren’t going to let that gun stay like that – it would be against the nature of boys not to shoot that gun. I went there first because I had the most experience with firearms, even though I had never shot a pistol before. Just rifles and shotguns. I knew it would have a kick with those big rounds and short barrel, so we backed each other up from behind, and I slowly pulled the trigger until it was a surprise when the hammer hit the firing pin into the cartridge and sent that bullet flying at 1,240 feet per second into the unsuspecting ice cubes.

These ice cubes shattered like a cloud of glass dust. In fact, the shock waves were so powerful that they knocked down adjacent icicles, some of them falling like spears into the icy ground below, collapsing in on themselves as the thick ice held .

The echoes carried so much that it was a miracle that a neighbor did not accost us immediately. We were at most 200 meters from the nearest house. We decided to return the gun to Marc’s parents – his mother, coincidentally, was the school librarian and his father the caretaker. We said we found it with the cylinder empty, though even the most lame detective could detect the cool flavor of saltpeter.

It was a fateful choice; the gun had been used in a robbery at Chum’s Sunoco. It was shocking news, our little village was seemingly safe from the crime waves that swept around Buffalo about 80 miles away.

He pierced our veil of sublime ignorance and left scars.

The immediate problem was that the penalties for firing a weapon during a burglary were much harsher and harsher than if it was simply brandished. It could have been life or death for the attacker. I got a visit from a detective a few days later – a burly guy probably pissed off for the long trip or maybe enjoying overtime as he flipped through sheets scribbled on his notepad with a no-nonsense attitude to go through the motions. From what I remember, he seemed serious, acting in good faith and expecting the same in return.

He had interviewed Marc separately so we couldn’t collaborate on a shared version of events. But of course he checked – a fully loaded .357 S&W Magnum being the classic definition of entrapment or at least an attractive nuisance that, of course, a cocky 12-year-old couple were inherently ill-equipped to resist.

I knew the problems we had having unloading those six rounds had passed like a cloud of clouds the next time Marc visited and Mom had offered us her famous grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. The sandwiches were made with good Italian bread and a mixture of Havarti cheese and Amish hard cheddar, with slices of apple previously softened in the pan. The tomato soup was leftover from the jars of Roma tomatoes made into her weekly Saturday spaghetti sauce that she started making on Thursday. So good.



Thinly slice an apple, lightly fry in a cast iron skillet with a tiny bit of oil until beginning to soften; one to two minutes.

Instead of buttering bread slices, try coating them evenly with mayonnaise for a more golden crust. Assemble the sandwiches with about 3 ounces (three or four slices about 1/8 inch each) of cheese slices for each sandwich; you can layer bread with cheese, then the apple slices, then top with another layer of cheese.

Grill over low to medium-high heat for four or five minutes, then flip and grill for another three minutes on the other side. You want the cheese to start oozing out the sides.

Cut diagonally for more style.


Cut an onion into segments. Add to a dutch oven with half a stick of butter and cook until they start to sweat. For an extra layer of flavor, deglaze with sherry or vermouth until the onions begin to take on a toasted texture. Then add a large can of tomato sauce. Not everyone has access to fresh produce from the garden, but look for quality; it’s really important with tomatoes.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add a cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegans) and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

Leave the onions there or drain them, depending on your preference. Leftover onions will go great with pasta dishes. Use an immersion blender to bring it to a creamy consistency. Or pour in batches in a countertop blender. To serve. Dip your sandwiches in the soup and enjoy. Croutons are also a welcome addition. You can also sprinkle chopped herbs into the soup – cilantro, basil or even mint to broaden the flavor profile. Firing a weapon used in a robbery is optional.

Bret Bradigan is editor and publisher of the Ojai Quarterly & Ojai Monthly in California. He also produces a weekly podcast, “Ojai: Talk about the city.”

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