During Thanksgiving dinner, the Avenell brothers were enamored with an old 1950’s Sears & Robuck catalog their Uncle Rosco brought to the holiday dinner. The catalog was a great talking item, and the boys soon discovered all of the toys in the book, along with the guns they sold.
The Avenel brothers’ mother forbade her sons David age 13, Devin age 11 and Robert age 8, from having toy guns.
As the boys looked through the old Sears catalog, they read where Sears sold a gun you could build. David thought it would be a splendid idea to search the internet to see if they could make a gun.
David was seated in the chair in front of the computer, when after a two-minute search they found the directions to build a potato gun.
After a moment, David turns to his two brothers and tells them. We are going to build a potato gun. We just need the PVC tubing to make it.
Robert asks: “What’s a potato gun?”
David clicks a video, and it shows a boy shooting a PVC pipe potato gun. The are all smiling and excited at what they see. When the video finishes, Devin says, “You know mom won’t let us get those tubes to make a potato gun.”
David; “What we need is a diversion.”
Robert, asks “what’s a diversion?”
David, looking at Robert: “I have an idea.” Remember when Devin broke his leg a couple of months ago, and mom was going to let us build him a wheelchair out of PVC tubes.
Both younger boys look at their older brother, nodding yes.
If we build a wheelchair out of PVC pipe and use the wheels from the old bicycle and red wagon, we could use the leftover PVC pipe to make the potato gun.
Robert; But Devin’s leg is not broken anymore.
Devin: We need a “martyr.”
Robert: what’s a martyr?
Devin: “It’s somebody who dies for a cause or something, I learned it in school last week.”
Robert looking sad, “Who’s going to die?”
David: no one is going to die, but somebody needs to get hurt really bad for us to get the PVC pipe we need to build a wheelchair.
Both older, brothers look at Robert when he says; “I guess it’s my time to get hurt.”
Devin: “I broke my leg earlier this year, and David’s stitches are finally healing from the bicycle jump across the creek he almost made.”
David; I did make it, the bike didn’t.
Robert; I don’t want a broken leg
David, I don’t think it needs to be broken, but it needs to swell.
Robert: Ok, but don’t break it.
Devin: What are you going to use?”
Robert: I could use the aluminum bat.
Devin says ok, and Robert slowly nods in agreement.
The boys go outside to play, and soon screams are coming from the backyard.
Devin cringes, as Robert falls to the ground in pain. David drops the bat and carries his little brother into the kitchen where their mother was washing Thanksgiving dinner dishes.
As David, approaches his mom, he whispers into Robert’s ear.
Remember you are the distraction & the martyr to get us the materials for the potato gun, and you get to fire it first. Robert somehow manages to nods through tearful eyes.
Their mother who in the past twelve years has become familiar with broken bones, lacerations, stitches and when she assesses Robert’s injury in a calm yet stern voice she calmly asks what happened!
Over Robert’s crying, David, tells his mother he accidentally hit Robert’s leg with the baseball bat.
The mother surveys the deep contusion that is swelling and has turned red. She reaches into the freezer for some ice. She put the ice in a towel hanging from her apron and tied it around Roberts’ leg.
Devin is standing nearby and tells Robert you will be alright. We will build you a wheelchair to get around. Their mother, tell’s the older boys, that is the least you two could do for your little brother.
Robert stopped crying and whimpering when his mother told his older brothers what they should do.
Her words made David’s knees buckle almost dropping Robert as he held him on his lap while his mother tied the towel around Robert’s leg.
Thier father and uncle took the boys to the local hardware store to get the PVC supplies they needed to build a small wheelchair for Robert.
When the boys returned home, they began building Roberts wheelchair. They used two old bicycle wheels, the tires from their red wagon, tie-down straps from their father’s garage to hold in place old patio cushions, and David used two old dog leash to pull Robert around the backyard.
After the boys had pulled Robert around the yard for several hours, they began working on building their potato gun in the woods behind their father’s garage.
When they finished their crude, makeshift potato gun from watching several Youtube videos. They planned to try out their creation after breakfast the following morning.
Their excitement could hardly be contained after they finished breakfast and their morning chores and soon they were in the woods behind their father’s garage.
David put the potato gun onto his shoulder. Devin, sprayed carburetor fluid into the chamber as Robert sat patiently in his wheelchair with the lighter at the ready to ignite their creation.
When Devin finished spraying about two minutes worth of carburetor fluid into the chamber, David counted off, 3-2-1, and Robert ignited the chamber with the lighter.
The following round of events has become legendary in their community and is remembered by many as the Avenel brother’s potato gun folly.
When Robert ignited the chamber filled with carburetor fluid, it exploded causing the rear cap to blow past Robert just missing his right ear. However, the flash following the cap ignited Roberts right jacket sleeve causing the material to burn a yellow and blue flame.
Robert’s terrifying scream of horror cut short the smile on David and Devin’s faces as they saw the potatoes, yes two, potatoes arch into the sky from the trees over the garage. It was Devin’s idea to put two potatoes into the tube. He thought it would be cool.
David was still holding the potato gun on his shoulder when he and Devin turn to see Robert’s sleeve on fire, and the wheelchair had moved several feet behind them, they went into a panic, rushing to put the flame out.
With the flame out, Robert asks where did the potatoes go? They all three looked at one another. With David pulling Roberts Wheelchair, they all run towards the front of the garage.
On the deck of the house is their mother who is not looking happy. She points to the boys with her finger motioning for all three to come to her.
The boy’s notice the kitchen and the family room windows have been broken.
Devin: We, know where the potatoes went.
David, looking at his brothers, and tells them “this is going to be a sad Christmas.”
Robert; “David it’s your turn, to be a Christmas Martyr.”