The Rifle in the Cherry Tree
By Richard Gappmayer (Jennifer’s father) When the German POWs would come to work on my father’s farm they would, during the first summer, be accompanied by a guard. This guard would be armed with an M1 rifle. I don’t know if it was loaded. I suspect that it was not. The guard would usually walk around with nothing to do while the men were picking cherries, or he would trade war stories with my father. Eventually he would sit down under a cherry tree and go to sleep.
One of my chores at this time was to carry drinking water to the workers. During these deliveries I would talk to and joke with the men. They were very nice to me, and I enjoyed their company. One day the POWs talked me into taking the sleeping guard’s rifle and hiding it. Since as a nine year old boy I had a mischievous nature, I was intrigued by their suggestion.
It was a simple matter to sneak the rifle from him since he was asleep and was totally not expecting any such devious trick. I took the weapon and carried it to the top of a nearby cherry tree. I climbed down from the tree and went about delivering the drinking water.
Then after a short amount of time when I thought he might wake up, I, like many criminals, returned to the scene of the crime. He by now realized that his rifle was missing and was acting very nervous. I am sure that I had a very guilty look on my face in anticipation of what he might do. He said, “What have you done with my weapon you little (expletive deleted). You get it back here immediately or I will strangle you.”
At about this time I took off running. Of course the men working in the nearby trees were getting a big kick out of the whole show. The guard would have suffered serious punishment if he had lost his rifle, and he started looking around for it. His futile attempt met with more hilarity from the cherry pickers. Subsequently I returned, and he said with a little more conciliatory tone, “I really need that rifle. What do I need to do to get you to return it to me?” I said, “For a quarter I will see if I can find it.” The look on his face told me he was angry, but he said, “OK,” and he produced the quarter, and I proceeded to climb the tree and retrieve the rifle. He was very thankful to have it back, but he still gave me a murderous look. On subsequent days he was very careful to keep better control of his rifle.