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  • She pulled on her boots and carefully loaded her Annie Oakley BB gun. There was no tellin’ where the bad guys were hiding, just waiting for a chance to create some mayhem. A girl has to have enough ammo to take care of any unforeseen danger and Sandy Tanner, age 7, was ready for ‘em.

    Riding in the pickup with her dad offered a bird’s eye view of the Louisiana countryside and the smell of recently cut pine, on its way to Bosie Cascade, inundated the unairconditioned truck. This aroma was combined with the scent from the acres and acres of sugar cane. Nothing smells like Louisiana in the morning.

    The PickKwik, where the travelers got their coffee for the road was just up ahead. Dad took his black and Sandy took a cup of milk and sugar with a splash of coffee.

    It looked like the usual ne’er-do-wells were hanging out, telling lies at the PickKwik. Sandy sensed that these deadbeats were probably bad guys and needed to feel the sting of a well-placed BB pellet. However, she let this instinct for law enforcement slide this morning. They had work to do.

    Arriving at the job site, Marshall Tanner could tell that it was going to be a long, hot day on the dozer. Tanner men had been driving this type of rig for two generations and Marshall was good at his job. He was so good that the boss man didn’t argue too much about him bringing his little podna with him during the summer.

    “I gotta get to work honey,” he yelled to his cowgirl. “You can watch some TV in the trailer with Millie or go shoot your gun over in that field, but don’t wander off and get lost and for God’s sake be careful with that gun. You could shoot your eye out. We’ll have some lunch here pretty quick.”

    He drove off to move the tons of dirt that needed to be somewhere else and she pulled out her library book, climbed up the nearest tree and picked up where she left off last night. Nancy Drew was in trouble again!

    After about 4 hours, the rest of the boys had come back for lunch, but there was no Marshall in sight. Millie called Mr. Davidson, job foreman for CenLa Excavation, and said she was worried about Marshall. He told her to get a few of the guys off their butts and go find him.

    “Make sure they take the emergency stuff with ‘em,” he said.

    Jeremy Fontenot, who had just graduated from Olla High School a few days before, and lived about a mile from Thelma and Marshall Tanner, fired up the ’63 International, grabbed the trunk that held first aid, oxygen and rescue equipment and slammed it into the bed of the truck.

    Two guys jumped in the cab with Jeremy, three more hopped in the back and, unbeknownst to anyone, they were joined by a little girl with a BB gun who, in all the chaos, slipped into the back of the truck with the crew.

    She knew enough about those big bulldozers to know that they could hurt people and she was scared that her dad was in danger. She tried not to cry, but a few tears started flowing at about the same time that one of the boys noticed that they had an extra hand in the back of the truck.

    “What in the holy hell are you doing back here, missy? We’re gonna go see about your daddy and you gonna get hurt. He will kill us when he sees you back here!”

    “We’re too far down the road to go back Jr,” somebody said.

    “You just gonna stay in the truck when we get to your daddy. Do you understand me little girl?!”

    Sandy nodded and couldn’t stop crying now. She was holding tight to the Annie Oakley BB gun and looking off at the quickly passing countryside.

    “Goddamit! Don’t be screaming at that little girl! I’ll kick your ass!”

    “You can’t kick your own ass, much less mine! And I’m not screaming at this little cutie pie. I just want to make sure she doesn’t fall outta this goddamn pickup which is going a hundred miles an hour down a potholed dirt road! Just shut the hell up!”

    At this point, the upended bulldozer came into sight and everyone immediately inhaled and shut the hell up.

    This giant machine was lodged, upside down in a 30 foot by 30 foot trench that was designed to serve as the future foundation for a culvert. The cab of the dozer had been flipped by the force of the accident and was now covered by several tons of Louisiana dirt.

    Marshall Tanner was nowhere to be seen.

    Everyone was running toward the collapsed hole even before Jeremy could stop the truck. The cab of the dozer was completely covered by the soil. Everyone knew that there was not much air in the cab to start with and there was no way of knowing how long Marshall had been upside down in this accidental grave.

    Without speaking, everyone began using the shovels from the pickup and their bare hands to dig down the 6 or 7 feet down to door of the cab. It was obvious, that moving this much dirt could take hours and the man inside the cab did not have enough oxygen to last that long.

    There was, however, a tiny opening, near the axle of the dozer that had not been filled in by the collapsing dirt. It led to the back window of the dozer’s cab. If they could squeeze through that tiny opening, they could get the oxygen mask in to Tanner and he might be able to breathe while they dug him out. Unfortunately, the opening was way too small for anyone to get through.

    “Damn! That’s too small,” Jeremy said. We can’t get close enough to put the oxygen into him.”

    “I can crawl through there!” It was the little girl who was not supposed to be there.

    “What the hell? Are you outta your mind? Git back in the truck!”

    “Give her the hose to the oxygen tank! Hurry up!”

    They dug out a small passageway and Sandy scooted her way past the axle, down to cab. She still held on to the BB gun with one hand and had the oxygen hose in the other. After squirming on her belly for about 10 feet, she finally made it to the window of the cab. She saw her father, upside down, still belted to his seat.

    She screamed through the glass window of the cab, “Daddy! Wake up”

    He slowly turned his head, opened his eyes and smiled at his little girl as she dug out a tiny opening around the lower vent of the cab and pushed the hose through to him.

    Sandy’s mud-caked, tear-streaked face emerged from the trench smiling. She knew her dad would be alright and they could go to Western Auto to get some more BB’s. After all, a girl has to have enough ammo to take care of unforeseen danger.

    Photo: A.Young 2012
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