A Timeless Memory of “Buckshot” Heater

By Julia Murin Lee


Whenever I hear "Buckshot" Heater’s name, I can see him in my memory and I feel this terrible guilt.   

In Mr. Montgomery's 4th grade class, things were always difficult for me. Mr. Montgomery taught kids as birds teach their young to fly: by pushing them out of the nest.  See where they land!  Mr. Montgomery would assess us regularly using old standardized tests, and then he would see "where we landed."  That is, he would record on the chalkboard, for all to see, our scores from highest to lowest.  Then he would seat us in the order of our test scores for each particular assessment!  I was never a good test-taker, ever.  And that seating according to the test score was a killer for me.  We'd sit in this big horseshoe shape around the room, surveying each other after each test, and I'd chastise myself silently thinking thoughts like, "If I could've done better, I might've at least gotten up to Stanley Slayton!"  Grueling stuff for a 4th grader. 

Sometimes, though, on a whim, Mr. Montgomery would change a grade if something you did happened to show you in a better light.  One day, for instance, I made a basket playing basketball in the gym class and everyone was so surprised -- including me -- that Mr. Montgomery changed my grade.  I saw him do it. He changed my health/physical education grade to an A that very day in the grade book!     

Well now, being the struggler that I was in 4th grade, I never would have wanted anybody to know that, at that age, I still couldn't tell time!  Somehow I just couldn't grasp the concept of time and didn’t know how to "read" it officially.  I still have a problem with time.  Anyway, Mr. Montgomery was not teaching us to tell time. Instead, once or twice a week, he would send a kid out into the hallway to check the clock and report on its time.  I knew my turn to tell time was eventually coming up and I dreaded it.   

When the day arrived that it was my turn to tell time, I tried to get out of it by suggesting that he get David Ellison to go instead. I was tired. I wasn't feeling very well.  But Mr. Montgomery wasn't having any of that.  He sent me out.  

I dragged my feet, I swear, I dragged my whole body out there reluctantly. And when I looked down the hall toward the clock, there -- sitting under the hall clock, all by himself -- was Buckshot Heater.  Buckshot was a heavy kid, but he was heavy in a rough way, not a wimpy way.  He was ruddy complexioned and freckled.  And he had a toughness about him that said, "Get outta my way!"  (At least that's how I remember him.)

I saw an opportunity to show myself to Mr. Montgomery "in a better light" than I actually deserved to be shown.  I said, "Hey, Buckshot!"  But he didn't answer. He looked sulky on this particular day, very unfriendly.  "Hey, Buckshot!  I bet you're in trouble or else you wouldn't be out here!"  (He probably was in trouble, being that he was sitting outside of Mr. Smith's room instead of inside with the rest of his class.  But he wasn't admitting it.)  He grumbled something or other. And then I made my approach:  "Hey, Buckshot. I bet you can't even tell me what time it is!"  This aggravated him, so he snarled something at me ... the time! (I was hoping it was the correct time).  And I hightailed it back into Mr. Montgomery's room repeating what Buckshot had given me.  Mr. Montgomery didn't say anything, so I expected it was correct, whatever it was.

To this day, when I think of Buckshot Heater I remember this incident and I get this heavy feeling.  I wish I could apologize to him for what I did.  School is hard on kids in so many ways, but then that's life, too.    

Neil Whaley (Class of ’66) remembers Buckshot Heater, too.  “I was absolutely terrified of him,” Neil writes …“He used to wait for me at recess and after school, and bully me (skinny wimp that I was).   I now teach kickboxing and PowerPump.  Let me at him; I want a re-match!”    

So does anybody know where Buckshot Heater is these days?  I want to apologize to him and Neil Whaley wants to challenge him to a kickboxing match. 

Got to go now.  It's late. It's about a quarter of one, I think.  

Julia Murin Lee, Class of '67  

Editor’s Note:  Since Julia wrote this article we have been able to locate the elusive “Buckshot.”  With the help of his Aunt Pedro Montgomery, we have determined that “Buckshot” is alive and well.  He is living in Elizabethtown, Kentucky and owns and operates a trucking company.  I hope he doesn’t come back and hurt Julia or Neil.  “Buckshot” aka Melvin Leon Heater has been added to our mailing list…..he might show up at next year’s reunion, at least we hope so! 

Editor’s Note 2:  Neil, you’d better start kicking high and hard!