Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Rifleman

Come to think of it, I really don't know how it was that my parents allowed me to own a BB gun.  I'm sure I asked as frequently as the gospel's persistent widow, made myself a royal ten-year-old pain.  Everyone else had one, I'm sure, a point with which I'm sure I blasted them often.

But neither of my parents gave a hoot for the outdoors, as I remember, or had time, which is likely true, too--we weren't wealthy. I'm sure the two of them did some furtive talking about it, before they finally nodded their approval.  They may well have bought it themselves--that I don't remember.  I'm sure they weren't pleased.  They were the rarest of Wisconsinites: they never understood hunting.

But I do remember that old Daisy--a replica, or so it sold itself--of an 1894 Winchester, "the gun that won the West," Samuel Colt notwithstanding. That kind of claim was a big deal back then, in the fifties, when soft-spoken Marshall Dillon made Gunsmoke the show even our family circled up around on Saturday night, an era when Westerns were up on every movie screen. 

The BB gun I found in the barn yesterday is the same model--wooden stock, bluish barrel, a little useless ring clattering along the magazine. I hauled it out, cleaned it up, oiled the metal parts and even polished the wood, where it introduces itself with the words "Red Ryder" elegantly carved into the thick of the stock.

I went to the hardware store to buy BBs.  "How many?" the young lady asked.  "You mean you can buy them in bulk?" I said.  "I haven't bought BBs for fifty years."

She told me the smallest container had 350.  I told her 350 was going to be more than enough.

I carried that weapon out back to the river, and, right then, I swear a half century virtually disappeared.  Honestly, I got dangerous when I saw my shadow on the grass in front of me, that rifle in my hand.  For a month now, a darling array of finches, three squirrels, chickadees, and what not else have been eating us out of house and home.  I'm pouring bird seed into four containers three times a week.  But they put on a delightful show just ten feet from our breakfast table, and their antics are worth the expense.

Carrying that old BB gun turned me into a killer--at least I thought seriously about it, sputzies at least.  I lugged it out to the river, dropped some of those silver BBs in and pumped the thing.  Air burst out just like it should, but no BB.  Again.  Nope. Again.  Nope.  Again.  Nope. 

I carried that impotent thing back to the barn and took off the wooden handle, unscrewed the mechanism inside, looked it over as if I wasn't a doofus, then screwed it back in, hoping for a miracle.  I dropped a half dozen BBs, cocked the old guy once more, and it spit air proudly, but no BB.  Thing didn't work.

So I did the unthinkable.  I dropped a single BB right down the barrel, cocked ye olde Daisy, shot it, and that little steel marble smacked off the steel roof of the shed.  It worked.

I guess that makes it a single shot. From what I felt in my veins when lugging that thing out to the river, maybe that's a blessing. 

This morning, as we speak, the finches are hungry and putting on a show. 


Anonymous said...

I remember your first BB gun well. Your story "triggered" a few memories for me as well.

Across town, at the time you got the BB gun, my family was trying to manage our way through the Kohler strike.

My Dad could not be a scab. It was not in his DNA. So he was a striker and that meant keeping the family fed was a top priority without a job.

My Mom and Dad, two brothers, and two sisters often ate at the UAW-CIO sponsored soup kitchen. My Dad picked up the weekly food voucher in Sheboygan to cover essentials such as flour and sugar etc., and went out and hunted squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants. Wild game was our primary source of protein.

Guns were a necessity. Our guns were our lively hood.


Laura E said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for posting!