As a young boy my favorite toys all involved shooting – Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels included, as they made really good targets. Christmas morning, age nine, I acquired my all-time favorite – the coveted Daisy BB gun.
I honed my marksmanship on soda cans and any unlucky multi-celled organism that entered the backyard (unlucky in the figurative sense as my 1960’s technology, precision-made instrument of death was only slightly more accurate than a medieval catapult). I quickly realized that to hit anything, including the broad side of a barn, I needed help steadying my aim.
That help, over mom’s steadfast objection, came from a quarter-sized hole in the kitchen screen door.
Instantly my killing odds improved – from one-in-a-million to just over one-in-a-half-million. I still couldn’t hit a darn thing, but now I could sure scare the hell out of it.
Each day before school I’d lie on the kitchen floor, gun barrel poking through the hole, and watch BB’s fly in the general direction of birds and squirrels as if propelled by a drunken 43-year-old shot-putter.
One morning mom issued her usual warning, “Son, if you’re shooting anything alive other than trees, you’ll lose that gun.”
“Aww, mom! I couldn’t kill nothin’ in a million years with this thing,” I protested while drawing a bead on a monstrous blackbird perched in a nearby Pecan tree.
I pulled the trigger nonchalantly as I had so many times, expecting at most a moral victory – the bird flying off when the BB collided with something in the same time zone.
A second later the BB hit. The bird flew alright, but straight down, like a rock, hitting the ground with a solid thud. All I could manage was a stunned “uh oh.”
Gifted with sixth, seventh, and eighth senses, as all mothers are, mom whirled around like a caffeined-up gun-fighter. “What did you shoot?” she demanded.
She then looked out the door, spied the woeful blackbird crumpled motionless, yanked away the BB gun, and read me the riot act. In short, I was to put the bird someplace safe so the cat wouldn’t eat it, conduct a proper burial the minute I got home from school, and spend the next thirty Daisy-less days being rehabilitated.
I stashed the winged one under an overturned bucket and protested my fate while departing for school.
I was in mom’s doghouse but in homeroom I was in the cat-bird seat. It’s funny how offing just one blackbird makes you a stud with other nine-year-olds.
Nevertheless, the two-thirty bell rang and I went home to bury my problems. Mom met me at the door, handed me a trowel and accompanied me to the backyard where I received the second biggest shock of my young life.
Lifting the bucket we found a resurrected blackbird, screeching insanely. Obviously just stunned by my BB, it flew off like a bat out of hell.
Mom reconsidered given the circumstances and commuted my thirty-day sentence to a mere week. Accordingly, I became quite careful choosing my targets … for a while anyhow.
That year I went on to “accidentally” bag several more birds, two squirrels, mom’s hummingbird feeder, dad’s shop window, and on Christmas, the biggest surprise of my young life.
A brand-new Daisy pellet gun.
Tripp Holmgrain is an avid outdoorsman who thinks Santa acted alone. Email him at email@example.com.