I remember the Birthday that I had after I had joined the Scouts. The Scouts were planning a three camping trip and for my birthday I got an official Boy Scout hatchet! It was a great gift until my Mom piped up. “Don’t chop anything!”
Oh, yeah, that worked out well! Give a boy a gift of a hatchet and tell him not to chop anything. I am sure my mom figured out what a folly that admonishment was as soon as it left her lips. She wasn’t wrong. There wasn’t a single tree in our back yard but Mr. Stark had a veritable jungle of choke cherry trees on an extra lot about four houses over from ours.
Well, that very day, Mr.Stark marched me to my house holding on the nape of my shirt and told my mom that I was cutting branches and saplings from his orchard for a bow, complete with arrows. That was the last I saw of the hatchet. I went on the camping trip without one. I don’t know if mom would have gone easier on me and took the hatchet for just a month or something if hadn’t used it to make another weapon.
But the thing I really wanted was a BB gun. You can imagine how dead set against that my mom was. Every Christmas and every birthday I asked for a BB gun.
I eventually did get my BB gun. Not at age 9, or 10, or even 11. I finally got my BB gun for my 12th birthday. It was about 1958 that year. I had almost given up on ever getting it. It was a “Daisy” air rifle. This was my favorite gift as a boy. My mom was always suspicious that I would misuse it. Knowing me as a boy like my mother Diamond Lil did, her suspicions were well founded. As a matter of fact, it was probably a dead-lock cinch!
I knew better than to shoot at any birds. I wasn’t even allowed to shoot at those pesky crows because my mom didn’t think that I could tell a crow from any other bird and she was afraid that while I was shooting at a crow on a high line, that I would hit another bird by mistake. So I shot at grasshoppers when I first got my BB gun. Me and my good boyhood friend, Leroy, took turns shooting at grasshoppers that were sticking to the wall of an old boxcar that was in my neighbor’s yard on the edge of town. It was not exactly big game, but we had an amazing amount of locusts that summer. We kind of thought it was cool the way when you got a direct hit on a grasshopper with a BB it was a good as good a blowing him away with a shotgun. And picking grasshoppers off a wall by my neighbor’s garage or off of a tall weed definitely sharpens the eye.
There a couple of incidents in the house when I accidentally discharged the BB gun, but I was lucky and I didn’t hit anything except the wall, and I managed to fix it with some toothpaste before Diamond Lil noticed it.
Soon Leroy and I were bored with target practice and shooting grasshoppers. We wanted something more challenging. We wanted a moving target and we wanted an element of danger. Not so dangerous as having someone else shooting at us! Oh, no! But we longed for just a tiny bit of mischief.
Across the street, there was a big garden plot and old Henry
had a tall stand of corn. It was late July and the corn was high and thick. It
would be good “cover” for what we had in mind.
We sneaked into that stand of corn, and the bright idea was to shoot the
hubcaps of every car as is passed on the road in front of us. This was before
we had pavement in the part of town where I lived, and we figured that the
gravel hitting the underside of the car would disguise the sound of the BB
hitting the hubcap. We were well hidden in the corn and ready to make mischief.
For you young folks that didn’t get your license until after all the cars had aluminum or magnesium wheels, a hubcap is basically a wheel cover. The wheels weren’t very decorative in those days, so the hubcap was a snap-on decorative wheel cover. Leroy and I had made a game of seeing how many wheels we could hit as they passed by and we could tell that we got a direct hit with the distinctive “ping” we heard.
We were having so much fun that we failed to see old Henry out on his porch. But Henry saw us. He chased us out of his garden with his garden hose on full blast. Me, Leroy, and the BB gun took off like we were shot out of a cannon and darn near ran straight into the path of a car.
Old Henry had watched enough from his porch to figure out what was going on, and he wasn’t shy about telling our respective mothers. Diamond Lil was perfectly capable of meting out justice and wasn’t a bit shy to lay a hand on her kids. But this was the only time she actually called my dad at work and asked him to come home in the middle of the day to hear what I had done.
My father was a gentle man, but he sure didn’t waste any time putting a shine to my bottom that day.
The BB gun? I found that when I moved my mother out of her house in 1994.