It wasn’t a Christmas present but rather a hand-me-down. See, I was the third of three sons, which meant that I almost never got anything new. I had to wait my turn—until after my oldest brother gave up guns for girls and then until my older brother graduated to a .22. That’s when I finally got my hands on Rosebud—my beloved Red Ryder signature Daisy air rifle.
Turns out I still have it. That’s because my kid sister wasn’t allowed to play with guns—only dolls. So I’ve kept the little carbine all these many years, and I’m pleased to report that it still shoots pretty straight. Well, somewhat straight. If you look closely, you can actually see the BB as it leaves the barrel. It rises a but, then drops in a graceful arc. If you gauge the distance, wind and barometric pressure just right, you can sometimes hit the thing that you’re aiming at.
Judging from the five notches carved in the stock, I must’ve done that five times. I only remember one: a neighborhood girl named Danielle, who I shot off her bicycle as she peddled past our house. As a result, my BB gun spent a month in the custody of the town marshal. I’m surprised he ever gave it back; I’m guessing he had confiscated more BB guns than the evidence room could accommodate.
Having learned my lesson, I only shot at neighborhood boys after that. They, of course, shot back. On Saturday afternoons on Wood Hill, that’s pretty much all we did until finally the ammunition ran out.
In the movie “A Christmas Story” every adult in town—including Santa Claus—cautions Ralphie that he can’t have a Red Ryder carbine, because he will surely shoot his eye out. It’s possible, I suppose, but not nearly as likely as losing the use of one’s right hand. All you had to do was leave the lever down and then when you pulled the trigger WHACK! It’d snap shut like a rat trap on your poor fingers. Believe me, I saw more little kids with their hands in plaster than I ever saw little kids wearing eye patches.
How things have changed! It’s as if parents nowadays fully expect their children to come home at night in one piece. And just to make sure that happens, they tag along. So-called helicopter parents: shoot one of them down and there’ll be hell to pay, I’m sure. So I suppose for now my beloved Daisy air rifle will just have to stay in the closet, along with the lawn darts, slingshot, crossbow, and Gilbert U-238 Junior Atomic Energy Lab.