“Can I go out and play with my new B-B gun?” I asked.
My Uncle looked over and replied, “It’s a gun and it ain’t for playing.”
He went back to reading the Humboldt Beacon.
“I could use some help clearing off the table, Tommy,” my Aunts voice from the kitchen, then she added, “Then you can go out and shoot your gun.”
I rushed to stack the plates atop each other and quickly get them to the kitchen sink. I did the same with the silverware and glasses. I even cleared the table of the left over breakfast of scrambled eggs and fried potatoes.
There wasn’t very much left in any of the bowls and I knew that what was left would be fed to the hogs later on. I knew it because it was my chore to slop them.
I stayed in the kitchen waiting for my aunt to excuse me. I had made the mistake of going outside when there were still chores left undone and my rear end still stung the next morning from the lesson learned.
“Go play,” my Aunt smiled.
As fast as a lightening bolt I was out of the house. I stopped long enough at his Uncles gun cabinet to carefully remove his brand new lever action B-B gun.
For weeks I had looked forward to the day that my Uncle and I would drive down to the hardware store and I would leave the place the proud owner of my very own B-B gun.
“Soon, I’ll be able to go hunting jus’ like the other boys do,” I told myself, referring to my three older cousins.
My Uncle made certain that I was properly schooled in the importance of gun safety.
“Never put you finger on the trigger unless you’re aiming to shoot something” he warned.
Then he went on to tell me how a boy had accidentally shot a friend in the eye because he had his finger on the trigger. That led my Uncle to rule number two.
He said,” Watch where you point the barrel.”
My Uncle made sure I remembered that I must keep the gun’s barrel pointed towards the sky.
“If it accidentally goes off while it is pointed at the ground the bullet could bounce back and hit you!” he warned.
Then there was the day that I decided to rest his arms across the opening of the barrel. My uncle grabbed the gun away from me and locked it in his cabinet. I thought I had lost his B-B gun for good.
The next day I got it back, but my Uncle sternly commented, “Don’t ever let me catch ya leaning on it again,” then he added, “You ain’t Daniel Boone.”
He smiled at me because he knew that’s where I had seen that done.
My Uncles’ third and final rule: “Never aim your gun at anything you don’t intend to eat.”
I shuttered at the thought of having to eat a barnyard dog if I ever shot one.
For days I hurried to finish up my chores. I wanted to be outside and begin shooting at the paper plates I had designed with black rings for bull eyes. Even my older cousins joined in the fun of the target shooting
Every evening it would be a slight struggle for me to come in after the sun had made the targets disappear into the dimming nighttime. And all through my nighttime dreams I would be shooting my B-B gun.
Even my Uncle would quietly slip out of the house and down to the barn to secretly watch me and his three sons shoot for the sheer pleasure that was in it. Daily, I would gather up the B-B’s that had fallen to the ground after having been shot and daily my Uncle would return home from the sawmill with a fresh canister of B-B’s for us to use.
Summer vacation was slowly coming to an end and soon I would have to head home and back to school. I had enjoyed my stay with my cousins and Aunt and Uncle.
One late afternoon after all the chores were done and supper had not yet been served. We four boys headed down to the barn with my B-B gun. It would be the last time we would get to shoot together as school would start in two day.
Stevie and I set up the paper plates while Danny and Gary squabbled over who would get to load the gun and who would get to shoot it first. The paper plates were pinned against a bail of hay stacked on another bail of hay at the perfect height to shooting.
Once we were safely behind the older boys the target shooting began. Each took two shots and passed the gun to the next and since I was the youngest I always shot last.
I fired once and started to sight in for a second shot jus’ as a red-breasted robin landed on the bail of hay right above the target. With out lifting my head or moving my finger from the trigger I squeezed off a shot.
Suddenly the robin jumped in the air and jus’ as suddenly fell to earth, thrashing wildly. Then it lay still.
Great cheers and hollers went up from all of us. But the revelry was cut short by the stern presents of their father and uncle.
He had been standing in the shadows of the barns interior and had seen it all.
And now there was going to be a price for all four boys to pay as he reached down and took the B-B gun away from me. He picked up the now dead, red-breasted Robin and walked briskly towards the house.
It was later at supper that Uncle made us four boys live up to Rule Number Three.