Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Formative Years

I have lived in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC all my life. Even while I was in the Navy briefly, I still maintained my residence in Maryland for convenience. My dad is not a hunter, nor my grandfather. They aren’t/weren’t afraid of guns, but they aren’t really excited about their existence either.

Dad owned a .22 target rifle he used as a kid, but he never fired it after I was born, to my knowledge. It’s a bolt action with a little 5 round detachable magazine and peep-through target sight. He gave this to my brother. My brother hasn’t shot it yet.

My grandparents lived in the country, on the Chesapeake pay in Southern Maryland on the Western Shore. No way we could legally shoot anything in the suburbs, but down thhere it was ok. Here is where Dad and Paw Paw set up a little BB gun shooting range for my brother and I in the woods. I was probably 9, my brother 7. We were small and the BB gun was old. It was hard for us to pump it between each shot. You filled a little tube with 50 BBs and set them in place with a spring. The hard part was screwing the tube back in the barrel. It was all stamped steel construction and looks like an old 12 gauge with the little BB tube out of the business end. The ‘range’ was 10 yards, maybe, a scrap piece of plywood as the back stop leaned up against a tree, and with an aluminum pan that some Swanson’s side dish came in. Probably Spinach Souffle. I still like Spinach Souffle, but they come in little black plastic microwaveable dishes these days. Grammy was a product of the Depression and she cleaned out good little aluminum pans like this. You could use it to reheat something later, after all. Or you could use it as a target for a BB gun. It was attached to the plywood with a push-pin and BBs made satisfying little holes in the thin aluminum when you hit it. Plus that “TACK” sound. My brother and I took turns shooting at it with strict adult supervision. Instruction consisted of: “Never point the gun at ANYTHING. Not even as a joke. Not each other, not anyone else, not birds or squirrels. Just that target. You aim by lining up the front sight even with the notch in the back sight. When you fire it, squeeze the trigger like a lemon, don’t jerk it.”

The only other BB gun I ever fired was at a buddy’s house in Junior High School, where we shot at his GI Joes against a wood pile with a forest behind it. Not smart. A BB bounced back and stung the buddy in the knee. It didn’t break the skin but it was a perfect “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” moment from A Christmas Story. Good thing no adults saw that happen. The GI Joes did not fare well at their firing squad.

Later, as teens, we were allowed to fire my grandfather’s 20 gauge single shot shotgun. He used it to kill rabbits that would get into his garden and eat his cucumbers. He had bought slug rounds and found them to be overkill on rabbits. A hit turned the Easter Bunny upside down. And inside out. He wanted to burn through the slug rounds and get something smaller like bird shot. So my brother and I got to have fun. It was Christmas time so there were no work or pleasure boats out on the Bay to our front, and this part of the bay was so wide you can’t see the far side most days, so we shot out to Sea. Supervised, again. Our targets were coffee cans filled with water set on a log at the top of the beach, so we sorta shot at a down angle. The slug round made impressive work of the coffee cans, and with no sights on the shotgun or rifling in the barrel we missed 50% of the time. You could see the splashes as the round skipped a coupla times on the water.

At Boy Scout Camp there was a .22 range and they demoed a .30-30 to show us. Again with the coffee can full of water. The range-master was gruff and like a drill instructor and was uninterested in teaching. He seemed to think his job was ensuring as few rounds as possible were expended, so I never got a chance to fire anything there. Crotchety old cuss.

That’s my shooting experience up til adulthood.


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

testing comments

Marty said...

When I was 4 I got my hand on my brothers BB gun. It was semi-auto, CO2 powered, and fully loaded.

Before my rampage was done I had bagged 6 figurines, a sliding glass door and my baby sitters ass.

My dad made my older brother watch as he destroyed it in the vice.

43 years later he still brings it up every time I see him...

Jay said...

I like your story. Great word picture... it made me flash back to my childhood.