It wasn’t a Red Ryder like the one in “A Christmas Story,” but there was a time in my young life when, like Ralphie, I just had to have a BB gun. Why my parents would even think about getting me one is still beyond belief, but when I consider that my father was a chemist who brought me anything I wanted from his laboratory, I shouldn’t have been surprised. What’s a few BBs when he’s supplying me with sulfuric acid? So, on Christmas morning of my12th year, I discovered a Daisy BB gun underneath the tree.
It was beautiful. It looked like one of the Winchesters you see in an old John Wayne movie. Daisy called the model 1894 “a spitting image” of the gun that won the west. And it certainly won our neighborhood. The 1894 had more power than the Red Ryder. It would hold 50 BBs in the chamber and shoot them as fast as you could cock the lever. And I shot plenty. Squirrels and chipmunks ducked for cover when they saw me coming.
It wasn’t long before I began using the 1894 for nefarious purposes. For example, soon after I got my rifle, the streetlight near our house suddenly stopped working. And I had to know how painful a shot from my BB gun would be. So, my little sister Kay became the unknowing subject of that experiment. You can be sure that every little sister who has a big brother is going to be a Guinea pig. A medium-distance shot caused a nice sized whelp on her leg, which in turn, resulted in a nice sized whelp on my butt after she ratted me out. Mom also took away the rifle for several weeks, after reminding me that I could’ve shot my sister’s eye out. Yes, she really said it. I suppose art really does imitate life.
Strangely, Kay remained interested in the BB gun. Over and over, she asked me if she could shoot it. I was pestered like only a little sister can.
Finally, I gave in. We went to our front steps, partially hidden from view by a large cedar bush. Then the devil took over my thoughts.
Satan said, “Oh, come on. Have some fun!” I readily agreed. Cocking the gun, I pushed it through the cedar branches and handed it to Kay. She eagerly put her finger on the trigger.
“Wait until I tell you to shoot,” I said. She nodded. Soon, I saw one of our neighbors driving down the street. It was Mr. Fairley, in his nice blue Chevy truck. The perfect target. When he got in front of our house, I gave the command.
She pulled the trigger, and I heard the rifle spit air. Almost instantly, the driver’s side window turned into a spider web, then fell into a million pieces on the street. In a second, it had completely vanished. It was like magic – black magic. Mr. Fairley stopped, and Kay and I bolted around the house to the basement.
I was terrified. I had no idea that Kay could even hit the truck, much less a window. Plus, I didn’t think that my BB gun could cause that kind of damage. Clearly, I was wrong on both counts. Soon we heard the doorbell ring, followed by some muffled conversation. Within a few minutes, we got our summons from the executioner.
“Joe, Kay! Get up here right now!” my father bellowed.
We slowly, dreadfully made our way up the steps and into my parents’ bedroom. Mom and Dad waited.
My father couldn’t even speak. He was just making growling sounds like a werewolf. His face was tomato red, and he glared at us with angry eyes that froze us in fear. I had never seen him like this. His belt was already on the bed. There would be no plea bargains. Punishment would be harsh and swift. Dad walked toward me in furious silence with his arms extended – he looked like Frankenstein!
At that point I did what any red blooded 12-year-old facing such circumstances old would’ve done. I pointed to my sister and said, “She did it!”
Yes, I ratted. I squealed. I snitched. If I were in prison, I would be facing a shiv to the ribs – but I wouldn’t have been facing an apoplectic father. I knew I was going to get a whipping, but maybe he would expend some of his energy on my sister, and mine wouldn’t be so bad.
He turned, grabbed Kay by the shoulders and began to shake her.
“What did you do it for? What did you do it for?” he screamed.
Suddenly, my mother stepped in and said in a firm voice, “James, stop that right now.”
He let go with a snort of disgust and stormed into the kitchen – probably to pour a snort. The bedroom was silent until Mom said, “Go to your rooms right now.” We high-tailed it out of there.
The whippings never came. I think Mom stopped Dad for fear of what he might have done to us in such a fit of rage. Of course, I surrendered my BB gun and didn’t see it again for a long while.
After months, mother fished it out of her closet and gave it to me after a stern 10-minute lecture, which ended when she said, “… and you could shoot somebody’s eye out.”
Not to mention a truck window.
Joe Hobby is a comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: https://mylifeasahobby.blogspot.com. Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian- Writer.