First Gun

For many years, I had begged my parents for a real gun, something to hunt elk and lion or at least the rabbits so abundant in my suburban backyard. The folks always made up some excuse or another but mostly, they didn’t believe a 10-year-old boy was up to the task of cleaning a large-caliber double rifle.

Finally my dreams came true. Through the distasteful but highly effective technique of incessant whining, I was eventually given a BB gun previously owned by my uncle. A hefty solid-steel and walnut classic, the gun was an old Crossman model that required the barrel be pushed downward to cock the spring. This was an inherently bad idea but the gun had been designed before the words “product liability” had ever been coined. As it were, I was instantly in love with my new piece and rushed out to show the gang. This was a time when children carrying firearms and the term “gang” had entirely different meanings.

As bear and panthers were rare in my neighborhood, the only game available to the Great Hunter were local cottontail rabbits and the birds perching on the powerlines running behind our house. As the rabbits were so tame as to only require a stout stick to dispatch, I felt them unsporting to pursue. Birds, however, were a different matter. Perched high above the ground, they presented a difficult target, flying instantly whenever a poorly aimed golden BB went whizzing past their ears.