Giving a fully loaded shotgun to an 8 year old boy was probably not a good idea. But that’s exactly what my grandfather did.
He lined up some tin cans (yes, they were actually made of tin) in the back of his farm, handed me his double-barrel shotgun, and told me to shoot them down. The gun was heavy and I could barely raise it to eye-level. I struggled to aim the gun because my hands were shaking.
“What are you waiting for?” My grandfather asked. “Shoot!” My grandfather wasn’t a patient man. I knew that I’d better hurry up and pull that trigger or else I’d risk making him angry. I stepped forward, pulled the trigger and BAM!
The sound was almost deafening and the force of the gun knocked me to the ground. I stood up to see if I had hit anything. To my chagrin, the cans were unscathed. My grandfather shook his head, snatched the shotgun from my hands,and walked away.
* * * * *
A few years later, I was surprised to find a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun underneath the Christmas tree.
“Wow!” I said. “Thanks Mom.”
My mother smiled and gave me a hug. She knew about the shooting incident with my grandfather and wanted me to practice with something safer than a shotgun with live ammunition.
After loading the gun with BBs, I fished some cans out of the trash and lined them up in my backyard. Every day, after school, I would go into the backyard and shoot those cans until I was good enough to knock down a can with one shot.
A few months later, my grandfather came to live with us after having a stroke. The stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak and he had to use gestures to communicate.
One day while he was sitting in the backyard, I grabbed my BB gun, lined up the cans, and stood next to him.
“Grandpa,” I said “Watch this.” Although I was a little nervous, I was able to topple most of the cans.
My grandfather patted me on the back, grunted and gave me a big smile. Seeing my grandfather smile was not a common occurrence. It felt good to see him smiling at my accomplishment.
* * * * *
My grandfather was a hunter. He hunted out of necessity because it was the only way he could feed his family. He believed that every boy should have basic gun handling skills. Although I disagreed with his method of teaching, I can understand his point-of-view.
My cousins like to hunt and have kept our grandfather’s legacy alive through their efforts. I’m not a hunter, but I plan to pass on the tradition of receiving a BB gun on Christmas to my son.
I took him to Bass Pro Shops to do some early Christmas shopping. We entered the store to find Santa’s Wonderland filled with Christmas decorations, activities, and gift ideas.
My son made a B-line to the Daisy display.
“Daddy,” he said enthusiastically. “Can I have one? Please!!!!!!”
“No,” I said with a grin. “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
“Daddy!” he said. “You’re just saying that because of that movie.”
I noticed a shooting practice range out of the corner of my eye and led him in that direction.
“Let’s see what kind of shooting skills you have,” I said.
My son fumbled with the toy gun and started shooting randomly. As I watched him repeated miss the targets, I relived that episode with my grandfather and I was determined to make things different for my son.
I gently took the the rifle from his hands and said, “Let me show you how to shoot properly.” I repositioned the gun in his hands and showed him how to look down the barrel and aim. He didn’t turn into a marksman, but he did manage to hit a few of the targets.
“How’d I do?” He asked.
“You did okay,” I said. “But you’re gonna need more practice.”
“So can I have a BB gun?” he asked.
“Only if you promise to use it properly,” I said. “And only if Santa agrees. You’d better go ask him.” I pointed my son towards to the jolly old elf who was sitting in the corner of the store.
After taking a photo with Santa, my son ran back to tell me the news.
“Santa said it’s okay with him if it’s okay with you,” he said.
“Add it to your Christmas list and we’ll see what happens,” I said.
My son smiled and ran off to play with the Christmas train display. While he was occupied, I sneaked over to the Daisy display, purchased a gun and had my daughter hide it in the trunk of my car.
I’m looking forward to seeing his face on Christmas day. I hope that he feels the same excitement that I did when was his age.