Most people who know me will likely agree that I take pride in the fact that I’m pretty handy with a rifle. Also pretty awful with a pistol… luckily I’ve never had much use for one. Where was I going with this? Oh right, marksmanship! I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, also I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t had much time to go out for new and exciting adventures. Being an adult is way less exciting than I thought it would be.
I come from a house that really promotes firearms and firearm safety. My dad had a rather genius approach to firearms safety. Instead of hiding all his guns and keeping them secret hoping we would never find them, he kept them safely locked and would show them to us and take us to the range every chance he could. That way they weren’t some big taboo exciting secret, they were just those things that we could only use when dad was around. I also remember my dad showing us pictures, in a gag calendar, of gophers that had been shot, and saying things like “that’s why you’re always careful with guns.” It was pretty gross and maybe a bit extreme but it sure was effective and even to this day I’m one of the most anal-retentive people I know when it comes to firearm safety. But more to the point of our story, we also always had air guns, and we had a pretty big back yard which meant we had our own little shooting range. We were even occasionally trusted to be out there shooting on our own and it all happened without incident… well except that one, let me tell you about it.
I believe I was in about 1st grade at the time, and my older brother and I were shooting his crosman airgun. For the most part we would shoot at soda cans and milk jugs. Years later I was informed, by my mother, that the bottle depot guy would often give her dirty looks when she brought in these shredded remains of cans. By some twist of fate or onset of boredom my brother left me alone to keep shooting his BB gun all by myself. After a while I got tired of hitting the same cans at the same distance over and over, and like many cases of boredom I’ve had in my life since then, this led to a bad idea. My mother had a clear plastic bird feeder on an aluminum post,that sat just above my eye level, but more importantly, it was just a few yard behind my target. I assessed the situation and made sure there wasn’t anything fragile or expensive behind it, like a window. I loaded the gun, steadied myself on our shooting bench/picnic table and let loose with a small steel BB. I heard a delightfully loud “tunk!” as it hit the nearly empty octagonal feeder, and I felt very satisfied. I looked at it through the scope and saw no damage, so I walked up and had a look. Sure enough it looked just fine, so I fired a few more from the table each time being rewarded with that same fulfilling plastic thud that made me feel like I could probably shoot just as good as my dad. For the record, I still cant out-shoot my dad, and I hope I never have to get into a competition with Kyle, my older brother… maybe it’s something in the blood. Eventually I got tired of hitting so easily, so I moved back a bit to our little trampoline and thought, “going that far I better use pellets since they shoot better” I loaded up the gun, lied flat, took aim, pshhk and thunk, I hit it again.. and again.. and again. After a while I moved back to the tree line and found even more success. Eventually I figured I may as well go in, I walked up to the bird feeder and sure enough it was trashed, riddled with entry and exit holes. I can still picture myself looking up at it and feeling the terror of ruining my mothers bird feeder. For those who need a visual, it looked kinda like Bonnie and Clyde’s car.
I did what any 8 year old boy would do. I put the gun away same as always and didn’t say anything to anyone. Of course, someone noticed almost immediately that our bird feeder had been ventilated, maybe they heard it whistling in the wind? It also wasn’t really a case for CSI since I was the only one using the BB gun all day. That said, I wasn’t admitting anything to anybody.. deny.. deny.. deny. That was of course until my dad had a chance to cross examine the defendant during dinner. After some tricky questioning, I was still able to keep my story straight. Then out of nowhere came some classic fatherly trickery. It went something like this:
“well whoever hit that bird feeder must have been a pretty good shot to be able to hit it from the picnic table”
“No, I hit it from the trampoline and then the treeline!”
I realized what just happened and my eyes forced themselves wide open. Everyone looked at me and grinned, it was in this moment in life that I first realized I may not be a particularly clever individual. It was then decreed that I had to apologize to my mother for wrecking her feeder, I also recall emptying out my piggy bank and offering it to my mother as compensation for damages. No surprise she didn’t take the, what I now assume was about eight dollars in loose change. My private range privileges were also revoked indefinitely and my family still likes to reference “the bird feeder incident” from time to time.
The bird feeder incident taught me a few important things about firearm safety, and it not being worth it to lie about your mistakes. I also learnt an interesting child interrogation trick that I feel will come in useful someday if and when I have children.
P.S. Mom, I still owe you a bird feeder and since I now have slightly more than $8 in my piggy bank do you like this one? Its a little fancier than the one I perforated but you’ve got almost 20 years of accrued interest on that debt.
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