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Hunker Down with Kes

Taking Dead Aim At Old Memories

By Kesley Colbert
Posted 8/2/22

I hadn’t bought a BB in years. Well, over 60 in fact. I wasn’t sure they even made the things anymore. The young man at Ace Hardware pointed to the next aisle over like hundreds came in everyday looking for them.

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Hunker Down with Kes

Taking Dead Aim At Old Memories

Posted
I hadn’t bought a BB in years. Well, over 60 in fact. I wasn’t sure they even made the things anymore. The young man at Ace Hardware pointed to the next aisle over like hundreds came in everyday looking for them.
 
Max spent the week with us. And I don’t know how the conversation got around to BB guns. But with eight-year-olds, I have learned that no thought, image, subject, idea, animal—real or imagined—situation, notion or anything they can conjure up is off limits.
 
If they can think of something, it comes out near ’bout immediately...or sooner if they can get your attention. It’s part of their wonder, their innocent youthfulness, their unfiltered charm...
 
I was looking for the small Daisy Golden Bulls Eye cardboard cube that held 350 BBs. Mr. Robert Hall sold them for 49 cents in his Western Auto store when I was a kid. Ace only had one size. And it was a large plastic bottle holding 2500 BBs. I passed the young clerk on my way to checkout and asked if they were expecting a war to break out over in the lumber yard!
 
Max was watching some kids’ reality show on You Tube and undoubtedly the subject came up. He wasted no time, “KK, have you ever shot a BB gun?”
 
“Well, sure. I’ve got an old Red Ryder model around here somewhere.”
 
He completely missed the significance of the Red Ryder affiliation, which stung a bit, but he was unduly impressed that I actually had such a gun.
 
And before he could get to the “can I see it, can I hold it, can I shoot it” monologue, I was 550 miles and at least the aforementioned 60 years away...
 
My first Red Ryder was a Christmas gift. And such an expensive present was for both me and David Mark. And we shared it without a problem. We were just thankful to have a real gun.
 
The problem was Leon! He took it away from us, made us run across the side yard while he tried to shoot our legs out from under us. Having a brother that was World War II older than you had a few drawbacks...
 
And many blessings. Leon also sat us on the back steps and had us aim and shoot at a Prince Albert tobacco tin he had hung from the clothesline. He patiently showed us how to line up the “front sight” with the “notch” in the back. It took a while but Dave and I both got to hitting what we were looking at.
 
We had no way to make Leon run across the side yard, so we settled on army men instead. The green plastic soldiers were a staple in every household with young boys in the 1950’s. They were inexpensive and almost indestructible.
 
Dave and I would set them in the bank of the dirt road in front of Aunt Jessie’s house. We’d move back across the street, hunker down in the opposite ditch (so the army men wouldn’t see us) and take turns picking them off.               
 
We carried a couple of Mom’s butter knives along to dig the BBs out of the bank after we’d shot up every soldier we had. We’d blow on them or rub them against our jeans to get the dirt off and reuse them. Listen, 49 cents was hard to come by in 1956!
 
We would reload, stand the soldiers back up and repeat the whole process. There is no telling how many hours we spent in that road with our “first” gun. If we’d a’had a bottle of ammunition like they are selling today, we might still be there!
 
It was not the same Red Ryder I handed to Max. I have no idea what happened to the original. This gun I bought when Max’s father and his uncle were young. They shot it some. But it never “caught on” with them. They had TV and Nintendo and Transformers….
 
I sounded like Leon when I dropped down beside Max, showing him how to line up the sights. We didn’t have any army men. We had to settle for a concentric circle “target” Cathy drew on some construction paper.
 
My eyes have slipped a notch since ’56. And Max is a quick study. He hit the tiny 200-point center circle with his third shot. He was 850 points ahead when I suggested we get down on our bellies in the grass and shoot left-handed. 
 
He thought on that for a brief moment, “I’ll get down on one knee, KK, and let you shoot twice each time.”
 
I laughed out loud at his generosity...and appreciated his closeness. And silently thanked him for the wonderful trip his vibrant eight-year old mind had sent me on...
 
Respectfully,
 
KK

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