I figured that since I seemed to have the trust of my folks, this wouldn’t be an impossible sell. Hard, I was sure, but not impossible. I scoped out the toy store and found what I wanted. I gathered all the particulars: price, availability, safety goggles, specs and formed my case for getting it in my mind. I waited for the right moment to make my plea. A few months before my next birthday was perfect. Not to late, so that they would have already bought presents but not too early either, so that they might forget.
I would be turning 10 and I thought that I was ready for such an item. The moment was finally ripe and ready to pick and I walked up to my parents like a lawyer before the Supreme Court and stated my case. I laid it all out as matter-of-factly as possible. To my horror, my dad (who had just recently finished out his time in the military and attained the rank of platoon sergeant) barely looked up from his news paper and stated flatly, “No way. Not a chance.”
I was dumbfounded. I figured that it would be Mom that would throw up road blocks, not Dad! I knew that he had grown up shooting real guns on the farm when he was younger than I was. He had been IN the military, for Pete’s sake! I was astonished that he would not even take the subject up for debate.
My father is a very good man. He can be goofy and playful. He’s always honest and will do what ever he can to help when ever possible, but… BUT, when he says “no”, that was the end of the discussion. Zero room to wiggle was given and I learned early on that to push it was a fruitless move that only brought trouble. All I was left with was to ask why in the most non-whiny way possible. He looked me in the eye and said, “It’s too much like a toy, but it’s not a toy. It’s almost a gun, but not quite. People treat them too lightly and I don’t want you to have the temptation and underestimate what it can do. You can’t have one. I’m sorry. End of story.”
Crushed, I went on with my plastic cap guns and tried not to linger too much in front of the BB gun display at the toy store. I wanted one so bad that it hurt. I can still remember the longing and I will forever feel a special kinship with Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”. The only difference was that he GOT his Red Rider BB Gun. I never would. I could bank on that.
The next few months rolled by and my birthday came and went. I’m sure I got some neat stuff, but I honestly don’t recall what. A week or so later, Dad and I went on a road trip to visit his folks, my Grandma and Grandpa. They lived about two hours away and since they didn’t drive too much and both my folks worked, we didn’t see them all that often. Visits were always special and I remember them fondly, filled to the brim with cigarette smoke, coffee mugs and a huge german shepherd named King, who, though friendly, scared the hell out of me.
We came in and gave out hugs and had some lunch. After the plates were cleared, my Grandfather stood up and told me to follow him to living room. When we got there, he reached behind a warn chair and pulled out… a rifle. A .22, single shot, bolt action rifle, to be specific. He opened the bolt to make sure it was empty and handed it to me, telling me to keep it pointed at the ceiling. Never having seen a real gun other than those carried by policemen, I was in awe and held it like it was made of glass and diamonds.
A REAL rifle! “That’s really neat”, I said, or something approximately goofy.
“It’s for you.”, he replied.
My eyes must have been the size of dinner plates.
*Last bit tomorrow*