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Dick Ellis Blog:
10/9/2019
Fall brings with it something for everyone in the field from the angler to the hunter.  Just a few recent sessions of shooting the bull tell me that autumn is for the youngest of outdoorsman just learning the games to those of us more seasoned with our eyes focused dead ahead on for example, the whitetail rut. James Wallace captured this great buck on trail camera during summer scouting. James Wallace, my nephew-in-law (is there such a ...
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A BB Gun Christmas

You know, this darn Global Warming is not allowing me stay in the treestand nearly as long as I would have liked.  Hmmm.  15 below zero or so.  Does this mean without global warming we would be at say, a cozy 62 below?

By the way, when data doesn’t match up with their science, take note that they will change the name to fit the propaganda.  “Global Warming” becomes “Climate Change”.  It’s like that old police show.  “The names have been changed to protect….the environment…al nuts.

Also heard on the news this morning, seriously, that certain states…like New Jersey…are now making shooting the BB gun in the backyard a crime punishable by the father-son or daughter perpetrators getting free lodging in the nearest jail.

Knowing that being given a BB gun has been for decades a rite of passage for mostly American boys, that stuck another icy chord with me this morning.  BB Guns and boys go together. It is part of who we are, and our very heritage.

The news story though, reminded me of my own first BB Gun, especially on the Eve of another Christmas season.  As I head north to the Wisconsin Ice Fishing Show near Wausau, may I tell you a story? I hope you enjoy the tale first published several years ago.

Merry Christmas.  Healthy New Year to you and your families.  Thanks for connecting with On Wisconsin Outdoors.

Shoot straight.

Dick Ellis

A BB Gun Christmas In Wisconsin

By Dick Ellis, Publisher
On Wisconsin Outdoors

2002 made the eighteenth consecutive week of Christmas Eve that my little sister had called and asked, “Did you watch, ‘A Christmas Story’?  It seems that missing the tale of Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB gun is a mortal sin parallel to being absent without leave during a showing of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

So, for the eighteenth consecutive Christmas Eve, when I answered, “No, I haven’t seen ‘A Christmas Story’ yet,” I thought I heard the last straw settle onto the camel’s back in Patty’s living room 30 miles to the west.  She was on my porch a few hours later, a brand new CD of Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB Gun in her hands. 

“Here,” Patty said.  “No excuses. Watch this.  This reminds me of my four brothers when I was growing up at Christmas time.”

santa packedUh-oh.  This couldn’t be good.  Patty’s Christmas memories?  I remembered too-vividly duct-taping my father’s black boots over the fireplace from the chimney flue in a dark living room on a Christmas Eve long ago.  Then screaming bloody murder to my five-year old sister that Santa was stuck.  Patty ended up premature gray and I ended up posterior red on a Christmas Eve in 1966.  And that was the year I was rewarded for being good.

So with some apprehension of just what kind of memories Patty was speaking of, I watched Ralphie work the screen to get his Red Ryder.  In the process I was flooded with memories of how hard we who made up the Gatewood (subdivision) Gang worked the real world to get our Daisy B.B. guns, our bows and arrows, or sling shots in the sixties and early seventies.  After months of wearing out the Sears catalogue in front of my parents, my personal efforts were rewarded in 1968 with the 1894 Winchester spittin image, lever action model Daisy BB Gun.

The 1894 was a side-loading gem that needed to be fed slowly with copper ammo BB by BB, but it looked really cool. Eventually, the owner learned to jam the receiver open with a single BB and dump the rest of the box in, finally retrieving the jammed BB again after loading. Joe Cartwright had nothing on us.

The end-loading BB gun, on the other hand, didn’t look as cool but the savvy sixties-kid could pack his cheeks full of BBs like a woodchuck, then empty his whole mouth full of ammo into the holding tube for an ultra-fast, fully-loaded piece.  The lone drawback to the endloader was that for each ounce of ammo BBs, the tube also took on a half-ounce of genuine fifth-grade gob. 

Beaner Andersen once had his whole loading tube freeze solid on a cold February morning. Hog Hansen, on a colder February morning, once had his tongue stick inside the little loading tube. In fact, most of it was still there when he panicked and pulled it off when he saw Rick Miller coming with the boiling water.

Which, in turn sparked a whole new debate over what might be better, and less expensive on Fisher’s Pond for bluegills…waxies or a piece of tongue?  The last I remember of that great debate, Mike Martino was trying to figure out how to get a bunch of second graders to put their tongues on the Orchard Lane playground flagpole.

Anyway, my Dad handed me the Spittin Image and then gave me the talk.  I was to use the airgun outside of the neighborhood only, not a difficult task since our neighborhood was surrounded by fields, woods and ponds. And, I was never to point it at anyone or any living thing. That was my promise, Dad reminding me as I left the house that a man was only as good as his word.

 I spent 30 minutes keeping the promise. 30 minutes trying to hit the red-wing black bird on the wire. 30 minutes trying to resuscitate the bird.  30 minutes crying and vowing never to do that again. And 30 minutes trying to hit the sparrow that had settled on the wire trying to figure out what all the crying was about.

It was summer before I was officially caught and charged, parentally speaking, with irresponsible use of a BB gun.   Sam was our mutt, a half-spaniel, half-golden lab saved from the Humane Society on an Easter morning and a natural ally in the pheasant and rabbit woods.  To reach the woods, the neighborhood kids needed to pull back the cyclone fence bordering the cemetery, let the dogs under, jump the fence, and move quickly through the fresh graves to our stomping grounds.

We had watched this newest section of cemetery, behind the veil of progress, take away our snake-catching fields, our sandlot diamonds, and football fields until the land was rendered useless.  Oh, we hung on as long as we could.  For example, “Herbert Brown, 1900-1966”. was second base for four years before his wife complained when Rex Libel’s near-perfect hook slide took out the flowers on the headstone and left a 17-inch cleat scratch over “Herbert”. 

And we got almost commando-like at evacuating our ball field when the cops could be seen moving through the old part of the cemetery toward the new to break up a good-ole Saturday double-header.  From 30 hollering kids in the Gatewood Gang jumping the fence with bats, balls, gloves and bases (except 2nd base, which was Herbert and which we always left behind out of respect) the cemetery became a pristine place again in seconds.   With the lone exception of the time Chucky Albrecht got caught in the barb wire. There was nothing pristine about that noise.

In fact, there was a six-hour rumor moving around after that that the cops had caught Chucky and tortured him like the natives on one of the Saturday afternoon Tarzan movies.  The rumor was only dispelled when Chucky showed up for game three of the triple-header.

Anyway, after a day in the woods chasing rabbits Sam would inevitably bolt for his own romp in the neighborhood after I pulled the fence back out and he squeezed back under.  “Sam Stop! Sam Stop!” I yelled, to no avail.

There was only one logical thing to do in a 10-year old’s mind.  I sent a tiny copper ball out of the end of the Spittin Image and into Sam’s rear end. The trouble was, my house was the first house adjacent to the cemetery and my Dad was a self-employed engineer working at home. His office window was at the very spot on the house where Sam spun and shrieked as the BB found its mark with a bee-like sting.

Dad’s face pressed against the window as he looked at Sam, then looked at me. His voice took on the same tone he had just after he had discovered his boots hanging from the Chimney flue two years earlier and seen Patty’s white face.  “Did you shoot that dog?” he asked.  I looked at the Spttin Image in my hands. I looked at Sam. I felt the sweat begin to bead.  This was trouble, but I knew a man was only as good as his word.

“Noooo  Waaaaayyyyy!” I responded.

Now, grounded for life may seem a bit harsh. But more logical thinking should have told me that the Daisy 1894 Spittin Image BB gun wasn’t that important.  Despite years of honing our skills as hunters there was only a few critters actually taken by the Gatewood Gang.  Mike Prusinski’s rabbit, Steve Ellis and Jeff Eckman brought home a pheasant, and the Leet boys occasionally had a bullfrog or a duck tied up in their garage as prisoner. But I did miss it. It was a harsh lesson learned, the highest of dues.

There was also a moral to this story.  If you have a son, from eight to 13 years old, punish him.  At least three times a week. Even if you don’t know what he did.  All you have to say is, “You know exactly what you did young man….”  And do you know what?

He will.