One of the most contentious topics these days center on guns. I’m not here to discuss the good or bad of guns. But I will share a little story with you if you are willing to indulge me for a few minutes. For my fourteenth Christmas I received a 12 gauge shotgun. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it, but it was my “big” gift that year. I was a humble son and thanked my parents graciously, but I really had no use for it. I was really big into magic about this time and would have much rather gotten some cool magic tricks, like Saw-a-Woman-in-half, but that is another story for another time. A wink to my sister.
I put the gun in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother Charlie. I found a corner in our closet and leaned it in with two complimentary boxes of bullets. And there it sat for months. One day in late spring, I was sitting at the end of my bed, bored beyond belief. The closet door was ajar and that gun was just staring at me. Maybe I should take it out and give it a chance. I reached into the closet and brought it out and laid it on the bed. Actually, it was a pretty nice looking piece of equipment. This was no old-fashion blunderbuss. After closer inspection I noticed that it could take 12 gauge shells AND 20 gauge bullets. I checked my bullet boxes, and yes one was full of 12 gauge shells while the other was full of smaller 20 gauge bullets. Lifting the gun up again, I noticed that it hinged open just past the trigger by way of a release lever. Snapping the barrel back into place made a very satisfying sound. At the end of the muzzle was a nifty front sight which to me looked pretty darn accurate. Maybe I ought to take this baby outside and see how well it works.
I grabbed my coat and hat then filled my pocket with shells and bullets and headed out the back door of my house and followed a pathway into the woods behind. Soon the pathway opened up to a small pond that was usually dry and today was no different. Here I could find some targets and try out my skill as a shooter. I decided to try the 20 gauge barrel first so I released the lever and the gun once again opened. I could easily see where the bullet should go. I placed it in and snapped the gun back into place. I had already decided to not injure any animals, so I looked around and found a dead tree leaning up against another and walked in the opposite direction until I was good distance away. I turned and aimed at the dead tree. When I pulled the trigger I was immediately stunned by the deafening sound and kick the shotgun produced. I approached the dead tree and could not locate any impact. Totally missed. I found an old pop can and put it on a stump and paced off a good distance again. I reloaded my gun and aimed at the can. BAMM! The can soared into the air! It was exhilarating! I reset the can and walked out further this time. A marksman must test the limits of his abilities. After reloading, I took aim and hit the can again! Oh boy, what a thrill. I should try for an even further shot.
After walking most of the way across the dried pond, I turned and reloaded my gun. This time the gun didn’t snap back with the same satisfying sound. I examined the gun closer. I could not open it. I tried to fire the bullet but nothing happened. How unusual. I must have spent ten to fifteen minutes fuzzing with it to no avail. Frustrated, I headed back home with gun in hand. Out of the woods and back in my yard, I reexamined the gun. Everything looked right but the gun would not work. I decided to seek some help from my dad who was enjoying a very rare weekend afternoon watching football in the living room. My mom was away at someone’s baby shower. No one else was around the house. I entered the house with gun to find my dad very engaged in the game. Apparently his team was winning and he was smiling.
“Hey dad, I can’t get my gun to work”. He was very distracted with the game to take much notice in me standing in the living room with hat, coat and my underused Christmas gift. After a second attempt he turned towards me and complained, “What are you doing in the house with your shotgun?” “I was shooting in the woods with it but now its jammed or something”. He took the gun from me. “Let me see what you did” he said. The light in the living room was never very good. My mom had heavy curtains on the windows and they were almost always semi-closed for some reason. He moved into the guest bathroom in the next room. There was always good light there. This was the room where he often performed minor first aid for his four children. We both stood in the bathroom with gun. “Here’s the problem here. The barrel hasn’t completely closed properly. Hmmm” he inspected it closer. At that moment he paused, realizing how dangerous this was becoming. He looked down the barrel of gun and beyond. He was pointing at the tub, a cast iron bathtub. “Mike, you need to be very careful. You need to respect the gun and always think safety first”. I was getting the same lecture I got on Christmas morning. He raised the barrel up away from tub.
BAMMM! The sound was deafening! And now there was a hole in the wall four feet above the bathtub. This was an exterior wall so the ammunition had discharged into the backyard safely. Then I noticed my dad’s expression suddenly changing. It looked a lot like fear. I think he was working out the consequences of this situation. It’s one thing for young kid to do something stupid, but he is an adult and should be setting a good example. Bottom line, how is he going to explain this to my mother?
The answer is, he never did. He handed me the shotgun and stepped into the bathtub. Just above the bullet hole were hanging two pictures, one small picture of a vase full of flowers and a second picture of a green garden, slightly larger in size. He carefully switched the two pictures perfectly hiding the bullet hole. “Okay, put that gun away and get out of here” he commanded me. “I’m missing my football game”.
I never shot that gun again. Later that same year I built my own Saw-a-Woman-in-half trick box out of discarded lumber. I cut my sister Karen in half to a small audience in my driveway.
Guns may be power, but magic sells the tickets!
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