Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Shot Heard Round the Neighborhood

Dad gave my Brother (B) his first and only slingshot, but I'm not sure if the occasion was Christmas, birthday or 'just because.'

I say Dad, because I'm sure his decision overrode a veto Mother surely issued. She abhorred anything perceived as violent, apt to injure siblings or any living creature, damage inanimate objects , or initiate nuclear destruction of the world.

Dad gave B instructions in slingshot use and a litany of safety instructions, no doubt supervised by Mother. I remember observing the tutoring.

This slingshot was store-bought, probably Woolworth's, simply styled like homemade ones with traditional "Y" structure and wide rubber band-like slings between the "Y" arms.

Although I'm not sure B's age, I think it was pre-school. I may have been in first grade. In those days 1st grade let out about noon, so Mother still held her Bible story and other reading sessions in the afternoon, plus the obligatory nap which I persistently, consistently, faked, using such time to conjure up my next escapade.

The David and Goliath encounter was a regularly requested Bible story. Often Mother allowed us to select our favorite stories. B's was often David/Goliath; mine was Gideon's army, followed by Joshua and the fall of Jericho. Seems B and me liked weaponry, war and regimentation, like marching around Jericho sounded trumpets, etc. [Maybe this inspired me to abandon a cappella chorus and join the high school marching band; I played piccolo and flute instead of trumpet, but we occasionally shouted as part of our marching routines!]

Although our little brains had not developed the ability to comprehend allegories of good vs. evil, or the Lord's on our side, etc., we quickly grasped the finite details of the stories. Hence, David's sling-shot was fully understood as a lethal weapon.

Play-acting David and Goliath outdoors was a natural extension of our storybook hour and nap. At first I would be Goliath, but one wee stone on the shin cured my desire to be the Great One. Goliath was a braggart, not a wimp. Further B and I knew if we were caught aiming slingshots at anything with a respiratory system meant violent repercussions from both parents.

Since he did not share his toy with me, I made my own slingshot with a tree branch and some rubber bands...a really wimpy slingshot. A small stone was not much of a projectile; it fell with a faint Plop! one foot away. Our parents knew I devised the seemingly harmless slingshot imitation.

B and I had "competitions" to see which slingshot stone went the longest distance. Of course, he won.

We aimed at the side of the brick house, the garage, a playhouse, but contact was a rare event. However, one fateful day one of us connected with a window of our house-not just any window-the window by which Mother sat, reading. It made a small crack in a lower corner--hardly noticeable. OOPS!!!

Mother was a large woman, but she nearly sprinted out the door and horse collared both of us. Mother did not live to know horse collaring is a major NFL penalty these days. B and I might have had grounds for personal injury claims.

Since neither of us knew which stone hit the window, we both received 'paddling,' as it was called at our house. We both were honest--neither of us knew which stone hit the window, and I guess we both were in error for aiming at something of value--except in my 1st grade rational mind the house was not a living, breathing thing. Belatedly I came to realize if Mother was in the house, it became a living, fire-breathing dragon lady with a paddle.

Paddling meant the application of a paint paddle to our derrieres. Dad's lumber and hardware store dispensed free paint paddles with cans of paint sold. Mother wore out two paint paddles on three children before a different kind of discipline was incrementally installed, according to age.

Since she grabbed the paddle before exiting the house, we received "on the spot" discipline. We cried and hollered. B tried to suck it up like a little man; not me. I let the neighborhood know I was being persecuted, in true Biblical fashion--no sparing the rod at our house!

And where was little sister during this fun? She was not a tomboy and probably was demurely, quietly, playing with her dolls. I never learned "demurely, quietly."

The neighborhood fell silent!

Unlike the Biblical story, David and Goliath both were slain with LOUD SPATS accompanied by hollaring and exaggerated sobbing in the Richardson backyard on Elizabeth Drive ('silk stocking row'), then an exclusive subdivision, one sunny week-day afternoon.

[David and Goliath painting by Caravaggio courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
[Other graphics - Internet]

Post Script: Brother received a BB gun as a gift (Christmas or birthday). It was immediately relegated to Dad's gentleman's farm/ranch for use only with Dad, under his supervision, for hunting hen-house bandits and varmints stealing eggs and feed. This was an abysmal hunting failure as most hen-house criminals were snakes. Maybe there was small redeeming value in the companionship of father/son!

No doubt Mother only allowed this gift with this mandate.


Arkansas Patti said...

Very funny post and well told. No penalty flags in our day were there? Rather envy your spanking, I would have been confined to my room for days.
Vaguely remember slingshots. Do remember I wasn't good with one. My weapon of choice was a BB gun which was eventually taken from me when I shot my neighbor boy in the leg. That he "dared me to" didn't cut one day off my sentence.

NitWit1 said...

AR Patti - love to hear the BB gun it is funny, except for the discipline.

Brother later had a BB gun relegated to the farm where he accompanied Dad on expeditions for henhouse bandits, utter failures, as varmints were usually snakes.

I never resisted DARES, especially DOUBLE DAREs; guess I loved the rebel-non-conformist label.

Amber Star said...

Did he happen to "shoot" out an eye?

One of the more important themes of "A Christmas Story" where everyone tell Ralphie he will shoot his eye out.

link to movie best quotes

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a delightful memory!!! I love this!!! Reminds me of my own escapades...throwing lemon rinds from behind fences in epic neighborhood battles!!! Too much fun! Thanks for sharing this! You tell such wonderful stories! ~Janine XO

Anonymous said...

I got one of these from WalMart several years ago. Made in China. Metal frame and rubber grip handle with wide rubber bands. It isn't anything like your nice one or the old ones I used to make out of a forked stick. And during the war years, the real rubber inner tubes we used were scarce as hen's teeth so we kept one BACK and cut the tongues out of old shoes. The railroad supplied the rocks. Sad to say those skills are not around anymore. I do see them being used in Israel by Palestine boys.

Cheffie-Mom said...

LOL!! This is a great post!! This reminded me of the Christmas Story. "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" enJOY your day!!

lakeviewer said...

What a cute story, well told and humorously paced. Love it.

Silver said...

You made your own sling shot? How cool is that? wimpy but least, it still worked. And a wonderful story to reminisce many years later.. ;)


NitWit1 said...

Glad all your comments reminded me of Christmas Story. I will watch for that this season. Oh so long since I've watched it!!

I frequently consider my childhood dull, but in retrospect it was filled with benign adventures supervised by responsible parents from which we all emerged into responsible human beings.

NitWit1 said...

Glad all your comments reminded me of Christmas Story. I will watch for that this season. Oh so long since I've watched it!!

I frequently consider my childhood dull, but in retrospect it was filled with benign adventures supervised by responsible parents from which we all emerged into responsible human beings.