It was a different time in the 1950s.
A boy like me was groomed to accept responsibility; and it was taught
to you by your father---up close and personal. If you learned to
accept responsibility as a boy, it would come easily as a man, and
so as the reasoning went, you would be a good provider for your
At my father’s side I learned to work with his workbench
tools, operate a circular saw, change a plug or electric cord on
an appliance, and generally work my way through the Harry Roman,
Sr. school of responsibility and home repair. But the greatest,
and most enjoyable lessons I remember occurred in 1958.
That previous Fall, Dad bought a Daisy BB gun to use in our large
backyard on North 4th Street. He loved to target shoot, hoping the
BB gun would help him keep his eye sharp. You could buy guns back
then. We didn’t have drive by shootings or random acts of
violence. If you committed a crime with a gun back in 1958, you
went far away and stayed there for a long time-none of this good
behavior and reduced sentence nonsense.
To Dad, a gun was just another tool, and a wonderful instrument
to teach responsibility to his son. And so I was enrolled in the
beginner’s course in Dad’s school. We convened on our
back porch after dinner several nights a week. The rules were simple.
No playing with the gun when he was not at home----period.
During the week, I would make some paper targets for us to shoot
at. We used the coal ash pile in the back yard as our backstop.
For those of you who don’t know what coal ash is, home heating
boilers were fueled by coal and the ashes left over had to be carted
out to the street or deposited somewhere. We had a pile in the backyard
and we shot the BB’s into the pile so they would not ricochet
around. Sometimes Dad would save the old tubes from radios and TVs
he fixed and we would use them for target practice. That was always
a treat to pop those little glass babies with a direct hit.
How he drilled me in shooting a gun correctly and safely. Shot
after shot he was there to make sure I held the gun just right and
squeezed the trigger slowly. We would take turns shooting at the
targets and keeping score. Safety, safety, safety was the order
of the day.
Today if you like to shoot guns and target shoot, folks look at
you as though you had three heads. It’s as if folks expect
guns to jump off a shelf and start shooting people. With all the
gun laws we have today there are more crimes with guns than I certainly
remember back in the 1950s. It ain’t the guns, folks.
When I shoot today, and I taught my wife to enjoy the experience,
I still feel my Dad’s big, warm hands wrapped around mine
as he guided my hands to the target. I hear his voice—check
the safety, slowly raise the gun to the target—breathe slow
and steady—remove the safety--squeeze the trigger---pop! Bullseye!!
It’s no different when I operate my power tools in my shop.
I hear his voice again in my mind. It ain’t the gun, it’s
the lesson…… responsibility……. taught with
patience, love, and firmness.
How I would like to return to that old back porch once more, to
see Dad young again, happy and proud in watching me hit the target,
growing with every shot and building confidence. What an experience
I have to treasure. If only I could feel his big warm hands again,