The BB Gun

by Harry T. Roman

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 family.

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, around mine.


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