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The Blog Brothers

Two Black-Irish-American brothers from the mythical city of Albany, New York ponder their 20th century adventures from either side of the Pacific Ocean; Bob in Kyoto, Japan and Mick in Santa Barbara, California.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My Winchester '73

For a kid with no Red Ryder B-B gun, defenseless in the world, there was only one recourse. I don't remember specifically who my hero was , that nameless elder gentleman somewhere one summer (I salute him now, where he is in heaven) who kindly took the time and pains to show me step by step how to make the finest slingshot a boy could make with his own hands, the Winchester '73 of slingshots, which I painted green because that was the only paint in the cellar.

From selecting the finest wood (cherry, in this case, from a big backyard tree I knew well of) in the ideally forked shape and then incising the bark to receive the slings, using only genuine rubber (bicycle inner tubes) - not synthetic (car inner tubes) - and a soft but stout leather tongue from a good workboot (the local dumps, as they so often did, came in handy here), all tied together with strong cord, ultimately to propel the finest of ammunition: pocketfuls of pristine catseyes I'd won playing marbles with Paul G who lived on Mapleridge and had the finest marble collection around, housed in a big, beautiful red pipe-tobacco can with a handled lid.

My Winchester went with me everywhere, slung just right in my back pocket for the quick draw that was key to a shotslinger's survival. Maybe I'm not proud of all the things I did with my sidearm; I'll be the first to admit that there are times in a boy's life when issues of morality take a back seat, for whatever reason: maybe you're in love, maybe you're angry, hungry or tired, maybe it's growing pains and there's always the social struggle... maybe if time could be reversed for a moment I'd take back some of those things, done out of childhood emotion, curiosity or ignorance - which are pretty much aspects of the same thing - but I'll keep the pride I took in my accuracy. And I'll keep the notches in the handle.

One thing I wouldn't take back (and that I can admit to now, the statute of limitations having expired about 50 years ago), even though it involved twice breaking the solitary streetlight on a corner that darkened with one shot from the concealment of the woods not far from Mary Myer's candy store, was the second time I broke the light, and the life-changing moments that transpired afterward.

It's getting dark now; maybe I'll get to that tomorrow.

[Part II here.]

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