The BB Gun Fight

-or-

A modern-day coming of age rite,

-wherein-

the participants (consisting of young, rural American males) engage in feats of marksmanship, transgressive behavior, and the endurance of pain

I remember the day so clearly. Upon the award of my Life Boy Scout rank, the money from my aunt put me over the top of my secret stash - I had enough money to buy a Daisy Powerline 880. It was the "Cadillac" of air rifles, at least air rifles as I was aware of at the time. Little did I know that the Germans and Swiss made air-rifles with the same Saxon zeal with which they build sedans and tanks. See Feinwerkbau.

The Daisy took both BB's and pellets. It had a giant hopper reservoir built into the receiver, which would hold about 300 rounds of BB's. Or you could switch up to pellets on the fly by locking the bolt open and dropping one into the breech. You could pump the gun up to 10 times (of course, experience later showed it could be pumped more than that). 10 pumps and a good pellet would drop a squirrel with a single shot to the head. It also had scope rails, and I got a little 4x scope for mine. I got to where I could basically "drive tacks" with the thing, as my Dad would say.

But why hunt squirrel when you could hunt the most dangerous game of all, man? We had all taken the gun safety classes, I myself was a proud holder of rifle and shotgun merit badge. I later went on be a rifle range instructor at scout camp. We all knew you could put an eye out. None of that mattered. A BB gun fight was laser tag with balls. It was also had a forbidden, illicit thrill of being patently and strictly verboten, with a legitimate (though small) edge of danger. It was also more fun than just about anything other than hot sex.

The fights ranged from impromptu duels, one on one, to massive 8-to-a-side, bring-your-full-kit, pitched battles. We could dress out in full camo, paint our faces. I carried my trusty Daisy and a Crossman 10-shot revolver sidearm that looked like a .357 Magnum. At the time, (about 16) I felt that this was fine practice for my never-to-be-realized future as an Infantry officer in the Army, or as a guerilla fighter when the Russians air-dropped into Blacksburg (you have to remember this is 1986). My most memorable is as follows, however:

My brother and I were dicking around in the woods behind our house. I had the Daisy and he had my old rifle. We were shooting at cans that we had hung off the branches of a tree. Suddenly, my brother whirled and shot right at my feet - deliberately missing by about a foot. We both decided that "quickdraw" was much more fun than shooting at cans, and the rules were quickly fixed: start back to back, walk 10 paces, then shoot as close to the other guy's foot as possible

What transpired is a very representative metaphor for the way my 2nd brother and I live our respective lives. Each time we paced off, I would snap turn, then adopt the textbook standing posture: Snap the butt to my shoulder, snap to my "spot weld" on the sights, prop my arm under the forestock, establish a clean sight picture, fire.

My brother, on the other hand, was engaged in an act of performance. Each successive draw was looser and more stylized. The gun would only be raised to chest level. The gun would be raised with a very grand sweeping gesture. Finally, he was Chuck Connors from The Rifleman, only bringing the gun to waist level before snap shooting. Finally, he screwed up.

As I was still sighting in, my brother whipped off his very cool, very inaccurate shot. It went high, whapping me in the adams apple. We both froze, then pumping up my rifle to full power I said "You better start running, Motherfucker" except that when I said it, I sounded like Yoda. My brother threw his gun away and began to flee. I had a beautiful shot at his now fully exposed ass and took it. The shot slammed home and then the reality of what we'd done hit us.

We went into full cover-up mode. I had to dig the BB out of my brother's ass with a disposable scalpel (yes, we had disposable scalpels at home, don't ask). My voice wasn't right for 3 days. I told my Mother I had a cold. The most amazing item of fallout, however, I did not learn until years later. My brother told me that I must have clipped a nerve, because he had a raging erection for a week! Only the fear of ultimately having to tell Mom seemed to undo his BB-induced priapism.

Be careful, or you could put an eye out.

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