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The Christmases when nobody got shot on Jamestown Hill

Gifts Santa should never have given: The first was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun like the one on display in Ed's & Ed's Kentucky Auto store. The second was the Remington 550-A .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle

By Ed Waggener

Our Dad, E.P. Waggener, had a clear vision of what he wanted every child to become, and manipulated adroitly on every occasion he could to mold us in his plan.

Part of my profile, to be a well rounded man, resulted in two gifts I should never have gotten. One I desperately wanted. One I didn't want at all.

The first was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun like the one on display in Ed's & Ed's Kentucky Auto store. I needed a BB gun at nine years of age, for protection when walking through the Harmon Woods near Russell Creek, and to provide food for the table. We had a big family.

Darrell Young, who also got a Red Ryder BB gun told me that his Dad, Clyde Young, told him that our arms were lethal. "You kill a squirrel by shooting it in the eye," Darrell said. Neither of us ever accomplished that. Maybe we killed birds it was Bible to shoot. Mom said we should never kill a Robin or Cardinal; and never, ever should we shoot a Dove. She wasn't sure whether it was a Sin, but thought it should be; but a dove was a symbol of peace. She thought it should have been in the Oughtn'ts in Deuteromy, whether the inerrant writers had deemed it so or not.

Don't remember any animal perishing, and I don't remember anybody's eye being put out, and I do know that those tell-tell perfect imperfections in the plate glass windows of the day were none of our doing. Fact is, I don't remember any of us who were vandals. Our parents all worked too hard to consider that. And I don't remember what happened to the BB gun.

The Remington 550-A was another matter
I never mentioned in any way a need for a .22 rifle, not one time! Didn't even aspire to a $12.99 bolt action .22 caliber Winchester most boys at the time thought was a dream weapon.

Don't know why, to this day, I found a Remington 550-A under the tree one year. It had to be pointed out to me that it was my gift from Santa Claus. I was a bit bewildered. Did find the annual plastic sided two blade, 49 cent pocket knife - only dangerous because it was impossible to hone an edge on the blade.

I did dutifully try a few rounds with the 550-A. It was a semi-automatic - one had to pull the trigger repeatedly for each shot; just pulling and holding the way the guns at Ft. Knox fired, wouldn't work. Still, it could get off more rounds, more quickly, than a 13-year-old should have been able to fire.

I remember the rifle well. And I vividly remember showing it off to buddies in the kitchen, with the safety on - I thought. But moments later one of them pulled the trigger, a bullet ricocheted off the linoleum floor and went somewhere around the room. I don't think we ever found it, but the floor kept it's mark, as clearly as the Dode Dowell round in the staircase of Historic Metcalfe County Courthouse has to this day - and was in the floor when the house was sold to Don and Barbara Franklin in the mid 1980's and is now part of the lot where Franklin Nissan now stands.

For most, that incident would have prompted my Dad to take the rifle away from me, as my Mother insisted he do.

But I persevered to become an outdoorsman. What finally convinced me to give it up was when Jessie Bright, late in the following tobacco season, was working in Ernest Conover's town patch of Burley. I was hunting a Momma-legal bird across the fence, unaware Jessie was a few yards away. The angle of fire should have sent the bullet into the wild blue yonder.

I missed the bird.

But Jessie came over to let me know I had almost killed him. He said the bullet came close enough under his nose he would have burns it had been any closer. The neighborhood buddies reconstructed the crime scene, with most concurring in my innocence, agreeing that there was "no way" it could have happened, given the angle of fire. But one boy - don't remember which - said his Dad told him that you never could know where a bullet would ricochet, that it might even come back and hit the shooter in the face.

That was enough for me to lay down arms. I never took them up again until I got an M-1 or-something or other carbine in basic training in Ft. Knox, and had as much love for it as a late friend, who served in Turkey, did. He could express disdain for the rifle in more colorful language than most, hinting at always using the barrel for a urinal.

But I digress, as the noblest writer of the day, Max Schulman was won't to say.

In any case, that ricocheting shot marked my farewell to arms - as a civilian. I don't remember what we did with the 550-A, but it soon left 705 Jamestown Street and the neighborhood remained peaceful thereafter.

It's a Christmas present I'll never forget, even if I can't remember the exact year it happened.

This story was posted on 2014-12-25 08:25:30
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