Every Christmas and Birthday I would ask the same question.
“Can I have a BB gun this year?”
To which my dad would answer, “No son.” He would always end that sentence with, repeat after me, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Even knowing that, I would ask each year and receive the same refrain.
It always seemed silly to me because BB guns were all over. I could shoot a friend’s any time I wanted by simply asking, “Can I shoot some?”
Clyde always had a BB gun. He liked to walk around the golf course plinking at anything that caught his eye. I would always follow along behind hoping to have a shot.
“Do you have BB’s,” I asked. I wanted him to know I was along.
His exasperated look never registered with me as I ran to keep up.
“Shhh… Keep quiet. I’m gonna get us a squirrel.”
He waved me still.
Clyde’s Toy Collie, ever with us, bumped into me. He looked up, tongue lolling, as if to say, “What the…?” Then he licked his muzzle and smiled as dogs do for children.
“Sorry Rex. I didn’t mean…”
“SHHH!” Clyde looked at me sternly. He looked his four years older in those moments.
I slapped my hand over my mouth.
He nodded pointing. I followed the gesture to a silhouette balanced on a pine branch ten feet above us. He took his finger from in front of his mouth and placed it on the trigger as he settled the rifle butt to his shoulder.
Poof! Air popped from the barrel.
“Dang it! No BB’s!”
“Tuttut… don’t,” he said leaning the gun against his leg. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cardboard barrel. He rattled it as he reached for the top. A sharp pop was heard as he pulled the top off. Up ending it, he poured the contents into his mouth. Cheeks puffed full of copper BB’s, he lifted the gun, opening the entry point for the little orbs. This he placed to his mouth and sprayed BB’s into the barrel. PFFFST…
I heard them rattle down into the bottom of the chamber.
He rolled his tongue around his mouth then spit a couple more into the opening.
“There,” he said. “Full in no time.”
He shook the rifle smiling as the copper rattled around inside the gun. A swift cock of the lever and he was ready, bringing the sites up to the branch once more. The branch was empty.
Rex panted at his feet. He stood ready to move on as he knew we would.
“If you hadn’t made so much noise,” said Clyde.
“But you didn’t have any BB’s in the gun. How was it my fault?”
“Shhh… Don’t bother me with questions while we’re hunting.”
The trees at the edge of the golf course grew thinner as we approached the creek behind the 15th green.
Rex ran ahead to the path at the side of the waterway leading to the Stono River. Clyde pushed through the chest high Marsh grass looking for the path. Finding it he waved me on. I rushed through the reeds that reached over my head losing sight of him.
“Wait for me!”
“Shhh… Nef, how many times I gotta say shhh?”
I reached the path. He was a few feet ahead walking straight for the Stono which was about a quarter mile in front of us. It seemed longer for my short legs as I ran to catch up.
Half way there was a path that forked ninety degrees to the right. It was a line of dirt a foot and a half above the plough mud. It meandered crookedly toward Maybank Highway. Clyde turned to walk its natural path. Rex was a few feet in front. I was a few feet behind. I watched the ground as I hurried my steps .I ran into Clyde who had stopped at Rex’s first bark.
Getting up off my duff, I asked, “What’s going on?”
“Shh... Rex has spotted something.”
I peered around him. I saw Rex moving stealthily forward. He broke into a run growling loudly. Stopping short, his face went into the dirt and up. His growl grew louder all the while his head whipping rapidly back and forth. In his teeth flailing to and fro was what looked like a piece of rope.
“What is …”
“Shhh… Rex is killing a snake. It coulda got us.”
“Is it poisonous?”
“If it is it ain’t no more,” said Clyde with a smile.
Rex dropped the three foot snake on the ground. He watched it for movement. It lay flopped across the path.
“Good boy,” said Clyde walking up to him. Rex was sitting now. “You took care of that thing, didn’t you boy?”
“Is it poisonous?” I asked.
“Heck, I don’t know, nef. It’s a snake. It coulda been. Rex saved us if it was.”
He aimed his gun and pumped a BB into the dead thing’s head. Clicking the lever, he pumped another one into the lifeless form.
“He’s dead. Musta broke his back. Atta boy, Rex.”
Rex sat, tongue draped over his lower jaw, heaving summer air. He looked up at Clyde with a dog grin.
Looking around for another snake I said, “Maybe we should head home.”
“Don’t you want to shoot?”
“Still think we should go home?”
“Maybe a little longer,” I said reaching for the gun.
“Come on then,” he said, cradling the air rifle in the crook of his arm.
I trotted along behind, Rex beside me.