Once upon a time, when I was about 12 years old, my Dad shot Maxwell Smart.
It happened like this:
Dad had bought himself a used Belgium Browning .22 rifle, take-apart; it was the same as the one in this picture:
Like all parents, my Dad had his moments. And like any owner of a new gun, Dad liked to fool around with it. One evening, we were all in the living room watching TV. This was about the time Bonanza was released in color. This was far enough back that Bonanza was just about the ONLY show in color. Since we couldn’t afford a color TV, we watched our black & white TV. This particular evening, we were watching Maxwell Smart.
Mom was reclining on the couch at the left of the room; I was in the love-seat on the right. Dad was in the middle, in his recliner with his feet up. I think he had probably had a few beers by then. He was resting the barrel of his .22 between his big toe and his second toe of his right foot. He squeezed off a shot. And hit Maxwell Smart right between the eyes.
As I watched Maxwell Smart fade away, the screen of the TV instantly imploded, going absolutely flat, with about a million cracks. Joseph the dog started barking, Mom started crying hysterically, I jumped up to see what happened, and Dad was laughing his head off. Dad, of course, had not realized it was loaded.
And that’s how we got our first color TV.
I told you that one so I could tell you this one.
For my 13th birthday, Dad gave me a Belgium Browning .22 just like his – only it was brand new. This was my first real gun, and I was very excited. So Dad wanted to show me how to run the gun; we went to find something to shoot at. It was a beautiful, unusually warm November day.
We got in his VW Beetle, and drove around to some woods Dad had access to. Dad claimed to see a squirrel in a big oak tree probably fifty feet away, and told me to shoot it. Not seeing the squirrel, I asked Dad where it was – he said “See that knot on the left side about two-thirds of the way up?”
There were about 20,000 knots on that tree, so I picked one and said “Sure.” And I shot it.
To my great surprise (and Dad’s great pleasure) a squirrel fell out of the tree. I had shot it right through the ear – never having seen it until it fell. This was miraculous to me, but Dad was really proud I was doing so well. So after we calmed down, we got back in the VW.
I was wearing flip-flops, and I had the barrel of the gun resting between, you guessed it, my big toe and my second toe. At this point, I wondered if I had the safety on – and I pulled the trigger to find out. I shot a hole in the bottom of Dad’s Beetle (and through my flip-flop).
Dad shouted “What did you do?!?” and I told him. Together, we leaned over and looked at the floorboard of the VW. There was a .22 sized hole there, but the rubber coating of the floorboard slowly closed up until you couldn’t see it, even as we watched. I figured I was in big trouble.
Dad looked over at me and said “Don’t tell your mother.”
And that’s all that was ever said about it. After all, what could he say?
I guess the branch doesn’t fall far from the tree. I do have to say that Dad taught me nothing about gun safety – I learned that elsewhere, somewhat later – and today I place a very high priority on gun safety. Oh, and I still have the Browning. And all my toes.
Maybe next time I’ll tell you about the time he shot a hole in the back door.