This is me and Dad in the backyard of our house in Lilburn, Christmas morning, probably 1976 or 1977. Pookie, the dog I had all through school, is on the ground behind Dad, with a tennis ball in his mouth.
I can relate to Ralphie, the main character in the great Christmas movie A Christmas Story (with a screenplay by Jean Shepherd, who adapted it from his book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and who also provided the voice-over narration). Ralphie longed for a B.B. gun, and when I was about that age, so did I. (Though in the interest of accuracy I will point out that that movie didn't come out until a few years after this picture was taken, and I'd never even heard of the book, so I had no idea I had this in common with the fictional Ralphie.) Every issue of Boy's Life magazine back then featured two or three ads for B.B. guns, and I studied those ads every month like I was preparing for a test.
In this picture you can see that, like Ralphie in the movie, I got my wish for Christmas.The box Dad is holding is a rubber-backed target--at least I'm pretty sure that's what it is--that either came with the gun or Dad bought for me as part of the present. We set it up against the back fence and did some target practice that morning. I did not shoot my eye out. (Or anyone else's, for that matter.)
In case you can't tell what I'm doing in this picture, I'm pumping the gun to build up pressure and fire power. The manual said that ten pumps was supposed to be the maximum, but I'm pretty sure I used to pump it forty or fifty times to send the B.B. extra far and extra hard. I don't think it actually made a difference; I think that whether I gave it ten pumps or fifty, it shot about the same.
I still have this gun--it's out in the garage somewhere, probably nearly covered in spider webs and leaf debris. It doesn't actually shoot anymore. I can say that for sure because about five years I bought a container of B.B.s and loaded it up, but it wouldn't shoot--ten pumps or fifty, it shot (or didn't shoot) about the same. When I pulled the trigger, the gun made a rather unsatisfying PPFFFTT sound, and the B.B. rolled out of the barrel.
This picture must have been taken by my mother, who I don't remember objecting to my owning a B.B. gun the way Ralphie's mother did in the movie. I'm sure she wanted me to be careful--which I was--and I probably got some standard speech about not shooting people or dogs or birds or squirrels--which I never did--but I doubt Mom thought a whole lot about my B.B. gun. I think it was just accepted by then: little boys had B.B. guns.
On a side note, in this picture Dad would have been in his early thirties, twenty years or so younger than I am now. As I think I've written before, one of the remarkable things about looking back at these old pictures and thinking about those times is not just seeing myself as a kid, but seeing my parents and realizing they were practically still kids themselves.