When I was a little girl, I had a genuine Daisy rifle. Bonita and I each got one for Christmas. Santa left the rifles smack-dab in the corner, right behind the Christmas tree. I dropped to my belly and army-crawled back there to get my gun; Bonita was right beside me. We got so excited, we knocked the whole tree down. Whoa! Now that’s one, no two, very excited little girls. I believe our excitement overcame any anger Mom or Dad had about the mess created.
Dad attached a target to some bales of straw in the barn and he taught us all about gun safety: never put the barrel of the gun in the ground, always aim carefully and know what else is around that might come into your line of fire, never leave the gun loaded, and never, ever, never aim a gun, any gun, even a toy gun at a person. Dad was in the army during the war; that’s where he learned all those rules and that’s why he took pointing a gun at a person so serious. He never wanted us to even pretend to shoot a person. “Guns are not toys,” he said.
Gary, who moved from down-south and lived across the street in the Russells’s house after they moved to a town with a better school, had a B·B gun too, so he came over to target shoot sometimes, but only if Dad was there. Same thing for Tommy next door, but Tommy didn’t have his own gun, so he just watched and waited for someone to take pity and give him a turn. It was against the rules to have boys in the barn, unless Dad was home. My gun had to be cocked every time I wanted to shoot. We each took a turn shooting, then walked up to the target to claim our hole in the target. At first, the target was clean, everybody missed, but before too long we were arguing who got the bulls-eye.
When springtime finally came, I sat some cans and baby food jars on the fence Dad made of old telephone pole cross-arms, and shot the cans and jars right off there. Bonita and I pretended to be just like Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, except we could only fire one shot at a time, before re-cocking our gun.
I got so good at shooting those jars off the fence; I loved the sound of those jars breaking and the cans pinging over off the fence. I tried to shoot the lid off, after the jar shatter to bits, leaving only the lid behind. That was a big mistake ’cause the B·B ricocheted right off the fence and hit Tommy in the leg. That scared me a little, but mostly me and Bonita laughed at Tommy jumping around on one leg and hollering at us. Then I remembered Tommy’s chihuahua limping around on one leg and how Tommy’s dad made us get rid of Nikki. That’s probably why Dad said to watch out for who might be in the line of fire. Next time I tried shooting the lid off, the B·B ricocheted right back and hit me in the cheek. That scared the pants off me ’cause once some kids in the city shot at cars in the street, and my Uncle Frank happened to be driving by with his window down. One of those kids shot him right in the eye. Uncle Frank put his head down in his hand and a B·B fell right out in his hand. He drove right back to those kids and said, “Did one of you lose this B·B?” Those kids just stood there for a couple of minutes, looking at Uncle Frank with their mouths wide open and their eyes bugged out. I bet they had no idea their fooling around was going to leave some stranger blind in one eye. Anyways, I went back to just shooting at the jars and cans, and forgot about getting to be too much of a sharp-shooter.
Pretty soon Bonita and I were ready for some real hunting: that red-winged blackbird. I made the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; Dad showed me how to make them swirly, which is the very best way to make a sandwich, except for flat-top, but you can’t pack flat-tops for a hike. Bonita made the Kool-Aid, and we got a couple of chocolate chip cookies and headed out to the field. I liked to beat back the wild wheat and ragweed with a stick, which ended up making my eyes so itchy I wanted to take them out and scratch behind them. Sometimes Bonita and I picked Queen Anne’s Lace and cornflowers for Mom, but this day we were on a mission to get that red-winged blackbird.
“Click-click-click-chireee.” That bird mocked us. I put my rifle up to my shoulder, aimed through the peep-hole and fired. Off that bird flew to the next post. “Click-click-click-chiree.” Bonita took a shot. No luck for her either. We followed that darned bird from post to post, all over that field and back, re-cocking and re-firing and using up all our B·Bs. No matter how hard, I tried, I could not get that bird. Neither could Bonita. We walked back up to the house, planning to get the red-winged blackbird the next day.
Right under the tree behind the Little House, Bonita remembered her gun was still cocked, so she fired it up into the air. Down fell an innocent little sparrow. Bonita let out a howl that made me think of the time Deanna jumped out of that tree unto a piece of wood with a nail in it. Deanna got that board stuck in her tennis shoe, and blood poured out of the bottom of it. She couldn’t walk without driving the nail deeper in her foot and everywhere she stepped, she left a bloody footprint. That made my knees get all rubbery and my stomach turn flip-floppy. Deanna went to the hospital and got a tetanus shot, which she said hurt just about as much as the nail in her foot. Nothing like that happened to Bonita; she wailed like that because of the sparrow. Gary came a-running, and those two tried to give that sparrow mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. We spent all day trying to shoot a bird, then Bonita killed one by accident. Bonita sort of lost the desire to get that red-winged blackbird after she saw a real bird dead, on account of her own actions. Me too.
I think those red-winged blackbirds put a hit out on me, though. To this day, those birds go click-click-click-chiree at me, hover over me, and sometimes dive-bomb me. One was particularly persistent when I rode my bike through his territory. One day, I got off my bike and threw a rock at it; just to scare it; I never wanted to kill anything again, even though technically it was Bonita that did the deed, not me. That bird hovered over my head going chip-chip-chip-chip-chip, over and over, calling all his red-winged friends until there must have been twenty birds dive bombing me. I got on my bike and rode as fast as I could, and never rode down that road again. Some people just think I made that story up, but it’s the truth, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-if-I-tell-a-lie.
Countries, government, and people hold grudges and pass them down from generation to generation, with about as much logic as two little girls and a red-winged blackbird. Maybe if I can figure out a way for those red-winged blackbirds to make peace with me, I’ll take it to the United Nations, and at long last this world will have tranquility and peace.
- Red Winged Blackbird Waiting to Attack (See http://www.jrcompton.com/photos/The_Birds/J/May-07.html for more great pictures of birds.)