A bunch of the guys were whoopin' it up at an eating house when the conversation turned to guns.
Not Colt 45s or Winchester repeaters or Springfield 30 30s, but the homemade rubber guns of another generation!
Lucky was the youngster whose dad owned a garage or "filling station" in those days because blowouts and punctured tires provided a veritable arsenal for endless games of cops and robbers or cowboys 'n Indians.
I can remember how we literally stood in line at the grocery stores waiting for discarded wooden apple boxes because the white pine of the end panels was especially easy to cut and shape into the weapons of our youth.
And how many mothers went out to hang clothes on Monday morning, only to discover that their clothespin bags had been robbed by schoolboy "gun" manufacturers.
Those were the days when we learned our fighting strategies at the local theatre from Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and the other good guys with the white hats. We devised attack plans we could use later in a shoot-out "at high noon."
Like the real cowboys, we had our code of honor, too. "No shootin' in the face was a safety edict. We tried to sneak up as close as possible to the enemy, though, because when anybody got hit, it was supposed to hurt a little.
Sorry to say, there were no restrictions against shooting a guy in the back especially between the shoulder blades where tight-fitting cotton shirts offered least protection. A well-aimed fanny shot could also be stingingly effective, especially on pudgier opponents.
As far as I know even the rich kids from uptown didn't have store bought pistols.
In a way, I feel sorry for a youngster these days, hunched incessantly over a beep-beeping computer game at two-bits a throw (not counting the string of red licorice dangling from his mouth and the ever-present can of pop at his side). With his attention glued to weird electronic characters devouring one another on an eye-straining screen, he has to be missing something!
Thinking it through though, the environment is against him. Steel belted radials don't have inner tubes. His mother no doubt finishes her laundry in a dryer so doesn't have any clothespins. And apples mostly come in plastic or cardboard containers which are worthless for gun-making.
I don't know what the other cowpokes did that day when we left the restaurant, but I went home to see if Phyllis still had a few clothespins left. This winter I may just make a couple of wooden 45s, and when nobody's looking, I'll go out in the backyard for a little nostalgic target practice!
© 2010 Robert F. Karolevitz