I’ll never forget the first time I got shot with a BB gun. It was in the laundry room, which was built onto the back of the carport – a separate room from the rest of the house. It was winter, I know, because I had a jacket on – and I’m glad I did.

My brother, a year and a half older than I, came in. He’d just gotten a BB gun – a Daisy “Spittin’ Image” – for Christmas. Pressing the end of it into the belly of my jacket, he backed me against the clothes washer, and then when I had nowhere left to go, pulled the trigger. Just like that. It wouldn’t be the last time he pointed a gun at me, and sometimes they were real ones. I’ll tell those stories later, and how they affected me. (Both bad and good – because I became a Marine one day, and was robbed at gunpoint once while working at a gas station. My lack of fear came in handy, then, and the robber was very lucky.)

Anyway, that first time he shot me – I was scared. I thought I’d been really ‘shot’. But those BB guns couldn’t penetrate skin; they’d just leave a little red dot on the skin, and hurt like a bee sting. No big deal. But this first time it was, at least for me. I pulled up my coat – I’m sure he’d shot me just to see what it would do – and there on my belly, about two inches above my navel (an “innie” and not one of those strange “outies” that some of the kids had) – was a bright red dot, almost glowing with pain. So I did what any normal six year old would do. I screamed and ran for my momma.

Mom, of course, was furious. She was madder than a badger in a trap. I don’t know what she did to him, only that it ended up with him getting his BB gun taken away. For about a week, I reckon, though it may have been a month. That’s how their time punishments ranged: One week, or one month. Same went for restriction, only they would restrict you to your room. A one month ‘room restriction’ was nothing to joke about, because they were serious. You didn’t come out of your room for a full month – no TV, no radio, no nuthin’. Only to go to the bathroom, eat, or go to school. Just four blank walls, your bed, and later on, my desk. Not a whole lot to do in there. After all, we didn’t have many toys, though I had my collection of stuffed animals to keep me company – animals from when I was one and two years old. We had quite a few parties in there, me and my favorite stuffed bear, Chee-chee, and Grandpa and Alley and Leo. Monk-monk, too, though he was a little bit stiff – due to his wire framed arms and legs (making him ‘posable’). Plus he was a late-comer to the game to replace one I had lost about four years earlier in some other, distant woods. He wasn’t the same.

I’ll never forget those BB gun wars. Oh, I can’t remember them all; just the big ones, and the one where I got shot up pretty bad. I ended up getting a Daisy myself, a year or so later – all the kids had one, except the teenager, who also had a pellet gun. He illustrated its awesome power to us gang of little kids once, by gathering us all around and shooting it through a tree – a scrub oak, to be precise, about two inches in diameter. That chilled us, and he was very serious about it – and what he intended to do with it if any of us ever made him mad. Mad about what? I’m not sure, but I think it was what he was doing to us in secret when the parents weren’t around, or when he was babysitting us. That was a very cold time indeed – seeing the neat round hole pop in one side; the splinted and mangled wood spraying from the other. We all went and looked, running our hands in amazement over the damage. He made no bones about it. He would kill us dead with that thing, if he had a mind to, a reason to – and we weren’t to give him any reason. Were we. Of course not. We all quietly agreed to his demand. We kept our mouths shut. I don’t know what set it off, but it did, and he showed us. Maybe he was just illustrating his power over us. I don’t know. But I do remember the cold fear.

My mom’s typical response to finding that me or my brother had shot the other with a BB gun was take it away – for a week or a month, as I’ve said. Then we’d get it back – and go right back to doing what we did before. Engaging in the BB gun wars.

I’ll never forget when I was sitting in our pup tent – the one me and my brother had. It was the standard military issue – thick green canvas walls that would weep in the rain, and two-piece wood and metal poles for standing it up. Military canvas has such a familiar smell; a unique one. It still conjures up many, many memories. We’d set that pup tent up in the back yard when my brother came to the ‘door’, pulled open the tent flap, and began pumping those rounds in. Bing! Zip! Bing! Whiz! Little BB’s bouncing all around, some ricocheting off the walls, some hitting me. I was unarmed at the time, so of course – “No fair!” I cried, and then went wailing off to my momma. He got his gun taken away at the time – but I still had mine. It felt good.

The other major war I remember (aside from pieces of memory of running through the woods, firing them at each other, or hiding behind some bushes, taking potshots at someone) is when the teenager and a bunch of other kids got into the tree house we’d built in the big old pine tree in our back yard. It was a good tree house, with a thick piece of plywood for a floor, and little knee high walls all around. You didn’t lean on the walls; they’d peel off and send you tumbling far, far down to the ground, some thirty or so feet below. It was our favorite tree house, and the one all us neighborhood kids would use (we believed in sharing back then – with anyone who dared to climb that big old tree with no branches to hang onto and only loose boards haphazardly nailed on to use for a ladder.). I went up there quite often, but this time I was on the ground. Me and a friend, both of us armed to the teeth with our Daisy Spittin’ Images.

I remember this quite clearly, the day of that war. It was late afternoon; the sun is shining off to my left, away from the tree house. Me and my friend are on the west end of our wood paneled house (redwood, that is, because it never rots and never needs painted). There is a bush on that corner we can hide behind. I can see that tree house in my mind – way up there, the end of it protected by a good thick branch, so we can’t get a clear shot inside. The boys up there – the teenager and his friends – are popping up over the walls like weasels, taking potshots at us. We can’t step out from behind the bush without getting hit. I get madder and madder at this seemingly unfair situation, and finally I’ve had enough!

I step out into the yard – away from our protecting shelter – and the teenager and his friends immediately start plinking at me. Zip! Zap! Ow! I’ve been hit a half dozen times before I can even get my rifle up. My friend, behind me, cowering behind the bush, is looking at me like I’m crazy. But I don’t care. I’m MAD – and when I’m mad, I don’t feel any pain. All I feel is . . . something. Nothing. Anger and anger again. Folding back in on itself. Apparently that’s part of being DID – they say it sets in when you are a young child, by the time you are five or six. I’ve separated myself from myself, totally ignoring the pain. I don’t even FEEL the sting as the BB’s come raining in. The kids in the tree house, realizing I’m just going to stand there, are rising up and sitting there, taking potshots at me like I’m a sitting duck. Which I am. I don’t care anymore. Shoot at me if you wish. I know it’s not going to hurt, because I don’t care anymore. All I care about is getting a good shot off at these strangers, these kids who’ve taken over my tree house, and are now shooting furiously at me. I raise my rifle, take aim – BB’s whizzing past, striking me, bouncing off like rain – and I still don’t care. I hold my position. I wait. Until I see my moment. Then I fire.

I hit that teenager – I don’t know where – but it was hard enough to make him quit. He yells. He cries out – loud. I shoot again and get him with a ricochet off the branch that was shielding him. He cries out some more. They quit the game.

I learned something then. That just one small man – a single soldier – determined not to give into the pain – can take out any number of enemy, given enough determination and guts. Given a single rifle, and just the right kind of shot. And I often felt as though I was a soldier back then; was training to be, wanted to be – exactly as my old man was. Tough. Mean. And a killer. (Maybe that’s where that ‘self’ came from, huh? Weird, I’m just now thinking that for the first time in my life. I reckon that’s one of the reasons I write these stories. They are a voyage of self-discover.)

And I also learned how tough I was. That these rifles couldn’t hurt me anymore. I look back at my friend, who is slowly creeping out from the shelter of the brush, his eyes wide with amazement as the teenager and his friends come climbing down.

I was much braver about them after that. Much braver – and not a bit afraid to take on someone twice my size. Whether they had a gun or not.

I have no fear, not of guns. Caution, yes. Wary of them? Of course. I know what they can do – up close and personal. I’ve seen it, from here to you, your computer screen to your face. It’s ugly. They can kill you dead; make a really bad mess of things. But even still – no fear. Not even now, this day. Respect: yes. Fear – no. Not no way.

After all – I’d been shot enough to know – and simply not care anymore.

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