Hanging out around the farm when my dad was helping out with seasonal work was always my idea of good fun. I had a BB gun and no worries about accidentally shooting out a window as could happen easily in town. One day, when Dad was washing up in the barn at the end of the day he pointed to a small box on the window ledge.
“I don’t ever want you to touch that box,” he said. “Those are Hank’s shotgun shells. They can hurt you really bad.”
Dad was reading the curiosity in my face as he dried off his hands. He hung the towel back on the rack and reached for the small box. Dad explained that the shot in the .410 shell was like a bunch of my BBs shooting all at the same time. He took one out of the box and pointed to the various parts of shell as he explained.
“This red paper part is where the tiny BBs are. See this little center on the back end?”
“That’s called the primer. When the firing pin of the gun hits the primer it fires the gunpowder in front of it to make the shot shoot out of the barrel of the gun. Do you understand?”
I nodded again.
“That primer can be fired other ways but it would be very dangerous. DON’T touch these!”
“Okay.” I could tell by his tone that more than a nod was expected on Dad’s last point of emphasis.
“Hank uses those for hunting pheasants with his shotgun but they’re nothing to play with.”
Satisfied that he had sufficiently put the fear of .410 shells into me, we left the barn, got into the old Mercury and headed home for the day. What Dad failed to realize is that he had given me SMI. Dad had given me So Much Information that I was more than curious about the .410 shells. I didn't even know that those shells were on the window ledge before Dad’s warning. Now that I knew that they were there and what they were for, the shells had become kid magnets.
I wasn't attracted to the .410 shells again for few days. However, it came to me that there should be a way to bring down a pigeon with my BB GUN. So far, only sputzies had fallen victim to the wrath of my BB gun. If Hank could bring down a pheasant with a .410 then, surely, I could bag a pigeon with a combination of my BB gun and a .410 shell. Though magnum loads hadn't caught on much in the fifties it would be, sort of, like a magnum charged Daisy BB gun.
I didn't think of myself as a visionary or a pioneer at the time but, in a sense, maybe I was. To the best of my knowledge, no one else has ever thought of holding a .410 round on the end of their BB gun to take down a pigeon. It’s been said that the higher the risk greater the reward. If that is so then I’d say that I had more than a running start at some pretty serious success.
It was no problem to slip into the barn and grab a .410 shell. That part of the barn had a toilet in it so I had an excuse for being there, if somebody caught me in there. I headed down a lane past the place where I had tested the penetration factor of a rusty nail on my Red Ball Jets a few weeks ago.
There were trees and brush on both sides of this lane so I doubted that my dad or anyone else would spot me and wonder what I was doing. There were no pigeons around but this was only a test firing. I cocked my BB gun.
I set the butt of the BB gun on the ground and held the muzzle pointed to the tree tops. Carefully, I set the .410 shell on top with the primer to muzzle. At this point, I only wanted to know if a BB hitting the primer would fire the round. I slowly reached for the BB gun trigger with my free hand and thumbed it back.
I couldn't remember anything, up to that point in my short life, that ever scared me more than the explosion of that .410 shell on the end of my BB gun. With the BB gun in hand and Red Ball Jets on my feet I took to footed flight as fast as I could run.
I hadn't forgotten how fast that my dad was at my side when I screamed bloody murder from the pain of a rusty nail poked into my foot. He heard my scream on that day. He had to hear this .410 shell go off.
Satisfied that I had put sufficient distance between the location of my crime and myself, I did my best to look like it was just another day on the farm. After enough time passed for me to be satisfied that no one was coming to investigate, I nonchalantly headed back down the lane to inspect for damages.
There was no sign that I had been in the lane and nearly killed myself. I searched around in hope of finding the spent shell. In hindsight, it’s just as well that I didn't. It might have turned up as incriminating evidence in the laundry if I forgot to take it from my pocket.
There was one positive thing that came from the experience. Dad hadn't quite convinced me to leave the .410 shells alone. However, I had just done a pretty good job of it on my own and even lived to tell the story. I never touched a shotgun shell again until I was old enough to use a shotgun safely.
Read more about Surviving Childhood.