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Do you remember Ralphie Parker?


Anyone who has watched the movie “A Christmas Story” will remember Ralphie. The triple dog dare. And the ever repeating mantra of “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Even Santa didn’t want that poor kid to have a BB gun.

Every time I hear that iconic line and another voice utter “You’ll shoot your eye out,” it brings back memories of a childhood friend, David Hammer. David passed away on Saturday October 16, 2010 so I guess I can finally tell the truth.  I’m sure he won’t mind. Besides, there is no one around to punish us anymore.

Growing up in the 1950’s our heroes were cowboys. The favorite games we played were not video games. Heck, those hadn’t yet been invented. And most of us didn’t even have the old black and white TV sets. We were forced to use our imagination. Parental edict also forced us to play outside. Yes, even in the winter. Naturally, our favorite adventure game was Cowboys and Indians. With miles to roam, we played this game in the old gravel pit, the woods along the river, or sometimes even in the cemetery, where we would wander for an ambush or showdown.

One summer day we found ourselves with loaded BB guns, strolling through the cemetery. I was looking for the deadly Indians that had attacked the settlement. And I was out for revenge. This time, I was the cowboy leading my imaginary posse and David was the Indian chief, hiding with his imaginary tribe—somewhere amongst the tombstones.

Suddenly, off in the distance, I heard a war whoop and became alert to the danger lurking nearby. I paused and hid my posse behind the tombstones.  Then a shot rang out and I heard it ricochet off a tombstone to my left, leaving one of my imaginary sidekicks struggling with a wound to the leg. Like any good cowboy would do, I stuck my hat on the barrel of my gun and held it high above my head, in an attempt to draw the ruthless Indian’s fire. I was hoping to determine where the shooter was located. Immediately, another shot rang out and I spotted Chief David.

I now had his location.  I just needed to sneak around the right side, find a new hiding place and get in position for a better shot. I crawled on my belly, staying out of site behind the tombstones. Patiently, I waited for the one clear shot I needed to end this battle. Chief David had no idea where I had gone. I watched him peer out from his hiding place, first to the left and then to the right. He knew I was somewhere, just not which where.

Knowing I had the upper hand, I decided to wait for the next time he stuck his head out to the right. It was the perfect opportunity to take my shot. I lay in the grass, took aim and waited. Finally he stuck his head out and I pulled the trigger on my Sharps buffalo gun—er, okay it was only a Daisy BB gun. In any case, a cry rang out and I knew that I had my revenge. His cry was a signal that my shot had gotten close.  We had always aimed for something nearby, “playing it safe” by not aiming at the person. And we’d signal defeat or surrender by crying out as if we were shot.

Oops, wait a minute—the crying had not stopped.

I got up and ran towards Chief David. He was rolling on the ground with his hands to his face. As I came closer I saw blood running between his fingers and down the side of his cheek. What have I done? Oh my God, I thought, I actually shot him! In a state of shock and panic, I stood over the crying chief, not knowing what to do—and about ready to start crying myself.

In a few seconds, I pulled myself together, bent down and asked if I could see the wound. Chief David was not anxious to remove his hand from his eye, but reluctantly he moved his bloody hand from his face.  I saw his wound, and a new sort of panic and simultaneous relief swiped in to my bones. He was not going to die, and I had not shot his eye out! The bullet had struck him in his eyebrow, just above the left eye.

Now a new dilemma presented itself. As I looked at the wound, I could see the BB just below the surface. After calming Chief David down a little, I explained that if we did not get the BB out and determine a suitable explanation for his wound our parents would more than likely provide us with additional battle scars.

”How are you going to get the BB out?” asked Chief David. I didn’t say anything. Just produced my trusty, rusty pocket knife. Chief David’s face dissolved into fear.

A little poking and a lot of tears later, and out popped the BB. And after keeping pressure on the wound for a while, the bleeding stopped, so we washed the remaining blood off ourselves at the faucet by the school house and manufactured a plausible cover story—something to do with running into a tree branch in the woods.

And yes, we decided that shooting at each other probably wasn’t one of the smartest things we could be doing. Lesson learned.

Thanks, Chief David, for not ratting me out. I appreciate it