3I Adventures with Guns: He Really Did Shoot his Eye Out

August 1, 2007

Some children, such as my junior high classmate, Jackie, grew up with real guns and learned to shoot at real bullets at an early age. (That is not a typing error, as you shall see.) Other children, like me, grow up with pacifist grandmothers, such as my father’s mother, Agnes, who abhorred letting children play with toy guns and other “war toys.”

As a teenager, I was much influenced by the humorist Jean Shepherd. I’ve been watching Seinfeld videos lately, and I was amused to read that this very successful comedian lists Shepherd as one of his biggest influences.

At the inception of World War II, my father joined the army. Besides having a patriotic motivation to defend his country, I suspect he was moved by a desire to get away from his mother and to “stick it in her eye” (as the saying goes) by becoming a soldier. As he was sent to India to defend it against a Japanese attack that never came, he did get a long way away.

After WWII, my father’s sister, Naomi, who had dreams of being a ballerina (and did dance in the chorus line of a road company production of the musical, Oklahoma), moved to California, perhaps to seek her fortune as a dancer in films. She may also have been trying to get away from her mother as well.

After my father demobilized, following the lead of his sister, he took my mother and me (now five years old) to California, perhaps still fleeing Agnes. I have a slight recollection of crossing the Rocky Mountains as we rode the train across the continental divide.

After they got to California, they took me to a pony farm that took photographs of children sitting on little steeds. I once saw the picture taken at that time showing me sitting on a pony dressed in a cowboy outfit with two little cap guns in holsters strapped to my waist. They sent this picture of me to Grandma Agnes, who predictably “had a cow.”

Shepherd did a variety of work in radio, television, print, and movies. He is best known for his work in the movie, A Christmas Story, a movie based on his writing and which he narrated. The young hero of the movie, Ralphie, desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite warnings from adults that he will “shoot his eye out.”

When I was a junior high school student in the small Orange County, California town of Brea, I did not own a BB gun, though I remember wanting one.

My classmate, Jackie, whose father was a hunter, did own a BB gun. One day he stole a real bullet from his Dad’s ammunition supply, placed it into a cleft in a tree, and began firing at it with his BB gun. He hit it; the bullet exploded and launched itself, hitting Jackie in the eye. As this took place around 1955, I have no documentation to back this up, but it really happened.

Jackie survived, and eventually came back to school with a glass eye. We (his fellow classmates) were much impressed. Years later, it occurs to me that with his talent for making “bank shots,” Jackie could perhaps have become a great pool shark, perhaps known as “One Eye Jackie.” On the other hand, with only one eye, his depth perception might have been forever ruined, perhaps making “One Shot Wonder Jackie” a better nickname for him.

Adventures with guns will continue


8 Responses to “3I Adventures with Guns: He Really Did Shoot his Eye Out”

  1. janie Says:

    Are there really going to be 31 of these? (Not that I didn’t like it–very well-written.)

    My mother-part immediately shifts into gear, takes over, and is appalled that Jackie’s father–a hunter, even–had not better instructed him in gun respect, as my own hunter father did me.

  2. modestypress Says:

    There will be Thirty-Eye stories, not all as well-written, though thank you for the compliment.

    Although many parents strive mightily to instruct their children in all kinds of respectful behavior, sometimes they miss.

  3. janie Says:

    “Although many parents strive mightily to instruct their children in all kinds of respectful behavior, sometimes they miss.”

    Yes, isn’t that the truth? Me, too. My mother-part unfortunately contains delusions of being in control.

  4. renaissanceguy Says:

    I met a boy with a glass eye. His brother and he were playing around with a gun of some kind, and the brother accidentally shot him. Imagine the guilt he felt!

    Seeing that kid with the glass eye gave me a serious lesson in caution. I have been safety-conscious ever since.

  5. Cameron Says:

    Like your classmate, I can remember my grandfather patiently teaching me how to shoot a .22 rifle as a small child (7 or 8 years old). He even had to put a sandbag against my shoulder for the recoil. However, he was a complete fanatic about gun safety–I wasn’t allowed outside when his buddies would come over for target practice, we always wore ear protection, I wasn’t allowed to pretend shooting a gun with my pointed finger, etc.

    Any rabbit success?

  6. modestypress Says:

    After reading your comments, I feel very safe on my blog. I consider it very unlikely that I will be shot accidentally by any of my readers.

  7. jaredmclaughlin Says:

    I grew up with a BB gun. As a matter of fact, I just got it from my father’s gun this past year to keep. He treated that little rifle like the real thing. It was locked up with the regular rifles, and I had to ask permission to get it out. I also informed him when it was returned, and what I planned on doing with it. Firearms are very much a part of the background noise in my family. I never shot my eye out.

  8. Ela Says:

    my childhood included movies about wild west and indians, so I did the dance and the wild callings of the natives. I killed a wild rabbit once, without a gun though, but first, I have to say, what I really wanted was to save him, gave him cow milk to drink and he got some kind of seizures , so I was ‘ordered’ to kill it to end his suffering. hm, how is it that as kids, we just do it? Mind the fact that my grandparents were farmers, so killing animals such as chicken and seeing it running without the head sometimes, was kind of normal..

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