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BB Gun - A Weapon of Mass Destruction
by Don Drewniak

During a three-year span in my pre-teenage years, I lived with my parents in a duplex located a quarter-mile north of the Tucker Street Dump in Fall River, Massachusetts. My three best friends lived a stone's throw to the east. All four of us owned Red Ryder BB guns.

We journeyed to the dump with our Red Ryders shortly before dusk about once a week, weather permitting. The attraction? Rats. We positioned ourselves opposite the setting Sun with a mound of garbage and trash between the Sun and us.

Shooting began as soon as a rat's silhouette appeared on top of the mound. To conserve BBs, the rule was one shot each per rat. When a rat was hit, it almost invariably sprang one or two feet into the air before disappearing. Then came the argument as to which one of us made the hit.

The rifle ended up unused in a corner of a basement subsequent to our family moving to a different part of Fall River. My father eventually sold it and handed me a one-dollar bill (the equivalent of $11.28 as of this writing). He never revealed how much he kept.

Leaping over decades, we come to this past September when I was shopping at Vargas, the mega-hardware store here in Atenas, Costa Rica. I passed by a locked glass case that had two pellet guns in it.

Memory of the glory days of rat hunting flashed into my consciousness. I asked one of the employees who spoke English if the store sold BB guns. (My Spanish vocabulary is extremely limited.)

“We have them on order. They should be here next week.”

I ordered one (hand gun) and checked in once a week over the next five weeks, only to get the same response, “Next week.”

Near the beginning of November, I made the colossal mistake of telling my wife, Dolores, I had a BB gun on order.

“You what?” she shouted.

“I ordered a BB gun from Vargas.”

“There will be no guns in this house!”

“It's just a BB gun. I'm only going to use it for target practice.”

“There will be no weapons of mass destruction in this house!”

“A weapon of mass destruction? It couldn't kill anything bigger than a mouse.”

I tossed in the towel after a few more exchanges and walked away saying, “You win.” I canceled the order.

We move on to mid-December when Dolores returned from visiting a neighbor. “I told Jennifer (name changed to protect the innocent) about your wanting a BB gun.”

Still pouting, I questioned, “So?” in a less than pleasant tone.

“Ted (her husband/name changed) has a BB gun and a real gun.”


“I apologize. Buy your gun.”

“No thank you.”

“Don't be a baby.”

I went to Vargas a few days later only to find out that they still hadn't received the BB guns. As a result, I ordered one from Amazon knowing that it would most likely not arrive here until early January. It's a long story as to why it takes two-to-three weeks to get items shipped from the States to Costa Rica.

My daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons (ages twenty-one and fifteen) spent Christmas in Las Vegas. They returned two days after the 25th to their home in Maryland. Dolores and I flew in the next day.

Gifts were exchanged that evening. We gave our grandsons what we knew they most wanted – cash. The oldest is a junior in college, the youngest a high school sophomore. They laughed throughout when their ancient grandparents gave their versions of the weapon of mass destruction.

The “kids” approached me the next afternoon and asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to Walmart. Off we went in my oldest grandson's pick-up truck.

Once in the store, I followed them up to the second floor and through a bevy of aisles until they found their target, a locked glass case containing both BB and pellet guns. They examined the merchandise for ten minutes or so before flagging down an employee who opened the case and pulled out an elongated box with a Barra 1866 CO2 Air Rifle (BB gun) in it.

I couldn't resist as I pulled my cellphone out of a pocket and took a few photos of them each holding one end of the box. Off went one of the photos to Dolores. Zap!

Needless to say, she was not overjoyed when we returned to the house with the Barra 1866. After unpacking the new weapon of mass destruction, off the three of us went to the backyard where we took turns blowing holes though an empty gallon plastic container.

Decades earlier in college, my closest friends nicknamed me “The Drewn.” On occasions when I did something right, I would hear “Score one for The Drewn.” It was a “Score one for The Drewn” afternoon.

My BB gun arrived ten days into January. With it were a packet containing about a hundred BBs, two CO2 cartridges, four pages of microscopic directions and a pair of plastic glasses to protect eyes from ricocheting BBs.

Called to mind by the glasses was the classic 1983 film, A Christmas Story, specifically the “You'll shoot your eye out” scene. For those not familiar with the movie, there are several YouTube clips centered on a BB gun worth the watch.

“Directions? Who needs them?” I pulled the cover away from the handle and as I suspected, there was a slot for a CO2 cartridge. After loosening a plastic screw at the base, I inserted one of the cartridges and began tightening the screw only to jump about a foot in the air when a loud hissing sound accompanied the release of some CO2 from the cartridge.

Rather than try to read the directions that would have entailed using a magnifying glass, I found two clips on YouTube that said the release of a small amount of CO2 was necessary to break the seal and allow the CO2 to power the BBs.

One down, one to go. I ejected the magazine. It included a track in which to house the BBs.

Piece of cake.

I filled the track with twenty of them and pushed the magazine back into place.

It was off to the backyard to test my latest toy. After releasing the safety, I took aim at one of dozens of morning glories covering a wall that separates our property from that of a neighbor. Nothing but clicking sounds accompanied each pulling of the trigger. That was it. No loud firing sound. No holes in the morning glories.

Back to YouTube. The one and only video I watched began with the release of the magazine and pulling back a spring before inserting BBs.

A spring? Who knew?

“No problem,” I said to my wife's cat who was watching my every move. “All I have to do, Furnando, is put the magazine over a bowl, turn it upside-down and watch the BBs succumb to gravity.”

Furnando yawned.

Clink, clink, clink... Out dropped sixteen BBs. Four defied gravity. Shaking the magazine failed to dislodge them.

When I inserted the BBs, unbeknownst to me at the time was that I had dropped them on top of the spring. Four were stuck in it. Trying to get them out using needle-nose pliers, a magnet and several jackknife blades yielded no results.

Furnando was sleeping.

I then tried prying one of them out using the tip of a thin, three-inch nail. Eureka! Out sailed a BB. It was on to a second BB. Out it came, but only a half-inch as I dislodged a small section of the spring thereby destroying it. I had no recourse but to place an order for a packet of two magazines with Amazon and wait another two or three weeks for them to reach Atenas.

Dolores figured something was amiss when she realized I wasn't attacking the morning glories or anything else in our yard. While she made no comments when I told her my BB gun tale of woe, I'm sure she quietly enjoyed a good laugh.

During the interval, I built a 2-foot by 2-foot by 2-foot box made out of plywood. One side was left open. I stacked ten empty aluminum cans inside the box in a 4-3-2-1 pyramid shape from bottom to top, The reason? To recycle the fired BBs that landed on the bottom of the box, and not scattered and difficult to find in the jungle-thick undergrowth of the morning glory plants.

Target day. The magazines arrived nine days into the new year. It must have been wind gusts that made me miss hitting any of the cans with my first nine shots. It was then that I thought I heard Dolores say from inside a nearby window (probably to Furnando), “Couldn't hit the side of a barn door.”