Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle
By: Garland Davis
In 1938, the Red Ryder comic strip was first published. Red Ryder and his partner (Boy, the gays have sure changed the meaning of that word) Lil’ Beaver (Always loved that name. Beaver is a furry thing that has always interested me.) were carried by many west coast newspapers and a few of the larger east coast papers. The Red Ryder radio series aired sporadically from 1942 to 1951. A short-lived TV series aired in the early fifties. The Red Ryder company licensed products such as the Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle. This remains the longest continuous license in the history of the global licensing industry. The appeal of the Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle to youngsters was depicted in the Christmas classic film “A Christmas Story,”
Every country boy in North Carolina ached to own a genuine Red Ryder BB rifle. I suspect just as many of my contemporaries in the city also had a strong desire to shoulder the rifle also. I was forced by my parents to wait until I was ten years old to own the gun that won the west. I salivated at the ads on the Red Ryder show. Finally, on Christmas day 1954 I became the last of my friends to own the gun. I received the yearned for Red Ryder Lever Action BB Rifle. So did my eight-year-old and six-year-old brothers.
For some reason, I didn’t think it was fair at all. I had to wait until I was ten, why didn’t they? But in later years, I realized my parents did it to avoid the ensuing crying and tantrums. Both brothers were past masters at crying and whining. After my dad would give them an ass whipping for whining, they would go right back at it in a higher volume. Even when I worked for the money and bought something for myself they would cry and whine until my mother gave in and bought them one also.
Ammunition for the rifles was sold in red cardboard tubes resembling a shotgun shell. Each tube contained 100 BB’s and cost five cents, although they could be bought in multipacks of six tubes for twenty-five cents. I learned early on to not take advantage of the multipacks and only buy one pack at a time otherwise my brothers, being out of BB’s, would piss and moan until my mother made me share.
My mom had been blinded in one eye at two years old in an accident. She warned us stringently and almost daily that a BB could “put an eye out.” I took it to heart and never “fired” my rifle at anyone. I cannot say the same for one brother. Make him mad and he would shoot. I tell you BB’s sting like a mother. I could usually run and duck away before he could get a second shot off. If he was out of BB’s, he was a dead eye with a throwing rock.
For a couple of summers, there wasn’t a bottle or jar (except for those bottles with a two cents deposit return.) that didn’t come into our sights. Nor was there a bird in Western North Carolina that was safe. We slaughtered them by the score. An act that I now regret and hope that I am forgiven for one day.
For a couple of summers, we were in the woods almost daily with our BB rifles searching for anything that looked as if needed to be shot at, which was almost everything that came into view. We would make a day of it. We would pack our normal lunch of peanut butter sandwiches. I would always try to sneak away to prevent my brothers from tagging along, sometimes going out the window of my room.
It was summer and no self-respecting southern boy wore shoes in the summer. Of course, we ran through the woods barefooted. There was the day I should have learned a painful lesson about unloaded and uncocked guns. I am fortunate that it was only a BB rifle. We had stopped to eat. I knew I had not recocked my rifle since the last time I fired it. I was sitting on the ground with my back to a dead fall and my legs stretched out in front of me. I had placed the muzzle of the rifle against the top of my right foot. Knowing that it wasn’t cocked, I pulled the trigger shooting a BB about a quarter inch into the top of my foot.
SIDEBAR: Believe it or not, three years later I did the same thing with an “unloaded and uncocked” twenty-two caliber rifle and shot a twenty-two short through my foot. The BB hurt worse. END SIDEBAR
I knew that if my mom discovered that I had shot myself I would end up unarmed and with an ass whipping from my dad. I gritted my teeth and dug the BB out with my pocket knife. I told my mom that I had gotten hung up on a discarded piece of barbed wire. Fortunately for me that neither of my brothers was with us that day. I sometimes believe that some of the greatest joys of their childhood was an opportunity to rat me out to Mom and Dad.
NOTE: The Daisy Red Ryder 1938B Air Rifle is still manufactured, the identical BB rifle that I received for Christmas sixty-one years ago. I noted with interest that a BB gun cannot be ordered on-line for delivery in North Carolina.