A couple of days ago, Beverly sent me this picture of my dad doing a little target practice with his trusty cap gun.
My first thought was, "Awww, Dad with his cap gun." My second thought was, "What's up with those pants?" Seriously, who dressed him in dad pants as a little boy? Almost every picture I have of him as a youth shows him wearing dad pants.
Almost every picture I have of him as a dad shows him wearing dad pants.
Maybe he was just very long waisted. Or high waisted. Or whatever. He always wore the dad pants. When he wasn't wearing boxer shorts, that is. Which is also a very dad thing to do.
Anyway, back to my story. This is my dad as a boy doing a little target practice with his trusty cap gun.
When my dad died back in 1995, my sister was home on leave from the Navy, and my brother came home on emergency leave from the Army. I had three days of funeral leave from work, but I took a couple more days off. I'd have loved to take things a bit more slowly, but due to time constraints, we kind of had to sort through his things in a hurry. Before we started, my aunt cautioned us not to fight over his stuff.
"Stuff is just stuff," she said.
And we didn't. We didn't fight over anything. A few weeks later, when we got his life insurance payout, it ended up being a bit more than we expected. I was telling a coworker about it, and she asked, "Who got the money?" I told her we'd split it four ways, and she acted like she'd never heard of such a thing. But why wouldn't we? I can't imagine not splitting it evenly amongst us. Is my brother less my dad's child than I am? Is my sister more my dad's child then my other brother? Why then would only one of us get all the money?
But I digress. We started sorting through his things, and the way we did it was this:
We'd pull out an item and if only one of us wanted it, then that person got it. If only two of us were interested, those two would flip a coin. For the things that held a lot of sentimental value that all of us might have wanted, we laid out a grid on the floor and numbered each square from one to four. Because there are four of us. We'd set one item in each square and then draw numbers from a hat. Whatever number you got was the memento you received. It was the fairest way we could think of to do it.
I didn't say anything at the time, but I really, really wanted that cap gun.
During the round when said cap gun was laid out in the square, I reached into the hat, silently praying, "Please let me get the cap gun. Please let me get the cap gun". When the numbers had been revealed and the dust settled, I didn't get the cap gun. I ended up with Dad's pipe stand. Imagine Charlie Brown saying "I got a rock," and you will understand the tone and inflection I used when I said, "I got the pipe stand." At almost the same time, my older brother --with the same tone and inflection --said, "I got the cap gun."
I looked at Russell. He looked at me, and I said, "Want to trade?" He did, so we did, and we were both happy. It was then that I told my siblings the reason I wanted Dad's cap gun so badly. It was because of a story he'd told me once, and it is my favorite of the stories he told me about his childhood.
That is the story I am going to tell you now.
When my dad was a boy, thirteen years old, he was out at his Aunt Annie's house. I know they'd lived with Aunt Annie for a while, but I don't know if this was then, or if they were just visiting. Dad was dressed up in his cowboy outfit, and had been playing in the front yard. He sat down on the front steps and was watching the chickens scratching in the dirt.
Just then, out of the sky swooped a chicken hawk, talons extended, ready to grab a helpless hen. Reacting swiftly, my dad whipped out his cap gun and shot the hawk. Of course, being only a cap gun, the hawk was unharmed, but the noise frightened it away, and the chicken was saved.
Dad was so proud that he'd saved Aunt Annie's chicken.
My dad was born in 1926, and spent his formative years during the Great Depression. He didn't have a lot of toys, so it's no wonder he took such good care of that cap gun, and the holster he carried it in. I have it now, carefully packed away, and I'll always treasure it.
And my dad went by the nickname Cowboy for the rest of his life.