Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Youth: What every young cowboy needs: a Chinese air rifle. What could possibly go wrong?

In the old Clayfield Shopping Centre was the Clayfield Toy and Hobby store. Owned by a WW2 vet (he was a radio mechanic in the Pacific) and his lovely wife. Many times he repaired punctures on my bike, supplied a cornucopia of accessories for it as well as selling me flying balsa models and the magic Taipan Glo Plug engines to power them. Herb's shop was an Aladdin's Cave for this young man.

And.. he sold air rifles.

Chinese made and beautifully finished with magic wooden stocks.

Now in my last year at primary school, John Montefiore had a daisy air gun. WOW! Wouldn't I like one of those!

So come my grade 8 year, I decided that target shooting with an air rifle would be just the ticket! Even mother thought it would be OK as her older brother had one as a kid. Good one Uncle Bill!

Down to Herb's magic shop and he has them. $13.75 they cost. So I put one on laybye (still have the card somewhere)  and started saving money. A few weeks later.. it was mine! However, in QLD back then while you didn't need a gun licence, you had to be 17 to own a gun. So Herb delivered the gun to my mother! I still can see his little VW Beetle parking outside our house and him walking up the front path to hand the box to mum. She handed it to me and said.. "Don't shoot yourself.. or anyone else!"

Inside that box was this magical gun wrapped in grease proof paper. Beautifully oiled and ready for action.

How much fun was this? Loads of fun!

So let's try it out.

Under our house I had built a rough shooting range with the target mounted under our front steps. As the steps were made of cement, the pellets could not travel any further and cause harm. An old "Dandy" ham tin mounted on a board upright, housed a small kerosene light to throw some light on my target. With a box of Marksman Pellets.. it was show time.

A box of Marksman pellets. Let's try this sucker out!

And with the fullness of time & with instructions from older brother Viv, I came to be a good shot with that gun.

So.. Bruce Vaughan my old mate came to acquire one as well.. as did Russell who had a Russian made air rifle.

This went well.. until we got bored.......

So we would take our guns down to the back of Nudgee Road to give them a real try out. There was all manner of old crap left over from the war still there. Old signs, various bits of tin etc.. all good targets for the likes of us! Bruce and Russell would tie their guns to their bikes; mine had a sling, so over the shoulder it went as we peddled along the back streets of Hendra.

Can you imagine doing that now?

Three teenagers riding along with rifles on their bikes?

Straight to jail; do not pass go!

Around this time my mother had an issue with cane toads that were invading our place. No problems mum.. I'll shoot them.

So I stood over a toad and aimed straight down onto his head... bang!

Pellet away... bounced off his skull and came back to hit me in the forehead! Jesus! Could have lost an eye! So a different approach to aiming was devised and every night around 9:00 PM I would be out the front. Mum would hold the torch and I would despatch the toads with a little lead poison! Some nights we would cull 15 or 16. These days I get around 1 toad a night.. and no air gun!

But back to the 60s....

So one lazy summer's Saturday afternoon I am at Bruce's house and we are looking for something to shoot at! (We had tried phone books, drink cans, bottles, plastic models.. you name it.. we shot it!) On the outside wall of their work shed was a small blackboard.

I carefully drew a target on it in chalk and then took aim... fire!

Bull's Eye.

Followed in a heart beat  afterwards by a scream of pain and then Bruce's Grandfather appearing out of the shed holding his neck! Shit! The pellet went right through the wall and hit him!

I was in big trouble!

Mrs Vaughan wouldn't let me take my gun over there for a month after that!

We also went to brother Viv's place at Clear Mountain with our guns.. but he would drag out his Hornet and taught us how to shoot with it! A real gun! Much more fun than an air rifle. I still remember shooting the side of an old tin shed at Viv's with the air gun. Take aim, fire.. lower the gun and then wait for the clang of pellet against the side of the shed!

So what happened to that gun?

Well as my interest in motorbikes, girls, cars, girls, motorbikes and girls took hold.. it stayed all wrapped up in an oiled cloth under my bed. And then one day when I was about 17 or 18 my old school chum Charlie Cleator asked me if I still had it.. cash changed hands and it was gone.

Poor old Charlie died 10 years ago this June.. and whenever I think of him.. I wonder where that gun is now!

I could use it on those toads!

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