Christmas Rifle

Christmas Rifle
By K. L. Jamison


When I was born, Mom decided that I would grow up without so much as a toy gun. She was foiled in this desire. If I used an official Davey Crocket rifle or a stick and shouted “bang,” the effect was the same. Even so, it was a great surprise that Christmas when a real .22 rifle was found under the tree.


My father had noted my interest and decided that I would learn under supervision, rather than allow my elementary curiosity to lead me into mischief. He took me to buy the first box of ammunition with the warning that loaded or not, the muzzle had to be pointed in a safe direction. For a long time I put more cleaning patches than ammunition through the little gun. Then my Uncle Vernon came to visit. Uncle Vernon, an avid hunter, took me into the woods where we found a bluff of soft dirt to prop up targets of convenience. A small trickle of water made intermittent attempts to erode one side of the bank. My uncle eyed the stream with caution. We’re not supposed to shoot at water,” he warned.“Bullets skip off water like flat stones across a pond.”

He said “we,” including me in the adult world for the first time.

The safety lesson associated with it emphasized that manhood had its responsibilities. Later the Boy Scouts would provide more structured gun safety lessons and the Army would provide a more structured group, which demanded that larger guns be pointed in a safe direction.

Twenty years after that first lesson my first semester of law school left me with little time to shoot the old gun. Christmas, exams, and the birth of my first child approached with nearly equal speed. My son was born in time to come home in a red Christmas stocking. He was placed under the Christmas tree for a round of pictures while I went into my closet for the old .22. I placed the rifle in my heir’s crib. “This is yours,” I told him, as I slipped the bolt into my pocket. “But first; we always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction . . .”

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