The Farm Chronicles: My Shootin’ Shell 45

Of all my favorite toy guns growing up on the farm, the Mattel Shootin’ Shell .45 was the best. It was a realistic pistol modeled after the guns all the cowboys used in the Westerns. Nickel-plated, double action, side-loaded, pretty much like the real thing. It shot these .22-sized bullets. No, not real bullets, but spring-loaded shells accepting a plastic “bullet” that was loaded by pushing the bullet into the shell until it clicked into place. Then there were “greenie stick mini-caps” that were peeled off a stick sheet and stuck unto the shell before loading. When fired, the pistol would sound like a gun, there would be “smoke” from the caps, and you could hit a target with the plastic bullets. How did I know what would happen?

My cousin Steve and I were always playing Cowboys and Indians when we were outside running around the farm. We would have gunfights in the corral. We would hide behind trees in the woods and fight off the bad guys. We would make forts in the hay mow and pretend we were under attack. We even made an old Western town in the back barnyard from some abandoned horse-drawn wagons, an old canvass tarp with poles to make a teepee, and nailed together some boards to make a jail and a saloon. Of course, all this looked much better in our imagination than it did in real life, but it provided hours of fun, work, and entertainment during the summer days.

There was one summer when Dad decided to have the pond dredged out and enlarged. Somehow, he and his Neil Gotham, who had heavy equipment because he owned a sawmill operation, drained the pond and used a bulldozer to widen the pond and create banks. Well, Steve and I thought it was a great opportunity to have a gunfight in the dessert (on the mud-piles that had not yet been pushed to the banks of the pond). I wanted to use my Mattel Shootin’ Shell .45. But the problem was that when you shot the plastic bullets, you would lose them. So I got this idea that I would use .22 shells that were in the light stand drawer in the living room. I loaded up the gun and the shells seemed to fit pretty well.

Steve and I were hiding behind mud piles and he was shooting at me, making the sound of the gun with his voice. I pulled out my Shootin’ Shell and took aim, pulled the trigger and BOOM! That gun went off like a cannon, kicked back so hard it broke the handle, and dirt flew over near where Steve was crouching. We both looked at each other in shock. I didn’t think that it would fire. In fact, I don’t know what I was thinking. Psalm 121:7 says, “The LORD will guard you from all harm, He will watch over your life.” I sure tested that promise. A lesson learned. And my favorite gun, repaired with athletic tape on the handle, was a reminder of God’s protection and how a foolish act could end badly. Like the Mattel commercial said, “Every boy will walk tall when he wears a holster and pistol with a Mattel brand.” That is, if he survives his own stupidity.

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Bill Wilson