Personal Website for TED HENRY

Not A Christmas Story

Red Ryder BB Gun

Do you remember that movie A Christmas Story which featured among other things a Red Ryder BB gun? Well this is my Thanksgiving story involving the same BB gun well before that movie was made.

There have been many Thanksgiving dinners and most have receded into the dustbins of memory. But this one I still remember. I was pretty young here but old enough to roam the farm and walk the tracks to the Walla Walla River. I had free rein to wander at a young age, possibly because I could reliably stay out of trouble. It was a cold, bleak, windy Thanksgiving day and the house was getting crowded with a throng of relatives coming from all around, some from Spokane, Vancouver, and of course my family from Portland. Even though there was a crowd there weren’t any kids my age. No worries. The Springer and I were perfectly happy doing our thing outdoors. The dog loved my visits because we did cool stuff together and because while I was there he was unclipped from his dog run (a sliding leash on a long clothes line). It was always a treat going to the farm.

The dog and I headed off the half mile or so down the tracks to the river to throw rocks, shoot the BB gun or just mess around. Nearing the trestle over the river was a large pile of tumble weeds and I could see that the dog was intent on something in that pile. I was thinking, oh great, not another skunk or porcupine incident.

I approached cautiously not wanting to get sprayed. After a long period of looking at it from different angles I finally saw the head of a cock pheasant frozen in position in the middle of that pile. Now I could hit a ping pong ball thrown in the air so I had a good chance with that stationary target. But my toy gun could barely pierce one side of a cardboard box. Chicken-feed stealing house sparrows are one thing but a full grown pheasant is quite another. My only hope was to bean him in the head and that’s the only clear shot I had anyway.

It was a perfect shot, sort of. It was enough to momentarily scramble the birds balance which resulted in an explosion of ineffective flapping and that hard headed undisciplined dog dove on it. I knew he would commence to eating that bird so I dropped my gun and wrestled it away from him. I had two feet in one hand, the neck in the other while holding the bird over my head with the dog pogo sticking beside me trying to retrieve his prize. I set off scurrying down the tracks with the dog going nuts beside me. I had quite a ways to go.

At the back door to the screened-in porch I proceeded to kick repeatedly on the door frame trying to get some attention. After all, I couldn’t let go with one hand to open the door without losing the bird to the dog. After awhile my grandmother opened the door just as the dog finally knocked me down. The pheasant got loose and improbably flew through the now open door, through the porch, through the kitchen and into the dining and living rooms full of people and tables set with food. It was chaos with a squawking bird dropping shit and feathers everywhere and bouncing from window to window. Even worse my grandmother was chasing after it with a broom. Presently my grandfather came in, took stock of the situation, trapped the bird against a window, and dispatched it instantly. He was impressively skilled like that. He turned to me and said evenly “why did you bring it into the house?” not how on earth did you bring home a live pheasant. I explained the circumstances and everything settled down while spilled food and feathers were cleaned up. I can tell you that as dinner proceeded people closely examined what was on their plate to make sure there wasn’t any suspicious white and black stuff.