Monday, August 28, 2006

Values– part 1

by Tom Gaylord

I looked like a Russian commissar in that picture, with my peasant cap, long field coat and canvas leggings. Actually, my aunt made that outfit for me, and she decorated it with insignia from old army field units. But she never quite got the look of the coat right, in my mind. I was supposed to be a cavalryman on a western outpost, but I guess she took that to mean the steppes of Siberia.

Everybody asks me who the dog is, but I can’t remember. He just came up as the picture was taken. I don’t remember him at all, but I suppose he lived close by.

I shouldn't complain about Aunt Olive, either, because in many ways she was like a mother to me. My real mother died shortly after I was born, so I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle until my father could take care of me. Apparently that never happened because I only saw him at holidays, and just for a little while then.

But life was good, nevertheless. My Uncle Don owned a farm in upstate New York, and I grew up among the salt of the earth. By the time I was ten, I could handle a team, bale hay all day and work alongside any full-grown man. Not that I had to, mind you. My aunt and uncle took good care of me, as though I was their own. They had a son who died in the Great War, and I think I sort of took his place when I came to live with them.

Aunt Olive was a strict disciplinarian who was feared by most of the kids in our neighborhood, but she was always soft on me for some reason. In fact, she made that tent I was playing in, and she used real heavy canvas material in it. It was waterproof in all but a downpour, and many a night I slept outside in it with just my dog, Harvey, to keep me company.

The BB gun was a hand-me-down from someone in the community. I never learned exactly who. There wasn't a lot of money in those days, and new Daisy or King BB guns cost several dollars apiece, which was money we didn't have. But someone had that old Columbian model M laying around and I guess they figured a young boy could put it to some good use. And that was the truth!

Although it was partly broken and would no longer feed BBs, it worked perfectly well when a single BB was dropped down the barrel. It shot hard and straight, and the nickel plate that was still on it was as bright as the day it was made. It out-shot the few Daisys in our neighborhood, except for a new pump gun that was its equal. The kid that owned that gun was from a rich family who gave him whatever he wanted, so there was no way of my keeping up with him. Except for one thing. He liked my gun—a lot. He thought it looked like a real western gun while his looked like a Winchester .22 from a shooting gallery. I tormented him about that whenever possible, of course.


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