The Way It Was – The toy gun


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

Someone recently asked me about the photograph that is used in the header of these columns, the one in which I am holding a toy gun. He asked if there is anything special about that photo. There really isn’t anything special. I just wanted a photo that reflected the 1930s, and that photo was taken in 1937, when I was five years old.
The photograph was actually shot on a Sunday morning when I got home from Sunday school. My mother wanted to take my picture in my “Sunday clothes.” I agreed to the photo, but only if she let me hold the new toy shotgun my dad had just bought for me.
You see, my dad was an avid pheasant hunter, and he was also a stickler on “gun safety.” He knew that someday I would also be hunting, and it was never too early to start teaching me some basic safety lessons.
For example, he told me that a lot of hunting accidents result from simple things, like climbing a fence with a loaded gun. He drilled into me that I should never do that. Instead, I should break open the gun and remove the shotgun shell. Then I could climb the fence, and only then should I reload the gun.
He also told me that many hunting accidents occur while loading a gun. He said that I should never load my gun until I was in the field where I was going to hunt. He showed me how to hold the gun while loading it, and where to point it. And I learned all this, using that small toy gun in the photo.
My dad really practiced what he preached about gun safety. And he never let the fun of pheasant hunting get in the way of safety considerations. It is ironic, therefore, that a strange thing happened on one hunting trip sometime in the early 1940s.
My dad had a relative named Phil. He was quite a bit older than I was, and the two of them often went fishing and hunting together. So Phil was also a graduate of my dad’s “gun safety” training. It was sometime in November, and the two of them were planning a Saturday pheasant hunting trip.
Then on Friday night, my dad got a phone call from a man named Roland. He said he heard about the planned Saturday hunting trip. He asked if he could go along for he hadn’t been hunting in years. So my dad said he would pick him up in the morning. I really didn’t know Roland, but I think he was also related somehow to my dad.
On Saturday morning, the three of them climbed into our 1937 Ford, and headed for the fields. Phil and my dad sat in front, while Roland sat alone in the backseat. Phil’s shotgun, along with my dad’s, was in the trunk of the car, but Roland had his with him in the backseat.
As they approached the farm where they would hunt, my dad slowed the car to pull off the road where they would park. Unbeknownst to him, Roland thought he would load his shotgun. (He had apparently never attended my dad’s gun safety training.)
The muzzle of Roland’s 12-gauge shotgun was only five or six inches behind my dad’s head. It was pointed toward the side of the car. And then, while the car was still moving, the shotgun discharged. The shell struck the panel between the front and back window on the driver’s side of the car. It blew a hole about the size of a golf ball all the way through the steel panel and out the other side.
If you have ever shot a 12-gauge shotgun in the field, you know how loud it is. But when you are enclosed in a car with all the windows rolled up, that sound is magnified many times … especially if the muzzle is only a few inches from your ear. My dad couldn’t hear beans for several days, and he had a ringing in his left ear even longer.
Needless to say, the hunting trip was over, and they all went home. A week or so later, my dad took the car to a repair shop, but he didn’t have the work done for a few months. I think he wanted me to see the hole over and over again. That was a great way to impress on me how important gun safety was.
Phil and my dad continued to hunt together for years, but I don’t think he ever again went hunting with Roland. I can’t blame him for that. I mean, how comfortable can you be when you are hunting with someone who blew a hole all the way through the side of your car?
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