It's Christmas Eve, and for the last several years my family has gathered around the TV set to watch the classic film "A Christmas Story," which TBS shows continuously for 24 hours. If you've never seen the film, it centers around a young boy in suburban Indiana who wants a BB gun for Christmas, only to be warned at every turn that "you'll shoot your eye out."
My own Christmas story is somewhat similar. It's 1959, prime time TV is loaded with westerns and Saturday morning kids TV is loaded with ads for the latest and greatest toy gun: the Mattel Winchester carbine. Oh, this was one cool gun. It required loading the shells - plastic cartridges - and when you pumped the lever after each shot, it would eject the cartridge, just like a real gun. If you bought the Mattel "Greenie Stick-em Caps" to apply to each cartridge, you'd also get that explosive "bang" with each shot.
Well, I wanted one of those guns in the worst way. It was at the top of my list, and I figured it would be a gimme. Automatic, The folks would spring for one, and that would be that.
Christmas morning rolled around and down the stairs I flew. I immediately spotted a box that was long and skinny; just like the box I'd seen in the toy store. I ripped open the wrapping and there it was. Or, there it wasn't.
What was in the box was a toy gun, but not the Mattel Winchester. No, it was more like a bolt-action toy Army-type gun. Yes, the bolt-action worked, but other than that, it didn't do anything. I'd describe it most accurately by saying it was a two-by-four with a length of black pipe stapled to it. The trigger was fixed and unless you yelled "Bang" yourself, it made no noise.
Was I disappointed? Obviously.
Now, I got a bunch of other stuff that Christmas, including a Rawlings Playmaker Duke Snider glove and a Wilson Smokey Burgess catcher's mitt, plus the usual selection of socks, sweaters and pajamas all kids get - and quickly toss back under the tree - at Christmas.
Here's the thing: I never played with that gun. I stuck it in a closet, and there it stayed, unused, for probably five or six years, until my mother asked me if I wanted it or whether she she could give it to Goodwill. In addition to not playing with it, I basically gave up on playing cowboy, or soldier, or anything else that required a weapon. Maybe my parents knew what they were doing, but after we got into the decade of the 1960s, I became more interested in things like baseball and rock 'n' roll.
I'm sure everyone has a similar story about Christmas past, but watching Ralphie's machinations on "A Christmas Story" brought to mind my own yuletide gun tale.
Of course, Ralphie got his gun.
(I'll have something on the National-A's deal later.)