Dale Kistemaker

"First Guns" and "Little Guns"

My "First Guns" were Hopalong Cassidy Specials. He was one of the initial TV cowboys of the 1950's and carried matching revolvers. He would simultaneously draw both, shoot the bad guys and twirl and spin the smoking guns back into their elaborate holsters. I desperately wanted the Hopalong Cassidy pistols and holsters but my parents did not want me to have toy guns. Against their wishes, an Aunt and Uncle gave me the set as a present. My parents were furious, but they let me keep the guns because I wanted them so badly. I wore them constantly and practiced my quick draw and spins.

Throughout childhood I was obsessed with miniatures. I had an elaborate model railroad and constantly built model carts. " Little Guns" were my first conscious effort to collect a specific series of objects. I purposely purchased each because they represented key developments in the history of firearms and because they were so detailed. I thought I had the complete set until another boy at school showed me a beautiful .45 caliber automatic. I searched, but couldn't buy it anywhere. He refused to trade for it so my collection was incomplete.

Eventually I wanted a BB gun. Although my father had won marksmanship medals in World War II, he was opposed. Finally he relented but insisted on a full regimen of proper gun training and safety. I was required to treat the BB rifle as though it were a real gun. We often shot at targets together and he was very good. One day he was sitting on the back porch and a flock of blackbirds descended in the yard. I threw a small tin can in their midst but they settled back down. To show my father what a good shot I was I got my rifle and aimed at the can thinking the noise would scare them away. The BB hit the can, ricocheted off and went through the head of a blackbird. It fell over dead and its mate frantically hovered over it while the rest of the flock flew away. I was stunned. I told my father that I never meant to hurt it. He was silent. Then he told me I finally knew about guns. I put the blackbird in a shoe box and together we buried it in the back hedges.

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