By James Mack Adams
It’s that time of year again. Word on the street is that Santa Clause, aka Kris Kringle, aka Father Christmas, aka St. Nicholas is loading his sleigh and mapping out his route for his annual Christmas Eve journey. NORAD is synchronizing its tracking systems to monitor his progress. One of his stops will surely be Rock Creek Road. I am counting on it. I hope I made the cut for his “good list” this year.
Like countless Christmases past, I am looking forward to once again watching one of my favorite Christmas movies, “A Christmas Story.” I suppose it will air once again on some cable channel. It will be downright un-American if it doesn’t. I have lost count of the number of times I have viewed it since it came out in 1983. It’s one of those movies, like “Patton” and “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” that I never tire of watching.
I suppose the biggest draw for me is the fact I seem to have something in common with Ralphie, the oldest child in the movie’s fictional Parker family. Number one on Ralphie’s Christmas wish list was that Santa bring to him a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range-model air rifle with a compass and a sundial in the stock.
His mother, his teacher and even the department store Santa tried to discourage him in his request. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” they warned him. Well, Ralphie got his Red Ryder air rifle that Christmas. He didn’t shoot his eye out, but his first BB shot ricocheted off a metal sign and knocked his glasses off. He probably thought he had been blinded.
I guess that by now you see where this is going. I judge I was about Ralphie’s age, nine years old or so, when Santa left under the tree … you guessed it … a beautiful Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range-model air rifle. I was ecstatic. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It didn’t have a compass and sundial in the stock, but apparently those additions were dreamed up by the movie’s writers and were not standard for the real rifle.
From what I can find out from Google, the Red Ryder air rifle was introduced sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was designed to resemble the Winchester lever-action rifle seen in a lot of Western movies. Since I was a huge fan of Western movies, I could not imagine receiving a better Christmas present.
I will put your mind at ease before going any further. Both of my eyes are intact. No one said to me, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Not even my mother cautioned me about that possibility. That was uncharacteristic of her since she was still telling me to be careful crossing the street when I was thirty-something years of age. Mom did lecture me about the responsibility of owning such a weapon. She told me that if she ever caught me shooting at birds, squirrels, or any other of God’s creatures she would immediately confiscate my beautiful Red Ryder 200-shot carbine-action range-model air rifle.
I can truthfully say I never even considered harming any living creature. I honed my marksmanship skills by shooting at glass bottles, tin cans and other inanimate objects. My father was in law enforcement during parts of his working life. There were usually unsecured firearms around the house, but I knew better than to fool with them. I was a young recruit in the Tennessee National Guard when I fired my first real gun. It was the old M1 rifle. Older military vets probably remember that one. I do believe my practice with my beautiful Red Ryder lever-action 200-shot range-model air rifle contributed to my future marksmanship abilities in the military.
I have no idea what finally happened to my beautiful Red Ryder lever-action 200-shot range-model air rifle. Like other childhood possessions, I suppose it was either discarded, given away, or disappeared in one of our family relocations. Memory can become somewhat hazy over time.
My second most memorable Christmas gift from Santa came a few years after my beautiful Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range-model air rifle. It was a beautiful red 1940’s-era Schwinn bicycle. Again, I was thrilled. My feelings at that time could compare to an adult finally getting that shiny new car he or she has been wanting.
Further research tells me the Schwinn brand has been around since 1895 and the Schwinn company was the dominant manufacturer of bicycles in the 20th century. This was of course before the appearance on the market of the multiple-speed bicycle. My beautiful red 1940s-era Schwinn bicycle had but one speed. Breaking was accomplished by backpedaling. A little variety was added to the bike riding enjoyment by placing a piece of cardboard between the spokes to simulate the sound of a motor.
My beautiful red 1940s-era Schwinn bicycle was my main mode of transportation during several years of my youth. We did not have a family car for much of that time, so I had to either ride my bike or walk everywhere I went.
Like my beautiful Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range-model air rifle, I have no idea what happened to my beautiful red 1940s-era Schwinn bicycle.
As I write this column, I am not yet sure what I want Santa to bring to me this year. I’m certain I can come up with something I absolutely cannot live without. Santa will have a real challenge topping my beautiful Red Ryder carbine-action range-model 200-shot air rifle and my beautiful red 1940s-era Schwinn bicycle.