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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Pellet Gun

June 7th, 2007

Some lessons we learn the hard way. 

When I was a kid, we would spend Christmas with my cousins in Ozona, Texas. My Uncle John was U.S. Border Patrolman there. Ozona, maybe about 3,000 people, is the only town in Crockett County, a county that’s the same size as Delaware.  

Partly because of his line of work, partly because of living in Texas and partly because of personal hobby, my Uncle John had quite a few guns. So did my Dad who collected antique Winchester rifles. So for my cousin Jack and me, getting our first BB guns was a big deal.

But it was an even bigger deal a couple years later when we were about 10 years old. That year our Dads gave us pellet guns for Christmas. Matching Sheridan Blue Streak Air Rifles. To this day it remains one of my favorite Christmas presents. Solid wood stock, sleek shiny black metal barrel, bolt action, single shot, .20 caliber pellet, air pump…I can still feel it in my hands. It was a beauty.

As was often the case during Christmas vacation in Texas, we tagged along with our Dads when they went deer hunting. My uncle was a friend to many of the ranchers in the area and he was often invited to hunt on their private land. On this particular day we were hunting at Beecher’s Ranch; located just west of the middle of nowhere, about two hours from the other side of no place. If you’ve ever been to West Texas you know what I mean. Nothing but cactus and canyons and mesquite scrub.

Jack, his twin sister Kaye, our cousin Becky and I went along in the old station wagon used for hunting trips. After arriving, we stayed around the car while our Dads walked a short canyon they wanted to hunt. It was great fun and even better now that Jack and I were armed with our trusty air rifles.

Understand that Jack and I had gun safety drilled into our heads from the time we could point our fingers and say “bang!”. We grew up around guns and our Dads taught us well. Never point at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Point the gun at the ground while you’re walking. Never put a shell in the chamber until you’re ready to fire. Always keep the safety on until you pull the trigger. Failure to abide by these rules meant the BB guns got put away until we were ready to be diligent. The rules hadn’t changed now that we had upgraded our weaponry.

We were sitting in the station wagon with the doors open laughing and talking. I was in the driver’s seat, my cousin Becky on the passenger side. Jack and Kaye were in the back. My new Sheridan Blue Streak Air Rifle was on my lap. I have no recollection of how or why there was a pellet in the chamber. I have no memory of pumping air into the gun. Selective memory I’m sure, because who else would have done that but me?

All I remember was the distinct sound of the air rifle discharging. Pchoo! I didn’t feel anything at first. Then I saw blood running all over my left hand. Holding it up I looked in shock at my cousin Becky and yelled, “You shot my finger!”

Then it started to hurt.

At that point it was like a Keystone Cops movie. We all ran around the station wagon screaming and bumping into each other. My hand was bleeding, our Dads weren’t anywhere close and we’re in the middle of nowhere. Somehow in the panic one of us remembered seeing a small house, probably used by ranch hands, about a mile back up the road on the other side of the bump gate. So Kaye and I headed that way.

When we got there I went up and knocked. A Mexican gentleman who, in retrospect, would have been someone my Border Patrol uncle would have likely paid a visit to on a work day, answered the door. It became very clear very fast that he didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Spanish. I guess blood translates in any language because he took me inside to the sink so I could wash my wound.

Whatever this shack lacked in amenities it had an ample supply of whiskey bottles. In the middle of my washing the guy firmly took hold of my wrist with one hand and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other hand. He pulled the cork out with his teeth, and with a crazed smile grunted, “Ah? Ah?” while indicating he wanted to demonstrate it’s medicinal properties by disinfecting my still bleeding finger. I suddenly felt like I was in a Pancho Villa movie. And because yelling louder always helps when you don’t know the language, I kept shouting, “BAND-AID! BAND-AID!”

Somehow I got my point across and even more miraculous, he found a bandage for my finger.

Weeks before there was anticipation in hoping for the Christmas gift of a pellet gun and now there was anticipation of having to tell my Dad what happened. I had plenty of time to think about it on the walk back to the car. 

The upside was that it was only a finger. I didn’t shoot my eye out. That’s a good thing because for me to get a new plastic eye would have cost a lot of money.

I dreaded telling him what happened. Even though my cousin Becky did pull the trigger (a fact that I tell my children to curry sympathy), the reality is I broke the rules and put the pellet in the gun. And now I had to tell my Dad.

I thought he would take the gun away. I thought he would scream and yell. I fully expected a good spanking. And a long lecture about gun safety was a foregone conclusion. And I would have deserved all of it.

But he didn’t do any of that. He just asked me what happened and listened. When everything was talked about he said the hole in my finger was probably lesson enough. And that was that.

I was only ten years old but I still remember how I felt in that moment. Dad didn’t turn me over his knee. He didn’t call me a baby who was too young to have a pellet gun. My Dad was treating me, well, almost like a grown up. There were consequences to actions. Disobedience exacts a price. I was free to make decisions. The wisdom, or lack thereof, would determine the outcome. And if I didn’t learn from the hole in my finger, I probably wasn’t going to learn.

Over the years I’ve learned that more often than not, God responds to me in a similar way. Sure, God can discipline hard if He chooses to.  God doesn’t shy away from the truth or the consequences, be they good, bad or ugly. God corrects with truth. But He also corrects us with a loyal love that refuses to let us go, no matter what. And in doing so He nurtures and deepens our relationship. Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Romans 2:4, “Do you not know that it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance?”

The kindness of God. He doesn’t beat us down or cause us to fearfully cower in the corner. He loves us into submission. All because of His fierce desire for relationship with us.