Thanks to Max’s efforts we have been introduced to a variety of interesting and attractive gift options to consider for this year’s holiday gift giving.
Today, let’s take a look at a different kind of holiday present. One that is no longer popular but that was once an even bigger deal, if you can believe, than Racing Possums. Really. Hope you get a bang out of it. snorf.
When I was a kid, boys especially were fascinated by all things Western. We watched Western movies and TV shows. We played cowboys and
Indians Native Americans. We vicariously punched cows even though they had done nothing to deserve an uppercut.
We dreamed of living on a ranch and bringing to hard justice those conniving outlaws who had the temerity to rob banks and insult Miss Kitty. Our spurs jingled and jangled. We tumbled along with the tumbling tumbleweed.
Mostly, we loved cap guns that made loud noises and emitted a little smoke when the trigger was pulled and the hammer struck a tiny charge of black powder on the red paper roll. I guarantee you that kids from this era can still recall the distinctive smell of the explosive powder as the small cap was fired.
We had six-shooters strapped to our negligible yet swaggering hips. Lever action rifles with iron sights. Perhaps a sly derringer of the type concealed under the vest of a shady gambling man. Of course there were exotic guns like the Winchester 1892 .44-40 that the Rifleman used or Steve McQueen’s famous Mares Leg. Oh yeah, from cross-draw holsters to the deadly Henry sharpshooter rifles, kids in the 60s loved all the many replicas.
The 60s toy guns were typically cast iron and were finely crafted, frequently made by the same companies that made the firearms they were modeled after. Realism was the goal, whether the manufacturer was trying to copy the cowboys’ favorite revolver, a machine gun or even a bazooka.
Along with Rock ‘Em-Sock ‘Em Robots, Chatty Cathy dolls, Mousetrap, Barbie and Etch-a-Sketch, toy guns were a huge gift item at Christmas (and now sell for a lot of money as collectibles.)
Not so much these days, eh?
I suspect very few toy guns are being given out this holiday season. They’re pretty scarce at the local Walmart and Target, and ever since the big Giraffe at Toys ‘R Us got nailed by poachers, nobody dares ask where the guns are stocked for fear of having the store clerks call Security.
(I briefly considered giving our grandchildren a nice matching set of pearl-handled revolvers just to keep the spirit alive. Then I remembered that, as executor of our estate, their father gets to determine if the AJF and I ultimately end up in a nursing home, on an ice floe, or otherwise. I recalibrated my gift list. But I digress.)
In any case, the trope of cowboy as archetypical American hero has gone the way of the bison. Today, I think many parents would be horrified to see little Johnny playing outside, hiding behind rocks and – gasp! – shooting at pretend indigenous people with such realistic appearing playthings.
“He should be at Starbucks looking at proud TikTok dance routines like everybody else,” says Karen.
It’s tough to defend the notion of a “toy gun” in these times when school shootings and incidents of kids using guns to harm others seem to be happening all the time. Buy a toy gun? You may as well just buy the little guy a toy syringe and some toy heroin.
In 1989 there was a Federal study of whether police officers can rapidly differentiate toy guns, even those with orange tips as required by law, and real guns when under pressure. When confronted by actors holding toy guns, 96 percent of officers fired at the toy guns. Definitely no bueno. But toy guns are still readily available online.
A search for “toy guns” on Amazon yields thousands of results but almost all of the guns are bright and colorful futuristic “blasters” of the type in cartoons. Even when a more realistic option is offered the device is made so as to be easily differentiated from a real weapon. A search for “cap guns” is more problematical and some of the items are frankly too realistic for my taste. Your mileage may vary.
Perhaps it’s time for the toy gun to just saddle up and ride into sunset. I don’t know. We didn’t use to have these shootings, at least not on the current scale. Our society has changed so much, so fast it’s hard for an old fool like me to figure out what caused the changes and what happens next.
I’ll always harbor a fondness for the outdoor chases and adventures of my youth, the childhood hero worship of the (largely fictional) stoic cowboy and the hours and hours of fun with my cap guns. I feel a certain wistfulness that the current crop of young’uns will not have the now so socially incorrect experiences that I enjoyed as a little buckaroo.
On the other hand, I’ll never enjoy hanging around Starbucks and watching TikTok dances so maybe it all balances out.
Categories: The Dog From Rancho Cucaracha