Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: My Red Ryder BB Gun
Red Ryder BB guns were on every third grade boy’s Christmas list in Harrold. The fabled rifle was advertised in the “Boy’s Life” scouting magazine and every “Red Ryder” comic book in 1955. Santa’s workshop was abuzz with elves assembling this famous firearm.
As third graders we all had questions concerning Santa Claus, but we clung to our childhood faith in the magic of flying reindeer and a jolly man living at the North Pole who brought gifts to all the children in the world, working tirelessly through the night to deliver presents, eating millions of cookies and drinking gallons of milk.
That Christmas morning in Harrold found many third grade boys thanking Santa for fulfilling their Christmas wish. Red Ryder BB guns were under Christmas trees all over town, including ours! Yes, there was a Santa Claus!
Christmas morning also found Dad and me at the local gas station, where the fathers visiting and mixing Tom and Jerrys and we boys were having warm apple cider, and sharing our excitement in getting Red Ryder BB guns for Christmas. We had similar stories. The boxes, the wrapping, everything about our guns seemed to be the same.
That night I noticed something not quite right about my gun, and asked Dad to look at it. As he was fixing the problem, he made an offhanded comment that “Pigney must have put this together”. Hmm… Mr. Pigney was a man who worked at the local grocery store, a store that just so happened to sell some toys and… Red Ryder BB guns!
I hesitated, but finally asked Mom about Dad’s comment. Did my BB gun really come from Santa? She smiled and gently told me who Santa really was, and that I needed to keep it secret, because other kids might not know yet.
As I lay in bed that night, digesting all I had learned that day, sadness of a sort settled on me. Being seven years old, I sensed growing up may not be all I thought it would be. But as I look back at the many Christmases that have come and gone since that day, seeing my own kids experience their Christmas mornings, I also realize that, thank goodness, there really is magic in Christmas! I love my kids and grandkids, and I do so love cookies and milk!
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A short essay by Justin Tupper, Vice President, United States Cattlemen’s Association