My brother, Bill, was three years older than me and at 13 was always into things that I would never think of doing. He would ride his bike with Bobby Lavin over to the fence separating the Shell camp in Tia Juana from Campo Verde where we lived. Between the two of them they would somehow hoist the two heavy American bikes over the barbed wire of the six foot high chain link fence and then cross the drainage ditch on the other side and ride over to the maintenance buildings adjacent to the Shell native workers camp.

Bill and Bobby had two main objectives, bum cigarettes and steal anything they could put into their pockets and Bill would then bring back his goodies to show me. Stealing was ok with me back then and most of my buddies were good at it, it was the bumming that I did not like as it meant you had no pride. Perhaps it was what you bummed that rally mattered.

Bill always brought back something interesting, like those huge steel ball bearings that I kept for years and which I sometimes used when playing Bullring, a marbles game where you placed marbles in a large diameter ring on the ground then stood back about 10 feet or more and you would lag (underhand toss) your steely which would scatter marbles out of the ring which you then kept. Or the wonderful natural red rubber from English car tire inner tubes which were the very best rubber for slingshots or the smaller ball bearings which made deadly slingshot ammo and which you saved for special occasions such as the occasional sling shot battles with the native kids.

One day Bill showed me a contraption made out of clothes pins. He called it a clothes pin gun. He proceeded to insert a birdshot BB into the device then shot me in the face with it. Well, the sting of it made an impression which I carry as a memory to this day.

Well, living in Tia Juana brought with it periods of extreme boredom unless there was an event of some kind, so anything new demanded significant attention.

Now, I don’t think Bill was the only guy who knew about clothes pin guns, because it wasn’t long before every boy I knew had one. What is neat about them is that you can carry them in the palm of your hand and discharge them with only a sleight snapping sound as the wire spring stuck the BB. Back then every mother had clothes pins with a coiled wire spring which provided the clamping power. It was how you combined two clothes pins which converted them into a coveted weapon.

So, you can picture the classroom with six or seven boys with the guns and a pocket full of birdshot. The teachers never caught me as I drilled someone in class. Sometimes you could hear the BBs clicking off the blackboards which were situated on two walls of the classroom.

Another favorite place to use the guns was during the movies at the Country Club when you could hear the snapping of the clothes pin guns during the quiet, dull love scenes. Occasionally, one of the adults would reach the end of patience and yell at us to cut it out.

My last memories of using the guns was sitting with Bill for hours on the front steps of the Penhale’s house which was just opposite the Country Club and slowly but surely decimating the bees that swarmed on a beehive that we located hanging in one of their Hibiscus bushes lining their front porch. The bees could not figure out what was thinning out the members of the hive. Finally the weight of the birdshot lodged in the nest was sufficient to bring half of it to the ground and we took off in full flight as the swarming angry bees lit out after us.

Well, thinking about the clothes pin gun for this story caused me to head to the basement and within half an hour I had assembled the classic working gun from two of my wife's clothes pins. Not bad for an old geezer if you ask me.

 

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