I stood there with a look of disbelief on my face with the Super Wham-O slingshot dangling by my side watching that damn dog running away as the realization slowly sank in that I had just shot my newly repainted BMW 1600 in the rear fender with a steel nut leaving a dent and a patch of missing paint as I had attempted to shoot the farmer’s dog that had come back to our house for another run at the cat.

I bought the slingshot from the local K-Mart of the little backwater town of Louisiana, Missouri after that dog, a red Setter, first chased Terry, my wife’s cat, up a tree – a sight to behold because Terry had been de-clawed and had no front claws and in panic had actually climbed that tree by hugging the trunk. I was really mad after that event as I had nothing to defend the cat with. So, I recalled that as a kid in Venezuela, I had been a crack shot with a slingshot. So I found the Wham-O which was an aluminum tube affair with a wrist brace and surgical tubing which was advertised as a hunting version of the Wham-O slingshot line.

Back at the house, I went into the garage and got a hand full of steel nuts which my memory told me would be great deadly ammo. I took a couple of practice shots off the back porch and I should have realized then that I wasn’t quite as proficient with the slingshot as my memory kept telling me I was.

I remember to this day, the sight of the "Iguana Man" walking along the side of the road to Ojeda with a pole over his shoulder strung with large bloodied iguanas that he had shot with the slingshot protruding from his ragged trousers. As a youngster riding in my fathers jeep, I envied that man as a great hunter and I used to see him from time-to-time with his pole strung with dead iguanas. It did not occur to me then that he was so poor that he could only afford to eat iguanas or perhaps sold them to other poor paisanos. I wanted to be a hunter just like him……

You see, when I lived in Campo Verde, Tia Juana, every boy carried a slingshot in his rear pants pocket which “He” himself had made. It was a matter of pride and status among one’s friends.

We all had pocket knives and we knew that the best rubber for the slingshot was the natural red rubber that the British used to make the inner-tubes for cars or bicycles. You see, that rubber unlike the synthetic black inner-tube rubber would stretch as far as you could pull it without breaking and would snap back to its original length when released. You also learned that the leather tongue of a shoe made the best sling for your ammo.

Finally, and most importantly was the stock which made to form just the right Y shape and had to be relied upon not to split and I found that the local lime trees provided the best. The lime wood was very hard and difficult to carve but once assembled you had a deadly killing machine.

My brother, Bill, would bring home the red inner-tubes that he and Bobby Lavin stole from the maintenance shop over in the Shell camp which was right next to our Creole camp. Bobby Lavin was probably the best shot with a slingshot of any kid I ever knew. He was about three years older that me and ran around with my brother. He was a tough kid. It was more than once that I saw Bobby knock a dove out of flight and that was doing something!! Bill was ok with a slingshot.

Now, there was no love lost between the “gringo” kids that lived in Campo Verde and the adjacent Shell camp “natives” and one day I participated in one of the biggest slingshot fights I had ever experienced or heard about. We “gringos” had gathered in the corner of the camp down near the flood control pumps where the fence separated the two camps. There were at least a dozen of us and as many of the Venezuelans kids and we went at it. We had prepared for this event by bringing along pockets full of steel ball bearings the size of marbles. There was a good distance separating us so we would loft the shots by holding the sling shot high at arms length and pulling the rubber back to mid-thigh before releasing the shot. Normally you could not see the shots going or coming but I did see the ball bearing that came down and struck me in the chest. Wow!!! That hurt and it stopped me in my tracks. I temporarily hid behind a small power shed as I recovered from the show and dismay of being hit. It wasn’t too long after that I was out at it again, but this time I moved around more frequently as the other older guys did.

To this day, I think I was the only one out of the whole commotion who was hit and fortunately only in the chest.

Well, so much for the battles with the natives….. I don’t recall there ever being another.

My brother and I carried slingshots with us everywhere we went, even as we grew to become teenagers as we became pretty good shots and actually did minor hunting with them. One night while cruising in the jeep out behind Tia Juana on one of the Shell roads, we happened upon a Giant Anteater crossing the road and Bill slammed on the brakes and we jumped out of the jeep and proceeded to attempt to kill the thing with our slingshots. But it was able to get away in the thick thorny brush which grew on the sides of the road. One did not walk into that brush at night, much less during the day. Today, I regret what we did, as the animal was beautiful and I recently learned is on the list of endangered animals of Venezuela. But, hell, that was then and everything that moved was a target.

My personal challenge over the years was to become as good a shot with the sling shot as Bobby Lavin and eventually I did, but his family had moved from the camp years before to Maracaibo so I was never able to show him. Nevertheless, I was able to knock birds out of the air and I could judge exactly where my projectile would hit. My sister, Cris, just about fell over one day when I told her I was going to knock an oil stained iguana off the edge of the flood pumping station – a shot of about 50 feet or more lofted over the six foot barbed wire topped fence that separated us and proceeded to do so.

My sister, Cris, raised as a Tomboy learned to make her own slingshots and became an expert shot at an early age. I personally witnessed her knocking a morning dove out of the air while visiting home in Lagunillas over Christmas holidays.

So my wife never learned how the dent developed in the rear of the BMW until some years later – many years – when I told the story to a friend of ours who dropped by the house one day. She got upset with me as I had told her a different story – you know – to save face. I eventually threw away the Wham-O. I would rather stick with my memories – I was a good shot at one time…….

 

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