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
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…….