I found out today that I am to be the lucky recipient of a new Crosman air rifle––an item I'll have the chance to review and keep thanks to my membership in the Outdoor Blogger Network. As great as my little stroke of luck made me feel this morning, the announcement spurred some memories of years gone by that are, today, bittersweet.
I remember the East Texas woods I trampled as a kid, my trusty Crosman 760 Powermaster cradled in my arms. The little .177-caliber pellet rifle/BB-gun combo was my prized possession in my formative years, and I took great care to ensure it remained in good working order.
I walked the deep woods along the Sabine River with that gun, scanning the branches of oak, hickory and sweet gum for squirrelly prey. My brothers were my constant companions during those sultry summer days, when the air felt so heavy, but the freedom of river bottoms felt so right. We floated the murky brown waters of the Sabine in a commandeered canoe for days at a time, shooting at squirrels and sparrows and plinking pop cans and the floating milk jugs left behind by trot liners.
At times, it felt as though we were the only three kids on earth, off on a grand adventure through an unspoiled jungle far from home. The river teemed with life, above and below the water. In its murky depths swam enormous catfish and the behemoth, toothy alligator gar. On land, we'd see giant nutria and the occasional fox would run from our path. While walking through the dense woods of the Big Thicket, we'd step lightly to avoid disturbing the copperheads that crawled along the damp forest floor. We'd carefully watch overhanging limbs as we floated the river, for fear a cottonmouth might come unhinged and land in the tipsy aluminum craft.
We swam naked in the dark water against our better judgment (but a dare is a dare), and against the will of our mother, who warned us of gators and leeches and toothy critters that were only rumored to exist. Armed with cheap fiberglass casting rods, we drowned worms and smelly catfish bait for the river's fishy denizens.
We ignited enormous, smoke-laden campfires at night to keep the bugs at bay (because it was too damned hot to burrow into sleeping bags), and when the mosquitoes continued the assault, we coated our naked arms and legs with foul-smelling mud, and slept through the worst of it.
We laughed. We played. We dreamed the dreams of boys with nothing but time on their hands and their lives lying open like the pages of unwritten books.
I miss those care-free days in the East Texas sticks, where the river provided three boys with a lifetime of adventure. And I miss my brothers, most of all.
Today, we're separated by hundreds of miles, but when we find the rare opportunity to get together, it's truly special. It's almost like it was, but not quite. The youth of our past can't be recaptured or relived–only remembered and relished as adults looking back on the those foolish days.
I don't know what became of my old Crosman 760 after I left home for college. Hopefully, through Providence or a good garage sale, it landed in the hands of a wide-eyed boy eager for adventure. Hopefully, that boy was able to experience all that came with walking through the woods with such a modest, yet effective tool in his hands.
Hopefully the feel of cold steel against his cheek as he aimed down the sights at his quarry remains with him today, as it does with me. Maybe that sweetly satisfying little kick that came with squeezing the trigger of that tough little gun stuck with him, as it stuck with me.
But most of all, I hope he remembers the sheer joy of being young and able to wander free in the woods, scanning the treetops and chasing adventure. Those days are short–something you realize one day, long after life gets in the way and sends you down untold paths to far-away destinations for unknown reasons. Years later, though, those memories remain.
Damn. I miss that little gun.