Chapter 7. The way it was.


- Tony

Those were cruel days and we shot at almost anything that moved.

In that scrubland it was mainly rats, sparrows and starlings. There were also occasionally moorhens, thrushes and black birds within our range. Crows, pigeons and magpies were all far too wary and well out of the range of air guns. I was too soft hearted to shoot little birds like tits and none of us would ever shoot a robin!

I know this sounds terrible in this very welcome enlightened era but we were not cruel young people, we very much reflected the age we lived in. The dawning of toleration towards our fellow creatures that we aspire to today was a revolution yet to be brought to us in the fifties. DDT was the new wonder killer chemical that farmers spread liberally all over their land. Myxomatosis was the government's answer to the rabbit problem and our rivers and canals were a useful form of waste disposal!

By now I had an early morning paper round and with hard saving managed to buy a BSA Cadet Major, still .177 but sleek modern looking and business like.

BSA Cadet Major

It had an adjustable trigger and fine sights. With it I was able to light Swan Vesta matches at the length of our garden and knock hover flies out of the air.

We increased the penetration of our pellets by pushing a hard little pellet of no.7 shot into the rear cavity of a waisted slug. When the soft lead flattened itself on the target, the momentum allowed the hard ball to continue deeper. My Cadet Major would make a deep dent in a new baked bean tin but with a 'special' pellet it would smash a hole and dent the other side.

Denim jeans were just making their debut in Britain from America and we all had to have them. The deep pockets safely held a couple of hundred slugs and the odd little pocket that all jeans have for some obscure reason, was filled with a dozen or so 'special' deep penetration slugs for squirrels and rats.

My uncle Jack was a mechanic. He shared my love of guns and fishing. I would never have regarded him as one of my heroes after all he was an adult authoritarian figure and too much part of everyday life to be idolized. But on reflection, he was my mentor, the driving force that legitimized my love of guns, fishing and later motorcycles. Uncle Jack was an Irishman, he came to work at B.O.A.C. on their new jet airliner 'The Comet'. He took lodgings with us and I knew him as uncle although he was no relation. He captured my youthful imagination with tales of shooting and fishing full no doubt of 'Irish blarney'!

In uncle Jack's tool box shaking around amongst the spanners was a Webley Junior smooth bore pistol. It was old, battered, all iron and looked like a real gun, I loved it! It was weaker and far less accurate than my rifle but had the advantage that it could be concealed. I would walk round the roads and into shops with it tucked into the top of my turned down Wellington boot covered by my jeans and nobody knew it was there except me. We used it mainly on an old dartboard with small chromium darts.

- Tony Sheppard