It’s dead, Jim.

It was a Usual Day at Dad’s office — note that I did not say “Normal” day, just a usual one.

Dad was behind his desk contemplating a set of blueprints and absent-mindedly feeling about for a mug, while Dad’s Brit Buddy Tom sat sideways in a chair, running a slide rule and swearing creatively at the results.

This scene was disrupted as a gentleman with a plaid scarf wrapped over his nose and mouth, garbage bags put over his hands and run up to his armpits where they were held fast by several feet of gaffer tape, said hands being used to wave a gardening trowel in my fathers general direction, burst into the office.

“You,” he announced in tones of Imminent Doom (with more than a trace of California lilt), “Have A Problem.”

“Too right,” snarled Tom, “There is no bloody way you can put two long tons of ore into a crusher and wind up with four-and-a-half long tons of gravel. Not sodding possible.”

“Listen to me!” shrieked Mr. Plaid as he slammed a plastic-wrapped fist on the desk.

Dad raised an eyebrow, reached out and hooked a forefinger in the scarf and dragged it past the chin. “What’s on your mind, Hammond?”

The local Peace Corp rep pointed a trembling finger at the ceiling: “Disease! Infection — maybe viral. Possibly a plague of Biblical proportions!”

Tom patted him on the shoulder, “Let me guess: You’re at the khazi, and it feels like some rat bastard snuck razor blades into your morning cuppa, am I right?”

“You don’t understand — something is killing them!”

“Oh, I’m sure it seems that way, but I assure you – one shot, maybe two – and Bob’s your uncle. Be a whole new man day after next.”

“You’re not listening to me!”

So saying, the just-a-hair-under-full-blown-panicky Peace Corp rep chivvied Tom and my father to the front porch of the office, there to gaze upon one very deceased example of rattus rattus.

“See?! And that’s not the only one! There’re five more along the east side of the building, all dead with blood coming out of their noses, just like this one!”

My father sighed gently as he performed a Migraine Salute, “Hammond, I have children — both boys, both about ten years old.”

“He does,” affirmed Tom, helpfully, “I’ve seen them.”

“I understand,” proclaimed Hammond, “And I want you to understand that we will everything in out power to prevent this disease from jumping species.”

“Listen to me: the rats are more in danger from my kids, than my kids are from the rats. Trust me on this one. You’ve got your shorts into a knot over nothing.”

Hammond gave my father a look of compassionate pity, and confided sotto voce to Tom, “Denial. We see it all the time.”

Tom, already having sensed an opportunity for mischief, nodded happily, “Knee-deep in it. Terrible. Terrible.”

Dad sighed, cocked an eyebrow at his Right Hand Rotter and the Peace Corp rep, gave a ‘Do What You Have To Do’ wave of his hand, and headed back to his office.

Hammond rubbed his garbage-bag-wrapped hands together,”Right. We’re going to need some dry-ice, a Styrofoam container and some plastic …”

Four weeks later, the Telex in Dad’s office chattered to life:




Quarternutitis. I don’t know who was measuring things down there, but Chris and I never used anything smaller than 3/8ths.

Tom and the rest of the Usual Suspects were paying us a handsome bounty for each rat — and if we pulled off a difficult or spectacular shot in front of the engineers, we usually got a pretty hefty bonus.


I miss those slingshots. One of the engineers had hand-carved the grips out of African mahogany and powered the things with two lengths of surgical tubing per side. Chris and I rarely ventured out of the house without them and a pocket full of 3/8ths nuts.

I never see kids out with slingshots these days, and that tends to sadden me.



22 thoughts on “It’s dead, Jim.”

  1. yupers. I had a handy dandy cork gun. not much when you think about it but I have not seen one in quite some time.

  2. …powered the things with two lengths of surgical tubing per side.

    Built some muscles pulling those back, now dint’cha?


  3. Well in most places if a kid has a slingshot or air rifle or even a good supply of paperclips and a hefty rubber band, they would be suspected of some dasterdly damage or at least the thought of it, and have their awful weapons taken away and be sent home or worse.

    You know, kiddy krime is rampant, especially in large cities.

    Papa Ray

  4. I graduated from a “wrist rocket” to a one shot, Crossman 1377 American Classic pellet pistol that I used to fire hard fin hunting darts out of when I was nine. Had to muzzle load the darts because they were too long for the swivel open “chamber”.

    When I was ten, I got the rifle stock replacement for the grip and taped a one liter pop bottle “silencer” to it.

    Good times.. good times…

    Found that in a closet at my Dad’s house about six months ago, still had the clothes hanger “ramrod” with it.

    No darts left though. I think all those got embedded into the local crow population 🙂

  5. Here in the peoples republic of NJ slingshots are illegal. Had to give my wrist-rocket away when I moved here. Can’t wait to retire and get the heck out of here. JimB

  6. I’m going over to the big box sports store next door at lunch to buy a new wrist rocket. I used to be downright lethal with mine at deer camp. It should compliment my air pistol nicely.

  7. Great story Lawdog. It is partially your fault that liquids are banished from my desk. As I write this my latest incarnation of wrist rocket is here on my desk, along with a bag of ammo (white marbles). I may not be as accurate as I used to be, but it is spring and targets of opportunity abound.

  8. Yet another manifestation of the impending EOTWAWKI.

    (1) Video Games have replaced life. Boys don’t learn to play outside, slingshots (like marbles) are something they’ve only seen on TV and couldn’t be bothered to mess with if you paid them.

    (2) The “Nanny State” has made such things verboten if not outright illegal. Even if a boy WANTED to play with a shottie — deviant little cuss he’d no doubt be — he’d likely get himself arrested at first sight of his “posession of a deadly weapon.”

    The old “you’ll put your eye out” bit has changed dramatically. As an aside, my Mother was known to tell me “when you put your eye out, don’t come looking for me…” but I digress.

    Our parents/society said “you’ll put your eye out” and then sent us out the door with the necessary equipment to give it a shot.

    Today the Govt. says “you’ll put your eye out so you can’t have anyting sharp or pointy, with projectiles or .. or .. or…

    Kids go try to be kids and the cops will probably bring them in, and then charge the parents with neglect or abuse or … or…

    I think this actually effects the Gun-Control laws too. A boy used to graduate from slingshot to air rifle to .22 to …? Now the only time he sees any of them is on a frigging video game…


  9. LawDog,
    I confess to disappointment, I would have suspected a “David Vs. Goliath” sling not a modern weapon of silent death. Perhaps an atlatl and spear?

  10. If this is the kind of writing we can expect whenever you put on a tie; don’t take it off.


  11. I have a gal friend who unfortunately has a ground hog living under her garage’s cement slab floor. It chews up lots of her vegetation. I was suggesting to her that I bring my wrist rocket over and dispatch the critter, then her 13 year old son got all alarmed that I would even *think* about killing a varmint. He’s obviously been brainwashed by the commie teachers in the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor “public” schools. I had to set him straight about varmints and such. In fact, I think I’ll try to drag that wrist rocket over there this weekend and try to get him to take a few shots with it. He’ll probably hurt his limp wrists, though, as all he ever does is watch cartoons and play video games. But just maybe, he’ll think it’s really cool to shoot ball bearings at targets. 🙂

    — chicopanther

  12. Growing up, my cousin and I went “hunting” with wrist rockets allthe time. It became quite an arms race to see who could find/make/buy/use the best, most accurate and fastest. His father worked in a paint factory. They used steel balls about 1/2″ in diameter to mix the paint. His father brought home mixing balls by the bucket full for us. The balls were not perfectly round, they had lots of oddly spaced flats on them, to help mix i guess.

    They would make a “THHHHHHH” sound as they left the pouch. And a very satisfying thud when they impacted. Many a snake and turtle felt our rath.

    Good times

  13. There were the wrist rockets of course, but my brothers and I killed more critters with the sling than slingshots. After a suitable amount of practice, no rabbit within 20 yards was safe. Cows got herded (encouraged to move anyway) at up to 50 yards.

  14. Yep, slingshots are a country staple of life – I can remember even my mom ‘encouraging stray cats to leave’ when they were stalking the songbirds at the feeders.

    Not ALL kids are sanitized. My son did the wrist rocket, bow and arrow, BB Gun, .22 rimfire…… Then maybe that’s WHY he’s a Marine today LOL.

  15. I can think of one recorded event in which such a weapon was the beginning of some events of Biblical proportions.

    David vs. Goliath


  16. I had a storebought wristrocket when I was a kid back in the 1980’s, but I never was so good with it. The wrist brace hurt, the tubing was anemic, and little steel shot they sold at the Kmart left a lot to be desired ballistically. The gravel I picked up wasn’t much better and seemed less accurate.

    My Grandpa… the one I said hated to wear a tie… kept a flip in the pocket of his overalls. Ya’ll remember the flip? Take a long piece of inner tube and tie a piece of string in one end to hold the ammo holder thing (I don’t know what ya’ll call it). I launched some gravel with it once or twice and found I could hit a 55gallon drum at 40yds which is better than I did with the wristrocket.

    One thing about my opinions on accuracy… I’m cross dominant; right-hand and left eye. So I shoot firearms left-handed to go with my dominant eye. But when I was trying to use a wristrocket or flip, I was trying to right-hand it. The left eye doing the focussing and/or sighting don’t work.

    mustanger98 on THR

  17. *Grin*

    I was raised right too.
    Red Rubber from a Red Rubber Inner tube, leather from a football, well worn and victim to tires on a tractor trailer rig, and fork from a Oak Tree.

    Steel ball bearing from the fillin’ station was a treat, 3/8″ nuts, were great, especially when a wooden crate Coke crate is full of them and “if you get them home, you can have them”.

    Then again I learned early how important Redundancy is. One should have four of stuff.
    One off site for sure at a Mentors house, one under the porch and one in a tree house.

    Sometimes a mom just wants to snuggle and hold onto a wittle boys sling shot for some reason.

    Girls do have have cooties, they do have marbles and this is pretty special to share sling shot and marbles.

    I was raised right.

    Felled Doves, for eating, killed rats, and snakes and …and did I mention that cute little brunette that always had marbles to share?


  18. My son’s prized possesion in Iraq was my Family Heirloom wrist rocket
    and 50cal roundball I cast for him
    He shot some trophy Camel spiders
    and a couple of mutant rats

  19. Had one, too here on the PRK. Wasn’t very good at using it & it broke soon after. But the neighbors knew that I wasn’t out to get them or their windows.

    Ah, youth!

  20. Here in the peoples republic of NJ slingshots are illegal. Had to give my wrist-rocket away when I moved here

    Lived in NJ since about age 10…wrist-rocket and all. I’ve still got it after 50 years. Dad used to load me up with ball bearings from work. It’s working on it’s 6th set of surgical tubing, and it’s hanging in my closet with pride of place alongside the shotgun.

    There’s even an extra set of tubing and pouch in the possibles drawer waiting for the next refurb.

    Jersey can have my wrist-rocket when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.

  21. My oldest (13yo) bought a good sling shot. He really enjoys it.

    I let my boys be boys.

  22. I have one by my back door for deterring the local magpies. I don't want them dead, bodies attract questions, but I do appreciate peace & quiet. (And a lack of muzzle flash)

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