'You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid'
After writing yesterday's obit for Fred "Daisy Boy" Gaynor, I've been hearing stories from aging baby-boomers about their first BB gun, almost always a Red Ryder model from Daisy, the company that still makes the iconic "toy." As in "A Christmas Story," radio storyteller Jean Shepherd's now-classic tale of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his Christmas quest for a Red Ryder rifle, most stories are some variation on the warning the department-store Santa jovially offers Ralphie: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."
One caller told me about having a picture of Mad Magazine's gap-toothed Aldred E. Newman taped to a piece of cardboard and hanging on his bedroom wall. Playing around with his BB gun one evening, he took a shot at "What, Me Worry?" Newman's goofy face, and the BB bounced right back at him. It lodged in his eye -- the eye socket, that is. It hurt, and when he went to the bathroom to run water over his eye, the BB fell out in the sink.
Other stories suggest that little brothers of BB-gun owners were invariably in dire peril. Apparently it was impossible to resist the temptation to shoot them in the rear end. (I speak from experience, as the older brother).
Fred Gaynor was the all-American boy cradling a Red Ryder rifle in Daisy ads from the late 1940s until now. He went on to be a Foreign Service officer and died March 29 at age 73. When he finished the photo shoot that long-ago day in Chicago, the producer offered him the BB rifle he held in the photo. As a 12-year-old, he desperately wanted it, but his mother said no. "You'll shoot somebody's eye out, Fred," she told him.
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