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'You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid'

Joe Holley

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.

By Joe Holley |  April 1, 2009; 11:06 AM ET  | Category:  Joe Holley
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My eye hurt like hell, but the fond memories of my Daisy, and my 30-year friendship with Fred "Daisy Boy" Gaynor made it all worthwhile! -- Stephen King

Posted by: mobilevp | April 1, 2009 2:32 PM

My brothers all had Daisy Boy rifles. My brother's loved theirs and wouldn't share with me so at 16 I got my own! I always thought the boy posing was cute. Thanks for filling us in on this American Icon!

Posted by: LittleSister1 | April 2, 2009 4:44 PM

I got my Daisy BB rifle, with wooden, not plastic, stock, for Christmas in 1953, when I was 10 and living in rural Canada. I shot a lot of birds and, once, with a later rifle with the hated plastic stock, some tree lizards, for all of which I have long been ashamed. We boys used to play a game in which we hunted down and shot each other below the waist. It hurt but left no lasting injury since we wore thick denims and never hit anywhere but the legs.

Just before I got my first BB rifle, a friend got one for his 13th birthday. Within an hour of the end of his birthday party, he had shot out a big plate window in the restaurant his parents owned and shot one of his friends--right in the eye, just as the parental warning went.

Posted by: Peter323 | April 6, 2009 4:57 AM

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