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Outdoors Outpost
Toy Guns for Tots
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 • Posted December 18, 2013

People sometimes ask me where I get ideas for my columns. People who know me personally are more curious than others, since they know I have a hard time coming up with a grocery list on my own. I’ve been writing a weekly outdoor humor column for 16 years, and I ran out of material 15 years ago. So I make stuff up.

Actually, a lot of my ideas come from readers. This is what I say when folks tell me I shouldn’t have written about something. I blame it on you. No offense.

Seriously, a lot of the ideas readers send me are good ones, and I fully intend to write about them, for about five minutes, which is how long it takes me to forget them. It’s rare I remember something longer than that, unless I write it down, and then I have to keep up with the note. If you’ve ever seen my desk you know that’s a statistical impossibility. I found something on it the other day that I lost during the Reagan administration.

A month or so ago, when a reader sent me an email with a great column idea, I planned, as usual, to use it. And then, as usual, I forgot. Luckily he sent it again yesterday, which was about the time I started writing this columm, which is why I have almost four paragraphs done so far.

Chuck Howard responded to a column I wrote a few months ago called ‘Toys From Tots,’ in which I complained at length about all the toy gun buyback programs cropping up all over the country. These programs seem innocent and harmless, but they may very well be the most effective means of gun control, in the long term, ever devised. They teach children that guns are Bad, and reward them for turning their toy guns in. It’s brainwashing, is what it is.

In that column I said I had no idea what we could do about this heinous practice. Which was true. I often see problems I can’t fix. If I knew everything I’d have a lot of money. Or at least some money.

When I got Chuck’s email I realized he had the perfect solution. I felt like David Allan Coe, when Steve Goodman wrote the last verse to ‘You Never Even Called Me By My Name’ and sent it to him, and David realized Steve had written the perfect country & western song. I disagreed with David on that, but I agree completely with Chuck.

Chuck’s idea is to use the Toys For Tots program to counter the negative propoganda against toy guns. Chuck wrote, “The USMC makes the TFT program work nationwide during the holidays.” How many of you knew the Marines were behind Toys For Tots?

Chuck says, “Instead of cash, toy trucks, Barbie dolls, etc., each and every one of us (should) purchase as many toy gun sets as possible and give them directly to the Marines. Believe me, they will be happy to distribute them to the kids.” When I read that I said, “Wow.”

My favorite Christmas movie is ‘A Christmas Story.’ It’s also my second favorite Christmas movie. And my third favorite. It’s the one where little Ralphie wants an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. With a compass in the stock. Everyone tells him he’ll just shoot his eye out, which is what they always say. But in the end, Ralphie got a Red Ryder for Christmas.

I was Ralphie when I was nine. And when I was ten. And when I was eleven. My parents finally gave me a Red Ryder BB gun for my birthday. I was 39. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

What I got for Christmas when I was nine was socks, and underwear, and sometimes blue jeans or even shoes. I always got some candy in my stocking, and usually a toy or two, but never the really cool toys. My dad taught school, and my mom raised me and my brother. Money was something other people had, or so we’d heard.

I think a lot of families are in that boat these days, especially with the economy the way it is. Parents are having trouble paying the rent and putting groceries on the table, much less buying a lot of toys for their kids at Christmas. The Marines’ Toys For Tots program makes a big difference, the difference between skivvies and fun stuff, and to a kid that’s huge.

Donating toy guns to the TFT program not only helps parents who are having trouble making ends meet, it counters the negative bias the antis are trying to build against guns with the next generation. It’s brilliant.

Thanks to Chuck for solving my problem for me, and thanks to my parents for giving me my first Red Ryder BB gun when I was 39. Better late than never . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who had ‘real’ guns before he had a BB gun. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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