The memories of that struggle are still clear and sharp. I walked the aisles of the little general store with my left hand jammed into my jeans pocket where the precious few dollar bills were crumpled together. At the time it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder how Mom managed to give each of us a few dollars to buy Christmas presents, I just accepted it, as children tend to do.

The presents for my brothers were easy, but what do you buy for a three year-old tomboy sister? I had been all over the store once already and this was the only store in town. The third time past the guns in the corner I saw it: a little toy rifle that shoots a tiny cork!

I took the little rifle down and carried it to the cashier.

“Can I try it? Huh? Can I?”

The cashier, a middle-aged man who was probably the owner, looked up and considered a minute.

“Aim at the back wall there. And be careful you don’t lose the cork!”

I pumped the lever twice to build up the air pressure, took careful aim at a small blotch on the wall and fired.


The noise was okay, not as loud as I would have liked, but okay. And the cork dropped noticeably before reaching the target. Still, it was really neat, so much better than the carved wooden guns we usually played with.

The only money I had was for three year-old Pamela’s present. I stood there trying to convince myself that a popgun was a suitable present for a three-year-old girl. I carried the toy gun while wandering up and down the aisles of the little general store in Homer, Alaska.

Pamela always wants to do whatever we are doing, she will really like the gun.”

This is so wrong – she won’t even be able to work the lever to pump it up.”

I could work the lever for her and help her hold it to shoot it.”

“This is crazy – and Mother may not say anything, but she won’t approve.”

Putting the gun back was hard, very hard. I remember that. I don’t remember what I bought for Pamela.