A New Deal

From that Christmas on, I would sit up almost every night reading a book in bed.

Reading in bed is something I consider to be one of mankind’s most endearing and fulfilling activities. It’s an addiction I continue to pursue to this very day—or night.


I quit my play-time job selling magazines when I finally earned enough points to get myself a slick-looking Daisy pump-action BB gun. I’d had my eyes on it from the beginning. The gun arrived with three rolls of BBs, a thick pad of twelve-inch paper targets and a manual crammed with instructions on target shooting.

My grandfather looked it all over and then added a stern safety warning of his own.

“Now you listen to me, Byron. This BB gun’s no toy, you hear me? Never point it at anybody. And keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”

I stored the gun in a closet at my grandparents’ flat. When I stayed there overnight or on occasional weekends, I practiced target shooting in the vacant lot next door.

I would mount targets on a stuffed cardboard box backed up to the fence and I’d mark off distances. Then I’d get in position, take a deep breath, let it out just like the book said, draw another breath, release half of it, line up my sights, and gently squeeze the trigger. Bang!

Sometimes I’d shoot sitting. Sometimes standing. Sometimes on my belly. Within weeks, I could cluster seven out of ten shots in the bull’s-eye at 25 feet. Later on, I did a little better.

A kid from up the street named Chuck Brown sometimes practiced with me. He had his own BB-gun. We’d setup targets side by side and we’d alternate, squeezing off three shots at a time.

Then, there were the lazy days. Just hanging around my room, we’d take pot shots at tin cans from the open bedroom window.


Late one night, my grandfather received a jarring phone call from Chicago. It was his long-lost brother, Sam. On the phone, Sam abruptly announced that he was getting on a train immediately, bound for Portland. And he made it clear he expected my grandfather to meet him at the train station.

What do they call that? Chutzpah?

This marked the first word of any kind between the two brothers since a day some 30 years before, when the Deweys and the Martells had set out fromMichigan on their move to the West coast. . .

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