This is not a politically-motivated debate. It’s not even about whether it’s my personal prerogative to wear a sleeveless top (different spelling, I know). This is about me and my journey of self-empowerment over the shoulderless ones. And it involves a gun.

Well, sort of.

For those of you who have been following PPM a while, you all know about my love-hate relationship with my fish pond – and most importantly – the reason for my perpetual dilemma. For those of you who have just joined (welcome!), you can get up to speed over here. And here. We’ll wait for you to catch up.

Good. So now we all know that I have, in the past, been a total pansy when it comes to seeing/dealing with the forked-tongue members of the reptilian world. But, honestly, I am much, much better than I was (I even touched one – a very skinny neon green tree one with big black eyes – FOUR times at the Wildlife Expo while we were at the beach. Four!!! Of course, my new-found bravery had absolutely nothing to do with the couple of cocktails we had before arriving. Nope, not at all). Last summer really challenged me, though, since it was one of those summers that produced unusually large numbers of the disgusting creatures. I had seen far too many that year and one in particular had been the bane of my existence for months. Snakes are elusive by nature. Sneaky, sneaky little devils that are quick to escape at the slightest movement. Like say, when you’re about to throw the very large rock that you’ve kept by your front door for twelve weeks just in case of a sighting or when you carefully poise your hoe and it slithers away in a split-second at the last minute before you can lower the boom. God, how I hate them.

One warm August afternoon when I saw my nemesis sunning itself on the water’s edge, that was it. The last straw. And I thought to myself, I am getting a gun.

I jerked my purse off of the coat rack, grabbed my keys and thundered down our driveway. I was pissed. Not only were my fish, frogs and salamanders in jeopardy, but my dogs were, too – and that was not going to happen. Not on my watch. I squinted my eyes in the best Clint Eastwood impression I could muster and a courage swelled inside me that gave me resolve. I was going to kill that thing no matter what.

Tires squealing as I turned into Wal-Mart, I parked, got out and slammed my door shut. Eye squint still intact, I walked with serious intent into the superstore, playing the Mission: Impossible theme heroically in my head, and entered the Sporting Goods section. I looked around. I was the only woman there in a sea of men, far too many taxidermied animals on display if you ask me and loads and loads of ammo.

I walked over to the guy behind the counter that was surrounded with locked cases housing weapons of varying sizes. Slowly removing my sunglasses, I leaned on the glass counter, looked him square in the eyes and quietly said, “I need to buy a gun. The most powerful one you have that I can get without a permit and one that doesn’t cost a whole lot. One that will kill a snake. ”

The Snake’s Lair
The Snake’s Lair

“Follow me,” he said as we walked to the end of the aisle. He pointed to several rifles hanging from hooks. I looked at the gun inside one of the vacuum-sealed plastic packages and saw the words “Red Ryder” on its label. My brain immediately raced to that blond kid with the thick black glasses from A Christmas Story and the movie’s identifying tagline warning, “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!” invariably knee-jerked to the surface.

“You mean… a BB gun?” I asked embarrassingly.

“Now, this one,” he instructed with a heavy lisp, as he pulled off a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster .177 Caliber Air Rifle, “if you pump it up to ten should do the job. Well, probably if you can get close enough.” He then retrieved a round tin off the bottom shelf and handed them to me with the gun. “These are pellets. You’ll probably want these.”

The young guy (he looked like a kid to me) walked away without another word and left me holding his almost too simple answer to my long-standing problem. He wasn’t taking my plight seriously enough, I thought! I wasn’t convinced he was grasping the magnitude of my dilemma. I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing, so I called my husband for back-up.

“Well, it couldn’t hurt to try,” Adam said. “And for thirty bucks, why not?” he reassured. So, I loaded them in a cart and continued to shop and think about my purchase. Having never owned a gun, and a little leery of them, I decided to go back to Sporting Goods and seek out the advice of a more senior (and hopefully) more knowledgeable staff member. I found that in an older gentleman, who was wearing a badge that confirmed he was in charge. I explained my situation, showed him what the other fellow had suggested and then began to fire off my questions and concerns about having and using an air rifle.

“Will the gun – I don’t know – like kick out and hurt my shoulder when I shoot it?” I asked in all seriousness since I know almost nothing about “firearms.” He smiled broadly and shook an emphatic no with his head that made me feel a little silly.

“But, dude! There are a lot of rocks around my pond. Will the bullets like ricochet and shoot my eye out?” I cried, nervously looking around. “Should I wear goggles?”

He was a pretty good sport dealing with a crazy lady who didn’t have a clue about BB guns (read: didn’t flat out laugh in my face). When I got home, I opened up my Crosman and read and re-read the instructions. After I familiarized myself with its features, I was ready to arm that sucker. I opened the can of “bullets” and squinted again – but this time it was vision-related. They were unbelievably tiny! After several failed attempts of loading the magazine clip (seriously?), I finally figured out how to put those small little pellets in correctly. I slipped on my boots, picked a few aluminum cans from the recycle bin and headed outside. I put a can on the rail of the deck, pumped up my rifle five times, took off the safety and aimed. “Say hello to my little friend,” I said in a really bad Spanish accent, which even embarrassed me and I was completely alone. I hesitantly fired the gun.

Phewt. That’s the sound the gun made. Phewt. That’s it. No Boom! Not even a loud pop. Just Phewt like I had just let a small amount of air out of a balloon. At that moment, I sighed, shaking my head, thinking, “That Wal-Mart man is holding his stomach from riotous laughter as he tells every, single person he sees about the naïve BB gun-toting female customer he waited on today.”

Thank God I didn’t ask the last question that would have probably had him rolling on the floor: “Do you think I’ll need ear plugs, too?”

I reloaded and fired at the tin can. Phewt. Another miss.

I practiced and practiced until Adam came home and showed me the correct way to hold and sight the gun. Over the next few days, I made my targets smaller and smaller and felt I had mastered my weapon and would be ready to strike when the time was necessary.

As we were unloading groceries about a week later, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I alerted Adam and it was he who took the shot. He effortlessly pumped the gun ten times ( I struggled to get it to 5), aimed and took it out in one shot.  I yelled, “Yessss!” accompanied with an enthusiastic fist pump.

After a long winter, I think we’ve finally turned the corner. Spring has sprung and that means it’s Game On again. But this year, I’ll be armed and ready for them. Me? Afraid of a stupid snake?

Phewt.

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