Bean Shooters Are Best For Boys – Memories of Rabbit Stew and a Slingshot
This is a guest post by C.E. Harris, Gerrardstown, West Virginia
When I was a kid growing up in Northern Virginia in the days “before the beltway,” Boys learned to build and use the lowly “beanshooter” or “bean-flip”. Our slingshots were cut from the crotch of a dogwood tree, slung with natural gum latex rubber bands cut from bike inner tubes or 3/8 surgical tubing bound to the upright forks with braided nylon fishing line or dental floss, then varnished. I still have mine, which has taken lots of rabbits and small game for the pot. The mere thought of rabbit stew with Southern milk gravy and hot biscuits warms my heart after all these years.
It was Dad’s rule that boys could not hunt unsupervised with a gun until old enough to get a driver’s license, and drive to town on their own without an adult. (I still think that is a good rule). At 16 we could buy .22 shells for $0.78 per box, if we drove to the hardware store ourselves, carrying the required note from Dad stating that it was OK, and we used our own money. But .22 rifles are a story for another time, maybe…
Dried green peas, or tiny round creek pebbles were our practice ammunition, all that was allowed by Dad for use by boys below the age of 12. At age 12 we graduated to glass marbles, because they flew more true and hit harder, but had to buy them out of our allowance. As teenagers, after we had proven our ability to “kill rabbits with a cat’seye” we were entrusted with cast lead 00 buckshot with admonition from Dad that it was hunting ammunition. Practice at a backstop was OK, but no random shooting!
Dad had helped feed his family with a bean flip during the Great Depression. The buckshot we learned to cast in the barn over a Coleman stove became our preferred, hard hitting and effective slingshot ammo. We mostly hunted rabbits in the garden, less often raccoons attacking the garbage cans behind the back porch at night or groundhogs whenever we could “Indian-up” on one along our fence and wood line.
As kids we were taught to eat what we killed, and to prepare game for Mom’s stew pot. But times have changed. Kids think hamburger grows from a seed planted under the plastic film of the Styrofoam meat tray in the Food Lion. Few kids own slingshots, let alone make their own! Aren’t those something made in China? Many urban areas restrict the sale of “wrist rockets” because they are often used as “gang weapons.”
But in difficult hard times you can do much worse than to make your own slingshot. With practice you can actually feed yourself with it. To carry a “loaded” slingshot in your overalls back pocket so that it is handy for a fast shot at Mr. Wabbit (with practice you can draw and shoot a pop can at 20 feet in 2 seconds) a single glass marble or 00 buckshot, is centered in the leather pouch, which is LIGHTLY greased with Vaseline, retained by a rubber band doubled and tucked snugly around the pouch. When the slingshot is drawn and released, the rubber band discards, sending your buckshot or marble on its merry way. “Bunny wabbit with biscuits tonite Mom!”