Some of my most vivid memories of my early childhood involve my hero, the Lone Ranger. I watched Clayton Moore ride Silver across our black-and-white Philco TV every Saturday morning. Another memory is playing cowboys with my cousins and friends. I wore a bandana and toted my Lone Ranger toy guns.
Our grandson, Graham, 10, will have different memories. Since he was big enough to walk, he’s been fascinated by Nerf guns. His mom could start a small store with all the Nerf guns he has stashed in his room. Ask him what he wants for his birthday, and it’s always the same answer: a Nerf gun.
“Another one? Graham, you already have a zillion,” I protest.
“Grandpa, they just brought out this new model,” he says, beaming. “In fact, there are four new models. Two aren’t out yet, but I can show you two of them at Walmart.”
“How do you know?” I ask.
“YouTube, Grandpa, where else?”
It’s the same YouTube that gives him tips on how to modify his Nerf guns to make them shoot stronger. At least he’s learned how to use a screwdriver. He’s not afraid to take stuff apart.
Before you get alarmed, Nerf guns shoot foam “bullets” with plastic tips. You would have to work hard to injure someone with a Nerf bullet.
His mom caved for his 10th birthday and planned a Nerf gun party at our house. That same Saturday, a classmate held his birthday party at the bowling alley two hours before Graham’s party.
Guess who got to take Graham to that party while Mom and Grandma finished plans for his Nerf gun battle? At least a bowling birthday party is civilized. They even put gutter boards up for kids like Graham who are wild with bowling balls.
Back at home, Graham’s party started. The dad of the kid with the bowling party brought him to Graham’s party, along with his younger brother. I remember seeing this 30-something dad at the bowling alley. He looked bored.
Before long, the main event at Graham’s party began: a take-no-prisoners Nerf gun battle in our backyard. The only ground rule was don’t shoot at the sheep, like they would feel it. I did find a bullet at the barn that evening.
I find all sorts of bullets after a Nerf gun fight. In fact, I don’t even stop the lawn mower to pick them up anymore. I would never get the grass mowed. Nerf took care of the problem, offering a gizmo you push to pick up Nerf bullets — honest! Graham got one for Christmas.
I stayed inside while the birthday battle raged. Screams of excitement floated through the screen door. The party was supposed to end at 4 p.m. Bullets were still flying. Finally, sometime before 5, only Graham, his friend from the bowling alley, his friend’s dad and his little brother remained.
The father was most excited of all. “Man, that was fun!” he said.
“Well, there will probably be another one next year,” I mused.
“Oh, I hope so,” he said, beaming.
Boys and their toys — today, it’s Nerf guns. I’ll stick with watching “The Lone Ranger” reruns.