by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

You learned how I came by my Crosman Single-Six pellet pistol in part 1. Today, I’ll tell you about the gun, and some more about the boy who owned it.

The SA-6 is a CO2 revolver from the late 1950s. At the time it came out, Crosman was stuck by a patent that prevented them from producing Powerlets the way they wanted, so instead, they were capping them with a unique bottlecap-type top that (unfortunately) leaked. In a pack of five cartridges, you could count on at least one being empty and sometimes two! That was bad news for a shooter who counted his pennies! I not only had to buy pellets, but also these cartridge things that were a crapshoot. Without them, I was dead in the water! The concept of a spring-powered airgun would have been crystal clear to me after a week of ownership, but I couldn’t afford the $30 for a Webley Senior.

So, I shot carefully.

Yeah, right! It’s the late 1950s, cowboy shows are No. 1 on TV and I own a cowboy six-shooter…and you want me to be careful? I didn’t own a holster, but your front jeans pocket is almost as good. At least it is until you snag the front sight on the hem of the pocket as the gun is coming out during a fast-draw and you touch one off inside your pocket!

I learned to shoot carefully.

I also learned to sew jeans pockets in one quick afternoon, so my mom never found out what I had done. A week later, all I had was a nasty long scab on my thigh that I got when my bike skidded off the road (wink, wink).

My friend’s name was not Weird Ted Barnhart, the name I’ve been using in my stories for years, but it was close to that and he was weird. Anyhow, Weird Ted talked me into going on safari in the woods behind Isley’s ice cream shop on West Kent road in Stow. The creek that ran through the woods was probably as polluted as the Cuyahoga River tributary into which it emptied, and that river is the one that burned out of control for three days in the early 1950s.

Weird and I suited up with a proper kit of stuff that sort of resembled camping gear. By “sort of,” I mean that neither he nor I owned anything authentic or ourdoorsy. I had a Nazi cartridge belt and a Kabar sheath knife with a broken handle, and Ted had a combination hatchet and claw nail-puller. We each had a flashlight, but neither of us had any batteries. Besides, we were going in the middle of the day. I had to be home by 4:30 to deliver my papers.

Weird had a Daisy model 177 BB pistol that he carried cocked all the time, so the velocity was something under 100 f.p.s., if the BB came out at all. That made my .22 caliber SA-6 the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum of our partnership, as my gun could leave a deep dent in the soft pine clapboard siding of a garage–don’t ask me how I know.

On a warm July morning, the intrepid pathfinders melted seamlessly into the verdant marge of shagbark hickory, elm and crabapples that had probably never before felt the tread of western man. The day ripened into humidity with an overture of cicadas as we clanked along the stream (our backpacks were too large for the meager gear and canned food we toted).

After about an hour, which is four days in the world of imaginary explorers, we came upon a strange array of mounds. I climbed up on one to survey the landscape and encountered an unusual rusty round plate the size of a manhole cover. There were raised characters in a strange foreign tongue on the outside of the plate, but the rust was too thick to make any sense of them. And then it happened.

A rabbit darted out of the weeds on the other side of the six-foot-high mounded ridge! I could actually see it from where I stood, but Ted was still on the ground on the wrong side of the ridge, so he saw nothing.

At first, I was flustered beyond action, but a few seconds after the rabbit disappeared I drew my piece (carefully!) and quickly fanned six pellets in the last direction I had seen that rabbit go. “Did you get him?” Weird asked, after the din of firing died away.

“No. I didn’t get him,” I answered blissfully.

And then Weird exploded in a huge guffaw that lasted for minutes, “You sounded like an anti-aircraft gun on a battleship! How could you have shot so much and not gotten him? Yer a regular Fanner 50!” He said that in reference to the Mattel cap gun that was popular at that time.

It was still ten years before Vietnam would burst into the news, and we would learn about statistics like the number of rounds per casualty inflicted. I think I still had a couple thousand to go before the odds favored me for a kill, but in the late 1950s nobody knew that. The cowboys ALWAYS got their man–especially when fanning. In the immortal words of Mr. Miyagi to the Karate Kid, “No can defense!”

Ten minutes later, Weird was still laughing when we stumbled on the reason for the ridge-like mounds. They were sewer pipes and the rusty plate I had seen was in fact a manhole cover. And they all lead to the sewage treatment plant, whose fragrant aroma made identification fast and easy. The stink shut up Weird for a long time; and I thought I’d heard the last of it, it resurfaced once we were back in breathable air.

We had many other adventures along the Cuyahoga river, but my friend never let me live down the Fanner 50 incident. Ten years later, when I was an outlaw at Frontier Village in San Jose, California, I revived my fanning to cover a glacier-slow fast draw. They called me other names then, but I always thought of myself as Fanner 50 and the Crosman Single-Six that started it all.