Red Ryders aren’t the only thing that can shoot your eye out

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Russell Huffman
Russell Huffman


My brother, Mack and I got a pretty decent education when it came to outdoor activities with my father, Jim and Uncles Henry and David riding herd on two wild boys.

Dad was always strict when it came to firearms and the slightest violation of “Pop’s Law” was met with harsh consequences and a long sentence separating one from their beloved .22, etc.

I was probably between eight and nine years old when my behavior and my having learned gun safety merited the Christmas gift of the infamous Red Ryder BB gun. That’s right the very same gun from Christmas Story and the fabled “You’ll shoot-your-eye-out” tale.

No boy was happier on Christmas day or sadder a couple days later when I broke the rules and went all “John Wayne” while breaking “Pop’s Law.” I had been taught my BB gun was not a toy, but somehow I missed the part about using it to whack imaginary enemies as I advanced through the brush. (Dad probably never imagined I would be smacking sagebrush and tree limbs.)

I also never imagined my Red Ryder’s barrel would take a dent that left my BB gun basically useless. Every time I would shoot it the barrel would pop off the gun which turned my Red Ryder into a low velocity “bow and arrow” good to about 12 feet. If only the quality of the bb gun was was as good as the ones found at this link.

Devastated would be a good description and based on my going all “commando” it was a good while before Dad saw fit (warned about it or not) to think I deserved another projectile launching item. I think my Mom, Marianne, probably breathed a secret sigh of relief that I wouldn’t be shooting my eye out or my brother either.

Looking back it’s a wonder (semi-miracle) both of us survived childhood. Mack made it in spite of some of my stunts (accidently cut off the tip of his finger in branding chute). Me, because Dad was sometimes tempted to tie me in a sack and chunk me in the river. “We can make another one who looks just like him,” he could have whispered to Mom.

Somehow we made it past childhood and on to bigger and better things. Despite all of the warnings and learning, we still trip up as my brother did this past week. For all of you that know me personally or are friends on Facebook you know I don’t share tales of woe, but I thought this time it would appropriate.

With the free fishing coming up across the state Saturday, there will be many people hitting the shores of Lake Proctor and other public waters. Too many of those fishermen to count will have limited experience and risk some dangers they probably never imagined.

Mack, who is an avid and vastly experienced outdoorsman, probably never imagined his last fishing trip would result in a trip to a Lawton hospital then rushed to an Oklahoma City trauma unit for surgery. The day before Mack had found a “honey hole” in a creek and was raking in the catfish so he had brought along his wife, Tina, and a friend, Chad Stringer.

The fish were BITING and it was really CATCHING, and not just fishing so the excitement level was pretty high. Not having your line in water meant you were missing out on a sure thing.

Mack hit a snag and began to attempt to work it free and in the excitement did not don his sunglasses which were sitting on top of his ball cap brim. A quick flip of the fishing pole and an even quicker release of the hook sent the “bullet” weight into the bridge of Mack’s nose where it ricocheted into his left eye.

After the initial surgery, he will now face 2-3 more surgeries as doctors attempt to save his eye and his vision. The first ultrasound has revealed the optic nerve is still attached, but the amount of blood in his eye prevented seeing whether or not his retina is still attached. An instant cataract was formed when the weight hit his eye and at the moment he describes “a bug splat on a windshield” as the only vision he has in the eye.

Mack wasn’t expecting the line to just suddenly break free and luckily for him his wife is a nurse and she had someone there to aid in getting my brother to the hospital. The road to recovery is going to be a long one. We, of course, are praying for a positive outcome.

So with the free fishing coming up this weekend I thought it might be best to pass along this word of warning to wear sunglasses (the shatterproof kind start as low as $15) when fishing. As for snags, no high-dollar fishing lure is worth an eye of for that matter getting stuck in other parts of your body. CUT THE LINE!

There are many “snags” to fishing and I recommend spending a little time learning about watching the area around you when casting. That way you don’t snag your brother or sister behind the ear and end up in the emergency room.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video about how unsnag a hook without catching the fisherman there are many more tips available.

Russell Huffman is chief roust-about and step-and-fetch-it at The Flash Today. His previous work includes both print and broadcast journalism with awards from the Texas Press Association for news writing and photography. A former Army officer, Russell earned his commission through the Tarleton State University ROTC program. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole. To contact Russell, do so at

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