By Joe Mayfield
Did you ever shoot a slingshot when you were a kid? Have you forgotten how much fun they would bring?
Usually around the age of eight or nine most boys learn how to make, and shoot, a slingshot.
My first slingshot was made from a forked limb, hickory I believe, and used strips of rubber from an automobile tire inner tube for the power source. (About 18 inch's long, and one half inch wide)
One end of the rubber strip was placed over one of the two wood forks, and while holding in place with one hand, use the other hand to wrap a strong cord type string around that fork, tie the string into a knot, then do the same with the other fork.
I used a canvas tennis shoe tongue to hold the rocks or pebbles in place as I pulled back on the two long strips of rubber to launch the ammunition. I cut a hole into each side of the canvas, placed the other end of each rubber strip through each hole, then used cord once again to tie the ends of the rubber together with the cord, then do the same with the other side of the shoe tongue.
The more we used these little rock launchers, the more we learned about what worked best, we tried marbles, gravel, ball bearings, and even steel nuts my dad kept in a box to thread onto bolts. We learned that the round objects always traveled in more of a straight line, and therefore, were better for hunting.
In the summer, Jerry Maddox, son of the police chief, and I would spend the entire day on Saturdays going up and down the creek bank of Mud Creek looking for snakes. In the winter we would practice for hours shooting tin cans, and adding more rubber strips to those already in place, and after a while we had created a hand held weapon capable of knocking holes in a number ten can filled with water.
I recall how Bill Clapp laughed when I ask if I could have the ball bearings from the wheels of an old junked auto that Junior Sterling had been removing parts from. Mr. Clapp ask, Are they for your slingshot? Yes Sir, I replied. Alright, just be careful, and dont shoot at anything that would ricochet back at you. Yes Sir, was my response, with a big smile on my face as I started work removing handfuls of what would become new ammo. Over time we were able to hit targets at 15 to 20 yards with out any problem, and Jerry and I both devised a small pouch to hold the ammo of the day.
In those days the jail was located just west of my families dry cleaning plant, and next to the jail was the town of Hanceville, Alabama water source, a well, and this well was covered with concrete about three feet high. This was perfect for placing tin cans on top, and fine tuning our shooting skills.
I have talked to guys that used their slingshots successfully hunting rabbit, and squirrel, so it is easy to understand how this homemade device is viewed as a mere Right of Passage, for a boy, the step before receiving a rifle.
The first Annual, National Slingshot Tournament I recall was in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1976, and the events varied, but the more common were, Tin Can Alley, Worlds Fastest Shot, Family Feud, and Team Shoot. People of all ages participated, boys, girls, men, and women, its all clean fun for everyone. However, I encourage any reader to use caution whenever using any device such as a slingshot, or sling, and use care when selecting targets.
Never shoot at a target that will send the projectile back in your direction, remember, they are for fun, but treat them with respect and use good sound judgment at all times.
[Copyright © Joe Mayfield All Rights Reserved
Published January 2006 by U.S. Legacies