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Slingshots and Slings - Wayne L. Carter

From a historical perspective, the sling preceded the slingshot, but for me it was the other way around. I had a homemade slingshot a long time before a sling. I cannot remember who introduced the sling to me, though perhaps the deed was handled by some of my cousins or by boys in my neighborhood.

Slingshots were easy to make using simple tools and readily available materials. A small tree limb with a Y-shaped branch would form the handle and arms of the slingshot and could be carved crudely or handsomely, depending upon one's skill. A small patch of leather was needed to hold the projectile or ammunition being shot, and such a piece of leather could be formed from the tongue of an old pair of leather shoes. The only other critical piece needed was the rubber bands that connected the leather pouch to each arm of the slingshot, and since those were the days when automotive tires required rubber inner tubes, the availability of used inner tubes was high.

While not every family saved old inner tubes, enough folks did to allow plenty of material for plenty of slingshots. Once the rubber strips were cut and tied to the arms of the slingshot and to the leather pouch, a youngster was ready for hours of fun. A few fortunate youngsters might have had access to steel ball bearings to shoot in their slingshots, but most of us country boys used "gravel rocks."

Slingshots are not much fun to shoot, unless they are targeted at something. In my neighborhood, tin cans, cats, birds, and some dogs made for interesting shooting. I don't recall ever hitting a living thing with a slingshot, but I had plenty of fun trying.

A sling is a less complicated device than a slingshot. Like the slingshot, it has a leather pouch to hold the projectile, but its power is not derived from stretched rubber bands. The sling is basically a pouch centered between two cords or narrow strips of leather. Swung rapidly overhead or alongside the user, centrifugal forces provide the sling its power, and that power can be lethal.

Though the sling is a simple weapon, it was made famous in the battle between David and Goliath of Biblical fame. In the days that I attempted to harness the power of the sling, I never developed the skills mentioned by David as he defended his abilities to slay the lion and the bear with a sling. With my skills, I don't think I could have come close to wounding either beast, let alone burying a stone in the forehead of a giant on my first attempt. However, as surely as the Lord was with David when he battled the Philistine giant, he was with this writer many years ago involving an incident with a sling.

I would have been around the age of twelve or thirteen at the time. The incident happened as Keith Gillespie and I were honing our respective "slinging" skills. I was in a neighbor's yard, slightly in an uphill line from where Keith stood on the street below. The lines of his sling became tangled as he released one of them to send his rock flying. His intended target was in a direction away from both of us. The rock was errantly hurled directly toward me with blinding speed. I'm not sure I saw it coming, but I felt it as it struck my chin. It hit with a thud, and I still remember it took a minute or so for me to feel the pain, as though the nerves in my face were too stunned to transmit the signals to my brain.

I also remember being scared I would have a disfiguring scar. It was not that I had a pretty face, but with all the other insecurities of my early pubescent years, I didn't want to be nicknamed "scar face," too. Fortunately, the facial cut produced was less than a half-inch, and the ensuing scar slowly slipped below my chin as I grew. No one ever had reason to call me "scar face," and as far as I can remember, I never truthfully explained to Mom how I cut my chin.

Mom was fortunate to have raised my older brother past his first few years, as he was prone toward self-inflicted injury, and her fretting over "Freddie" would carry over into the lives of all four of her children. Had Mom known about the "sling-thing," she'd have worried herself sick, and, thereafter, every time I wanted to play somewhere I would have been warned about the deadly potential of slings and would probably have been prevented from participating in a lot of boyhood outings.

I may not have had much sense in my youth, but I had enough to know I was lucky. I came out of the sling incident smelling like a rose. I could have easily lost an eye, a few of my permanent teeth, or my life, for that matter. I did not realize it at the time, but I have come to acknowledge my luck was not really luck at all. Rather it was something akin to divine intervention, or perhaps it was intervention by an angelic being that thwarted the course of a rock that might have otherwise produced a disaster in my life. You have the right to believe differently, but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


- Wayne L. Carter


© 2007