Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 24, 2013

Ed Hungness: Lesson in personal responsibility

Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — After writing for the Record Eagle for six years, my readers know that I frequently muse on subjects of a reflective nature. When writing about life’s memory-making experiences, a message sometimes sneaks into the tale.

Several years ago, I wrote an article about my all-time favorite Christmas gift, a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun. Every boy I knew had one. Usually they were purchased by fathers, but feared by mothers who authored the warning: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Back in the 1950s, dads hunted to provide meat for their families and the BB gun was a way of introducing their sons to the sport.

My father set up tin cans on a cardboard box in the back yard and taught me how to shoot. He also schooled me in gun safety and how to oil and properly care for my rifle. He warned me to never point it, whether empty or loaded, at anything that I didn’t intend to shoot. I can remember him saying that my new privilege was not a toy and that I must think before I pull the trigger.

Those were good words to live by and I can still hear him saying them to this day. But as the old saying goes, “Boys will be boys.” I practiced shooting tin cans and after many weeks and packs of BBs, began to get bored with just plinking cans. For new excitement, I shot at glass bottles and enjoyed seeing them shatter as I honed my accuracy.

One summer day, lacking any interesting targets, I gazed over at our neighbor’s garage. The side facing our yard had a window containing four small glass panes glistening in the summer sun. From my vantage point, I could see that the one in the lower left corner was cracked. I don’t know what came over me. Somehow I rationalized that since it was already cracked, I could get away with breaking it and nobody would suspect me.

As Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it!”

After surveying for potential witnesses, I took aim. Based on the distance and limited power of my Red Ryder, I aimed high to compensate for the arc of the BB. Unfortunately, I aimed too high and the BB shattered the top pane. I could hear the glass falling onto the concrete floor inside the garage. I fired my second shot and struck the already cracked pane and the tinkle of falling glass reverberated through the empty garage. Oh, what had I done?

I ran into our house, hid the BB gun under my bed and laid low for the rest of the day. That evening there was a knock at the door and my worst fears were realized. It was the neighbor. I was busted! His wife had witnessed my crime spree from their second-floor window. Needless to say I was in big trouble with both of my parents.

The BB gun was confiscated and put away until I had paid for my crime. It was my first life lesson in personal responsibility. After several trips to the hardware store for supplies and with Dad’s supervision, I replaced the broken panes and repainted the window frame. The money spent for glass and window putty came from my piggy bank. The work was followed by a solo visit to the neighbors to apologize for what I had done and a promise to never shoot at their garage again.

Recently, I stumbled across a quotation authored by President Ronald Reagan: “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

It was good philosophy then and holds true today.

Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633