Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dime Store Mystery

See that? That's a Buck Rogers XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol manufactured by Daisy circa 1935.

It's a pretty cool toy, especially for the Depression Era-- 10" long, metal, made noise and shot sparks when you squeezed the trigger. As you might imagine, they're quite collectible; in fact, I just saw one in good condition on eBay for $799.99.

A bit of only slightly irrelevant trivia: Dave Grohl, frontman for the Foo Fighters (and a science fiction fan), plopped one on the cover of their debut album:

Let's change lanes for a minute (don't worry; this'll all connect): when I was a kid growing up in the Sixties, Mom & Dad shipped me off to my grandparents' tobacco farm for a week every summer, which was great! I got to ride on tractors and ponies, play in the river, hike through the woods, wander through the family cemetery, climb into barn lofts, hang out with my cousins, and explore all sorts of vast, uncharted (by me) territory.

Including the farmhouse.

Now, my grandparents' house was built about 1828* and, typical for the area, had high porches under which all sorts of things accumulated: rusty lawn mowers, cans of nails, discarded tractor tires (often painted white and made into flower planters), planking, sheet metal, empty oil cans...

...and a rusty, dirty, no-longer-functional Buck Rogers XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol.

At the time I had no idea what this was and thought nothing of it besides it being a convenient weapon to use against my cousins whenever we re-enacted the Great Battles of History.** Many (many!) years later when I saw the Foo Fighter's album I thought to myself, "Hey! I recognize that gun! I wonder what ever happened to it?"

It took a few minutes before the next series of thoughts hit me: To whom did it belong? My grandparents had three daughters, no boys, as girly-girl as one could imagine (paper dolls and doll houses, tea sets, etc.). Mom would have been 13 when this thing was manufactured, my middle aunt would have been a few years younger, and my youngest aunt would have been an infant. Who bought it? How did it get here? Why was it left and forgotten, because what boy would give up such a thing?

There's a deep mystery here, one that's, sadly, completely unsolvable and I've got to admit, late at night when my blood sugar's low and I'm feeling melancholic, it haunts me.

*Actually, my cousin Jay, the current resident, has been doing a lot of restoration and is beginning to think it's much older.

**Which went something like: "Bang! I gotcha!" "Did not!" "Did too!" "Did not!" "Did too!" "Yeah, well, I got you first!" "Did not!" "Did too!" "Did not!" "Did too!"


Dr. Jitters said...

I have wanted one of those for years, after seeing it in a Time-Life book my grandma had. Beautiful design.

A Happy New Year to you!

G. W. Ferguson said...

It really is one of the Coolest. Things. Ever! and I so wish I'd managed to salvage the one at the farm.