I applied for a permit to carry a slungshot

SOMETHING of a touse has been generated here in the state of Maine over concealed weapons. The law has been on the books since 1820, when our founders considered it a good law. Licenses to carry concealed weapons are issued by municipal officers, and as long as the applicant is of good repute they have no discretionary exceptions. With all the to-do about guns and stuff, there has been agitation to rewrite all this, and in at least one town the selectmen decided to be different. They merely presumed willy-nilly that anybody who wants to carry a concealed gun must be a villain, and that in the public interest no such licenses should go forth. In a state where just about everybody keeps a valid hunting license, you can be sure of the touse aforesaid.

Well, without the slightest intention of being a villain, and without reference whatever to guns, I applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon some 50 years ago, causing the selectmen of my town to be different. What happened might have some improbable bearing on the present touse.

You see, one thing about a ``concealed weapon'' is that it doesn't have to be a gun. True, any discussion nowadays is going to boil down to guns, and the editorial writers like to hike in ``Saturday night special'' to prove they are hep.

But our law in Maine was not originally so limiting and so selective. The forebears recognized that mayhem may be inflicted by a variety of tools - something borne out by the police statistics. Knives, for one thing, or a good hefty stick off the woodpile, and then the commonest weapon of all - the human fist. So our ancient Maine law enumerated most of the things that can be used to hurt people, and one of the items stipulated is a ``slungshot.'' The word in the statute is slungshot, not slingshot.

Which gave me pause. As of 50 years ago and more, a slingshot was a plaything we boys made from a hazel-bush fork and strips of rubber from an innertube - back before tubeless tires and ersatz rubber. If a slingshot were carefully made and mastered, it had an accuracy, and enough sting so that we boys gave them respect. There are, I daresay, few statistics about slingshot homicides. We did ping the Congo Church bell with a horse chestnut now and then, and once in a while the repairman could be seen replacing a street-lamp bulb.

But the concealed weapon law said slungshot, and a slungshot was in our bright lexicon of youth the ``weapon'' that David used when he ``sloo'' Goliath. The slungshot had biblical blessing. We had slung-shots, too, and one time I sent a horse chestnut through Mother's parlor window, proving (1)that a slungshot has wallop and (2)that David was a better shot than I was. Two leather thongs and a piece of shoe-tongue leather made a slungshot, and it was whipped around in the air overhead before it was ``let go.''

Anybody who has ever dallied with a slungshot will confirm that the David and Goliath story is the life. If a shepherd has a slungshot, I would not care to come down like a wolf on the fold. But - the text says that David prevailed over Goliath with his sling, not his slung. I'm guessing that I was not the only boy ever to wonder if David had a hazel fork and rubber bands.

Anyway, for some reason not carefully set down at the time, I applied to our esteemed municipal officers for a permit to carry a concealed slungshot. Our selectmen felt this was too whimsical for serious attention, and they neglected me while they pondered more weighty matters. While sidewalks were repaired and welfare recipients accommodated, I bided patiently, and never once ventured forth with a concealed slungshot.

I reminded the selectmen after a time, and one of them told me that the foolish law would probably be changed sooner or later, and they could wait. But the law was on my side, and I pointed out that I was clean and decent, that I kept proper hours and shunned evil companions, and that in the absence of turpitude I was entitled to a permit. Selectmen could not exercise discretion. Which was so, and after some time I got my permit to carry a concealed slungshot.

Although I never carried a slungshot, I kept the permit in my wallet until it was worn and faded. When plastics came, I covered it for a happy future and carried it until one day my canoe tipped over at Canada Falls deadwater, and I lost my wallet. I doubt if I ever bother to apply for a duplicate, but then, again....

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