Dogwood Prong Slingshot

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DOGWOOD PRONG SLINGSHOT

As far back as I can remember, I have loved the outdoors; rambling the hillsides, fields, wet weather branches, small stream beds and a few of the larger creeks.  I have some of the ramblings documented on one of my short stories titled, Brownie, of which my travel range by foot would normally be within four or five miles of our home on Maple Lane, Wadesboro, NC. 

I also had a passion for capturing, crows, hawks, foxes, squirrels, song birds, etc. and raised the young ones trying to make pets out of them.  I didn't think there was a tree too large or too tall that I couldn't climb.  Sometimes, I had to use a knotted rope with a grappling pronged hook on the end in order to snag the closest limb to the ground when the tree was too large in diameter to get my legs and arms around part of it.  The grappling hook and rope added much more safety to climb to the first limb and then it was fairly easy from then on.  The Lord really looked after us young boys, because one slip could have been disastrous for sure.  Take a look at the safety gear I currently use to ascend and descend a tree which has a metal silo type ladder attached to it.

I taught myself to use a cheap Shakespeare fly rod with level line and a Pflueger single action reel by reading magazines such as Outdoor Life and Field and Stream that my Uncle Doug Coley subscribed to.  My favorite writers were; Joe Brooks, Grits Gresham, Jack O'Conner and Corey Ford who had a column for Field & Stream called, "The Lower Forty", a fictional group of folks who were avid outdoorsmen and fly rod enthusiastic.  That stemmed a desire to own an Orvis Battenkill Impregnated Split Bamboo fly rod and a Hardy single action reel (way out of my shallow pockets purchasing power back then), of which it was many decades later before I owned one that was used and it was built in 1965 for a law firm in NY.  Any fly rod purists, will tell you, there is nothing like a matched slow action spilt bamboo fly rod for the ultimate feel in landing a fish.  I gave that fly rod that came with a spare tip section to our son Bill, Jr. during one of his latest visits.  Over the decades, I have caught my share of fish using a Fenwick graphite fly rod and the Scientific Anglers single action fly reel made by Hardy Brothers in England.  Decades ago, I switched fly lines to Scientific Anglers and use mostly their bass bug taper in weight # 9 and have used Orvis fly lines as well, keeping a DT fly line on my spare spool for the Hardy Brothers reel.  I got a little side tracked there going back into the past, but I am back on track now........grin if you must!

For decades, I have been wanting to construction an ole timey slingshot which consists of a forked prong, preferably made of Dogwood.  Dogwood tree limbs usually fork out into at least two small branches aka limbs, but finding a perfect match in the correct diameter and shape is hard to come by.  To go along with the Dogwood prong, there has to be some type of gum rubber or latex which generates the propulsion needed to launch a projectile, which could be a small round rock, marble, steel ball bearing, etc.  To hold the projectile, a leather pouch is needed which is attached to the rubber bands with the two rubber bands terminating onto each end of the fork of the Dogwood prong.

Many, many decades ago, one could find some old red rubber that would stretch and return to its original shape which came from tire inner tubes.  A-model tires which are about extinct, had excellent rubber.  I know, I have made slingshots that the rubber bands would not propel your ammunition; e.g., rock, marble, steel ball bearing, etc., too far at all.  Sometimes, we would luck out and get a good tire inner tube that would stretch and last awhile.  Modern tire inner tubes are useless for a home made slingshot.  Later, we used the large 5/8 inch width office supply rubber bands and cut them in half to make a longer rubber band suitable for the slingshot, however they are not currently suitable since they don't have the power of the ones way back when.

My first cousin, Johnny Ray Coley, (now deceased) who lived about 1/4 mile from our home on Sikes Avenue was my favorite pal and we made many slingshots, homemade bows and arrows and all kinds of stuff that young boys back in the middle 1950s constructed.  We were proficient at throwing knives, hatchets, axes, home made spears, rabbit boxes aka traps, etc., the things that young boys would do back then.  We also made David slings, Bolas, boomerangs, homemade wagons, bullwhips, telephones using tin cans and a string and skateboards (scooters) using the old timey lock on metal roller skates which was tightened with a key.  It was unreal, the things kids made back in the 1950s to keep entertained!

During the time we made those slingshots, we also had our first BB air rifles and not long after, we had our own .22 caliber single shot rifle, but still fabricated a slingshot.  I still have the ole Winchester model 67 .22 caliber rifle to this day.  My Uncle Doug Coley pawned it off while I was overseas in the US Navy and I found a couple of the same model in Deese's Beer Joint and Pawn Shop here in Wadesboro, NC, being one of Uncle Doug's hangouts.  I am about certain, the one I purchased was the one I originally had that was given to me by Uncle Doug when I was eleven (11) years old.  It was beat and banged up some but still shot true.

I know I am rambling quite a bit, which you know this is my modus operandi (MO).....grin if you must!

RAW MATERIALS NEEDED FOR THE SLINGSHOT

The Dogwood prongs are a little on the smaller diameter side than I prefer, but I got what I could find at the time.  I cut that set down and had them in my basement, as I said for many decades.  Normally, we would use our pocket knives to harvest a good set of slingshot prongs and go ahead and cut them to length and add the string/rubber band notches.  It certainly was fun making those slingshots and believe me, it takes four hands to get the rubber bands attached to the leather pouch and to the tips of the prongs. 

In the above pix, I have a set of prongs that might be American Hornbeam which we call Ironwood here in North Carolina that I cut and shaped while the wood was still green.  The butt of the handle cracked but it is still useable and will add a set of gun rubber bands to it very soon for a spare.

The roll of nylon waxed string is what is used to tie down cable runs in the telephone equipment offices.  I had a friend, Bill Escott, (deceased) who was contracting for the telephone company, get me a roll of the material.  There is a special knot we used to start the cable run when lashing cables down and when pulled tight, will not release itself which will work great for doing the slingshot. 

RAW GUM RUBBER BAND PROCUREMENT INFO

I purchased a couple sets of gum rubber flat band sets from Thomas Nelson at Burdett, NY via the internet and disassembled one set, removing the ammo leather pouch, since I wanted to show how the leather pouch is made from a leather shoe tongue and tied to the rubber bands.  You can contact Nelson at:  t3wheel@htva.net to purchase a set of gum rubber flat bands with the leather pouch attached.   Also, check his webpage at:  www.bunnybuster.com 

CUTTING THE PRONGS TO LENGTH

The first order of business was to cut the Dogwood prongs to length using the bandsaw and then file a notch on each side of each prong to help retain the rubber band to the prongs.

With the prongs ready for the gum rubber bands, it was time to fabricate the leather pouch that holds the ammunition you plan to shoot; e.g., ball bearings, marbles, round musket balls, rocks, etc.

POUCH FABRICATION

I saved the leather tongue and sides off a pair of worn out boots just for this project and like the prongs, had the leather stashed back for a very long time.  In our youth, we used a pair of scissors and/or our pocket knives to fashion the leather into the shape of the pouch which was rectangular with a hole in each end for the rubber bands to fit into.  Most of the time we used rubber that was cut into strips anywhere for 1/2 to 5/8 inch width and 11 to 12 inches in length or longer.

The rubber band hole is shaped more like the letter D and used a razorblade utility knife to cut the hole out.  When we were boys, we simply folded the shoe tongue leather and used our pocket knife or a pair of scissors to make a basically round hole for the rubber band.

The above leather pouch is approximately 1 inch wide x 4 inches in length x .072 inches thick.

FOUR HANDS NEEDED

I had to put my thinking cap on to get the rubber band stretched tight and wrap the waxed nylon cord around it tight to where it will not pull lose when stretched.  I fabricated the two extra hands by using my large vise, a couple pieces of board to protect the leather, a C clamp and another piece of wood to keep it into position, once the rubber band was stretched tight.

The above jerry rig worked like a champ.  I used the special friction knot and finished the tie with a surgeon's knot which is a square knot with an extra first wrap.  If I did a number of these, I would make a holding and stretching jig, but not for one or two items.

I don't have a clue as to what the above knot is called, but with the waxed nylon cord, dental floss, etc., when you pull it tight it will hold and not slip.  Once you pull the slip knot tight, you tie a regular overhand knot with the two loose ends which secures the tension created by the slip knot.  You then make two or three wraps of each end of the cord going in opposite directions and finish off by tying a surgeon's knot.

You have to have at least a working man's GED to create the extra two hands needed....grin if you must!  Of course, you can tie the rubber without stretching it, but that is the way I did it as a young boy and I guess, it is still hard to break old dormant habits.

I finished the surgeon's knot by putting a little bit of Krazy Glue on the knot, being sure to not let it get onto the rubber band, otherwise it will soften and/or weaken the rubber band causing it to fail.

Let the glue dry a minute or two and trim the ends....ready for the other side of the rubber band to the pouch.  I love what the manufacturers tell you when you are assembling their products; e.g., doing the opposite side of their product, whatever it might be; Example: Repeat steps 1 thru 5, etc......another grin is in order if you must! 

RUBBER BANDS TO THE PRONGS

I held the Dogwood handle section in the vise by the butt and it was easy to stretch the rubber band over the end of the prong, holding it in place with the thumb and forefinger.  I already had the special slip knot ready and placed it around the rubber brand and prong with the other hand.  The slip knot was pulled tight and then wrapped the cord around the prong while continuing to keep tension on the rubber band and prong while wrapping the cord.  Once a couple wraps was in place, I released pressure from the rubber band and prong and used that hand to finish tying off the cord with a surgeon's knot.

Again, Krazy glue was applied to the surgeon's knot and the cord ends were trimmed.

READY FOR FIELD TESTING

Tomorrow, I will see if I can still shoot a slingshot instinctive and if I was a gambling man, I believe with a little practice, it will be like riding a bicycle.  One of the hazards of shooting this type of slingshot is, don't place your thumb off the handle or side of the prongs, otherwise it will be in the line of fire and that is definitely not a good thing.......been there, done that.  Then, there is the ever present hazard of one of the rubber bands breaking while at full draw, therefore it is best not to try and sight it like shooting a rifle, but shoot it at about waist to chest height, purely instinctive.  You simply look at what you want to hit and pull the loaded pouch back and let it go.  It is akin to throwing a rock or baseball.

If one is savvy and accurate enough, small games such as rabbits, squirrels and even quail can be harvested with the ole slingshot.  I think we more or less worried the song birds to death with those slingshots, along with tin cans, and yes, we burst our share of glass bottles, etc.; not worried about anyone getting cut on the broken glass, but that is youth for you.

I got the ole Ironwood set of prongs rigged up and Xander and myself will have some serious fun this coming Saturday, if the weather is conducive.  We recently had a gulley wash of a rain on 05-04-17 and the morning of 05-05-17, hopefully it will remain dry on the 6th.  As the country folks use to say, "It was raining cats and dogs."

UPDATE ON SHOOTING THE SLINGSHOT

I got around to launching about 10 or more rocks through the slingshot and I was definitely surprised in a somewhat non-positive way.....grin if you must!  I hit the target which was an oil filter can only one time at about 21 feet.  I forgot to take into account that date on my birth certificate.  However, I believe with a good amount of practice, I will be able to hit some targets on a regular basis.   

This slingshot is a lot more powerful than the ones I made back in the middle to late 1950s due to much better raw gun rubber bands of today.  I definitely had a tremendous amount of fun trying to get back into the groove.  I don't think I need to take a trip to Las Vegas.....grin if you must!

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 05-05-17.

RUFUS HUSSEY "THE BEAN SHOOTER MAN"

Rufus Hussey (deceased) from Seagrove, NC was probably the best of the best around NC as far as making and shooting the ole timey dogwood handle slingshot aka bean shooter.  He was interviewed by Carolina Camera years ago and there are several videos of him on YouTube.  I couldn't get the direct link to work, but if you type in his name on YouTube search, several videos will be available to view.  The first link in this paragraph to Rufus Hussey, Wikipedia, has several of the links active.

I watched one video where Rufus Hussey showed how he tied off the rubber to the prongs and the leather pouch.  Rufus used a # 32 rubber band for the prongs and a # 16 rubber band for the pouch connection and easily tied them without any trouble.  Of course, he tied # 9512 in the video and that is a humongous amount of slingshots aka bean shooters as he calls them since he was 10 years old.  He started selling and giving them away starting in 1952 and one reference had him making over 15,000 bean shooters aka slingshots.  Most of his tricks shots were at about 20 feet and closer and he was totally awesome.

Rufus is buried in the Smyrna United Methodist Church Cemetery in Moore County, Robbins, NC.

TOM ALLEN WEBSITE

Tom Allen, a friend and hunting companion of Rufus Hussey has the procedure that Rufus Hussey used for making his beanshooters at this link.   Tom has some good short stories and excellent photographs on his website as well.

IN CLOSING

Youth of today, don't have a clue what we did growing up making our own "toys" and things to keep ourselves entertained.  Now with all the modern technology and gadgets, I believe the brain power and creativity is being diminished or should say, not being used to its potential.  Technology is doing a tremendous amount of thinking for us currently.  For example: How many people dial telephone numbers from memory?  Technology does it for us.  I make it a point to dial some numbers from memory to keep the brain active.....guess I am still old school!  The old saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it" and how true indeed!

This was a fun project and it certainly brought back a lot of good memories from the past.  I don't mind going back in time reflecting on the wonderful and simple things of Life. 

I plan to get our youngest Grandson, Xander McKnight Gonzales over and give him some lessons on shooting the slingshot.  He just turned eight years old and about the right age to have some fun besides video games, etc.  I don't think I will let him take the slingshot home with him, but he will use it under my immediate supervision at our home where there is plenty of space to send some rocks airborne ......grin if you must!

I let Xander shoot a more modern Wrist-Rocket slingshot that has a handle and frame formed from a sold aluminum rod, with a plastic handle insert and surgical tubing for the rubber bands.  We used fired .22 caliber rimfire spent cases for ammo and he did very well.  Personally, they are more powerful than the old style slingshots we made, but with the extended forearm piece resting on top of your slingshot forearm, they don't seem to allow you to shoot instinctive as good as the old style of slingshot.  I have owned at least two of the modern Wrist-Rocket type slingshots and still have one.

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 05-02-17 and updated on 05-05-17.

LEAVING ON A SPIRITUAL NOTE

If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please take this moment to accept him by Faith into your Life, whereby Salvation will be attained.   

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Open this link of Bible Verses About Salvation, King James Version Bible (KJV).

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
 

IN GOD WE TRUST - GOD BLESS AMERICA - "FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE"   JOHN 3:16 KJV 

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