For many years, there was an old rusty 10 gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of the milk house. The stock was split and was bound together by some cloth. The wood was old and dry. Nobody ever said much about that old shotgun, which looked like a cannon. It just became part of the milk house and we never gave it much thought. In fact, curious as it was, we never really noticed it while we were passing in and out during chore times. But this old shotgun has a story behind it—one that could have ended very badly because there is something about New Years Eve parties, a moderate amount of adult beverages, and firearms that doesn’t and shouldn’t ever mix.
Mom and Dad had a great set of friends. They all had pretty much grown up together in our small farming community. There was Doris and Ernie Evans and Ernie’s brother Eddy and his wife Marge. There was Betty and Gene Flynn, and Lloyd and Sue Pardee, Warren and Sue McCarthy, and Earl and Jean Jones. Gene, Lloyd, Warren, Earl and Jean were all veterans of WWII, and decorated war heroes from our little small community in Paris Township. These were responsible men and women in our community. They were carpenters, farmers, teachers, postal workers, factory workers. Responsible, but ornery. Throughout the year, they played jokes on one another, had weekly get-togethers, and were a happy bunch, helping one another through the good and the challenging times.
Every New Years Eve, they had a party. They rotated from house to house, with a different couple hosting each year. This was the one time of the year that us kids were not allowed to be with our parents. It was adults only. We stayed at one of the non-hosting couple’s houses—older kids babysitting the younger. These parties usually lasted all night. They laughed and ate and told stories and played games and joked around. Us kids could only pick up bits and pieces of what they did from the stories told, sometimes years later. One such story involved the old 10 gauge shotgun. Seems as though Jean Jones had been drinking a little and she got it in her head that she wanted to shoot off that shotgun at midnight. She was a petite woman—about five feet tall, hardly 90 pounds.
Dad told her the shotgun kicked like a mule and that’s why they never used it. But Jean insisted that, after all, she was in WWII and she knew how to handle weapons. After much discussion—even her husband told her not to do it–Dad gave in. So when everyone thought it was midnight, Jean took aim at the sky, and pulled the trigger. That shotgun kicked so hard that it lifted Jean about four feet off the ground and 10 feet backwards. And when she came to, she was mad at Dad and everyone else for not stopping her. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkens unto counsel is wise.” That shotgun was retired for good that night with counsel that no one ever use it again. And Jean never forgot the lesson. She often spoke of that New Years shotgun and how nobody tried to stop her from shooting it.