My story goes back some 25 years ago. My uncle, a collector of fine guns, would often take my cousin and I shooting. While just young boys we learned the safety and importance of firearms. We would learn later in life how important his lessons would come to be.

My aunt and uncle ran a mill store and were mail carriers for some post offices. One fall day while my mother and sister were visiting my aunt at her store, a strange man came in and looked around a few minutes before pulling a snub-nosed .38 and demanded money from the cash drawer. My aunt decided this would not do and pulled a .32 caliber pistol out of the drawer. Just as she began to point the gun, the stranger shot her in the head and grabbed the money from the drawer and attempted to take my sister hostage. At the time she was only three years old. My mother, at 5 feet and 100 pounds, held on to my sister with all her strength. Her adrenaline was at its full potential, the man let go of my sister and struck my mother on the top of her head with the butt of the revolver, causing a deep laceration. He grabbed my mother’s purse and stole the keys to her car. He fled down a country road attempting to get away with all of the $56 that he had taken from the cash drawer. My mother who had enough awareness, called 911. About 20 minutes later my aunt was en route to the hospital, but would be dead on arrival. The bullet had penetrated her brain.

Both my cousin and I were at school when this happened, and my uncle performed routine maintenance there as well. Our teacher and my uncle came to the gymnasium and broke the sad news. Several hours later we gathered at my uncle’s house to mourn; around 6:00 PM the adults decided to go to the funeral home and make the arrangements, leaving my cousin, his younger sister and my younger sister there. The funeral home was about 20 miles away. By this time the shooting was all over the news and in a small town like ours everyone heard about my aunt’s death and that the murderer was at large.

Around 7:30 PM we were watching television when a news update came on telling a chilling story of a gang of fugitives from Michigan that were camping only a few miles from us and that the killer was suspected of being a part of this gang. It seems like moments later we noticed a strange automobile sitting adjacent to the house with two rough-looking guys sitting there not doing anything. My cousin retrieved a pair of binoculars and we began to watch the men. All they appeared to be doing was drinking from a liquor bottle. A few minutes later we see the two men get out of the car, appearing to be little intoxicated. All at once the liquor bottle was thrown against the side of the garage and broke in many pieces. The two men slowly began walking toward the house; it was beginning to get dark and we were very scared. My cousin yelled, “We need to get upstairs” and grabbed a shotgun and a box of ammo from one of the three gun racks in the living room. As our sisters had already run upstairs, I asked if there was another gun close. Under his dad’s chair was a custom Colt .45 that we had often shot while his dad was with us. He handed it to me and we proceeded to go up the stairs.

At this time we were so scared we didn’t say anything for what seemed like an hour. It turned out to be about five minutes when we walked to the window, which was already open and began to fire both the .45 and the shotgun several times in the air. I can honestly say I did not even hear the gunshots. Needless to say the two staggering men ran back to their car and threw gravel all over while leaving.
The man who had shot my aunt, struck my mother, and attempted to kidnap my sister was captured later that night on his way back to Michigan. Since then I have been an avid shooter, gun collector and become a part-time deputy sheriff, carrying a .45 everywhere I go. The man has come up for parole twice since he was sentenced to prison and both times he was denied. We rarely talk about that day, but what took place that day will never be forgotten.

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