I have vivid memories of my Uncle George, even though he died when I was young. He was short, stocky, full of fun, quick to laugh, always willing to help a neighbor, loved playing horseshoes and known to pull a prank or two in his day. My children have heard many times my most memorable “Uncle George story” which happened long before I was born and took place in the farmhouse where I was raised.
The farmhouse was built by my ancestors in the early 1900s. Aunt Hazel and Uncle George lived in the house for a time back in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s before Mom and Dad moved there. It contained three bedrooms, an unfinished attic, small kitchen, and plumbing and electricity which were added in later years.
The house also had two larger rooms that were called the living and dining rooms, although the names did not reflect their use. After all, the living room was rarely used, except when we had guests. The dining room had a television, so it was where we did most of our “living.” And the kitchen was where we “dined.” Between the living and dining rooms were two large sliding pocket doors that were slid shut during the coldest winter days to keep from heating the entire house with the single coal burning stove. Here the story takes place.
Uncle George was sitting with a friend in the dining room one fall day cleaning his .22 caliber rifle. When finished, he decided to test it out and bragged to his friend that he could shoot the eyes out of some fish in a picture hanging on one of the walls. Thankfully, no one else was in the house, and to my Uncle George this was a reasonable challenge. I didn’t say he always showed good judgment.
So Uncle George took aim and shot into the picture. He may have even hit the targeted fish eyes. Knowing Aunt Hazel would be home soon, the story goes that he took some toothpaste to plug the holes.
For weeks Uncle George successfully kept secret his ill-advised indoor target practice, that is until the beginning of winter when Aunt Hazel pulled the pocket doors closed. You see, the fish picture hung on a wall into which one of the pocket doors slid, and there in the door, with light brightly shining through, were four small holes!
Mom and Dad occasionally used the pocket doors when I was growing up, which was an opportunity to hear the story again and be told the importance of firearm safety. Even though the farmhouse no longer stands, I still have the wooden sliding doors that are being used in a new farm structure. The tiny holes–now filled with wood putty–are still there, evidence for use when the “Uncle George story” is passed on to my grandchildren.