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Senior Moments – for week of May 19

Spencer3-300x2001SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – There was a popular song many years ago called “Pistol Packin’ Mama” about a jealous girl friend whose man pleaded with her not to be too rash, using the lyrics –

Lay that pistol down babe, lay that pistol down
Pistol Packin’ Mama, lay that pistol down

We all know the truism that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but fortunately I’ve never been in a position to find that out first hand, especially not with a femme fatale who carried a gun. What prompts me to mention this subject however, is something that actually happened when I was a child and with my own mother, a real “pistol packin’ mama” no less.

Before I begin the near-deadly episode let me just mention that everyone from time to time has had a lapse of good judgment and innocently did something without realizing the potentially serious consequences, though when thinking about it later realized how bad it could have turned out. A good example of this is a time in my youth when I spent a summer on a farm, and a friend and I would jump from a hayloft into piles of hay 10 or so feet below. It was an easy way to get down from the loft and great fun besides.

Years later while walking through a medical museum at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, I saw an exhibit of farm related injuries that grossed me out, one grotesque one in particular where a pitchfork handle had penetrated the rectum of a man who had jumped from a hayloft, tearing his intestines and killing him in a most horrible accident. I still shudder at the thought of how the same thing could have happened to me or my friend.

But back to the story concerning my mother when I was perhaps seven or eight. I had a cap pistol that was a replica of a six-shooter, and after a while the spring that made the trigger operate broke, making the hammer inoperable. Since this was during World War II and all metals were virtually impossible to get, toys were also in short supply so my mother put the gun in her handbag and took it to a local repair shop to get the trigger spring fixed, if possible.

Walking into the store, my diminutive five foot tall mother took the gun out of her purse and seemingly pointed it at the proprietor, only meaning to show him the problem. Before she could explain why she was there the guy who ran the shop raised his hands in fright, obviously thinking it was a hold-up and this woman was another Ma Barker, the ruthless crime matriarch who headed her sons’ gang during the 1930s, and who J. Edgar Hoover described as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” My timid little mother? She wouldn’t hurt a fly let alone have the nerve to pull an armed stick-up.

Assuring the guy that she only wanted to get the toy fixed, he relaxed but then berated her for doing such a stupid thing. Of course the whole episode was absurd and makes me laugh just to think about it, but also generates thoughts of other possible endings to the incident. The store owner could have had a heart attack, he could have had a real gun of his own and shot my mother, or could have wrestled my mother to the ground and had her arrested for being a dangerous lunatic. Needless to say it all worked out okay except that my pistol never did get fixed, much to my chagrin, though at least I still had my mother.


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