Sunday, September 27, 2009
Uncle Jim’s .38 Spl.
Decades ago, back when I was a wee lad of six, Uncle Jim, my mother’s brother, came to live with us for a few months at our rented house in Detroit. My father was in the army and stationed in Germany, so he was out of the picture for the time being and Uncle Jim was the man of the house, more or less.
To say Uncle Jim was a ne’er-do-well would pretty much be accurate. At the time he came to live with us, he was unemployed by choice, not because the economy was bad. The economy in Detroit at that time was humming and there were plenty of good-paying jobs around for those who wanted them, it’s just that Uncle Jim didn’t want them. He seemed to be happy hanging around the house, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer (more on that soon), and pontificating on the world’s problems. I think my mother and father tolerated this because he was an adult male presence while my father was away.
One night when my mother was out, Uncle Jim was tasked with babysitting my brother and me. My three-year-old brother was already in bed and I was in the kitchen talking to Uncle Jim about something, who knows what at this point, when the subject of Uncle Jim’s .38 snubby revolver came up. I asked him if I could see it--by this time, Uncle Jim was several beers into the night and his judgment was no doubt impaired--so he went and got it from his room. I had never heard a gun’s report before, so when he asked if I wanted to see it fired, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” I clearly remember him sitting at the end of kitchen table, me on the opposite end of the table, and taking aim at the cabinet door under the sink. I also clearly remember jumping at the sound as the gun went off and stubbing my toe on the table leg. That thing was LOUD!
Looking at the cabinet door, I spied a small hole in its center. By this time Uncle Jim had put the snubby down, at least that’s how I remember it, and I walked over to the cabinet and opened it. There, just inside the cabinet, lay the lead slug. I picked it up—I think it was still warm—and gave it to Uncle Jim. * After that, my memory fails me, except I do recall that my mother was extremely mad at Uncle Jim for what he did, although at the time I couldn’t understand why.
Eventually, my mother, brother, and I joined my father in Baumholder, Germany, and left Uncle Jim and his .38 snubby behind. The snubby will reappear again in my childhood, as will Uncle Jim, but more about that some other time.
*I strongly suspect, although I can’t be sure, that the ammo in that snubby was topped with the old, ineffectual 158-gr. lead roundnose bullet, which likely explains why the slug stopped right after if got through the cabinet door. .38 +P rounds hadn’t been invented yet (this was in 1965), and who knows how old the ammunition was in the gun. Uncle Jim bought the gun sometime in the 1950s, I believe, and I would not be surprised if the ammo dated from the same time as when he purchased the gun, and who knows if the gun was new when he bought it.