August 11, 2005
the best shot I ever saw
My Uncle Gene was my father's younger brother. He was more than six years younger than my father and served in the 82nd Airborne in Korea. Near the end of his enlistment, he made a jump at night, got tangled up in another trooper's chute and they both fell like rocks to the ground.
My uncle managed to land on top of the guy he became tangled with. He lived, with severe injuries, but the guy he rode down with died. Gene told me that the chutes caught just enough air to keep him from bashing his brains out when they hit the ground.
He spent six months in Walter Reed hospital after that. His back and legs were never right again. But that sucker could shoot a rifle. He was the best shot I ever saw.
Gene got out of the service, bought a brand-new 1958 Chevrolet and came back to Harlan to visit when I was a boy. We went to a turkey shoot one day and the sponsor finally ran Gene off because he never missed.
We went out together one day and Gene said, "See that apple tree over yonder?" I followed his pointing finger and saw the tree, at least 100 yards away. Yep. I saw it. "Now, count up three limbs from the bottom. See that blossom hanging there?" I saw it. "Okay, watch this," he said, and picked that blossom off with one shot from a .22 rifle.
He was good.
He wasn't much like my father. He was short and stocky, like me, and his mama took him with her when her husband died and she dumped my father. Gene never spent much time around my dad unless he needed money. He was a hellion and he cut a wide swath through the wimmen, too. He had a boat called "The Blue Moon" and took me fishing many times.
I once told my mama that I thought I was more like Uncle Gene than I was my father. She agreed, but told me that THAT was nothing to be proud of.
Gene died in Las Vegas several years ago, on the run from the IRS and several ex-wives. I've got some cousins out there somewhere that I've never met. Hell, maybe even HE didn't know them.
But he was the best rifle shot I ever saw.
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