No one I knew needed this pretty gun. It was beautifully crafted with intricate carvings in the steel barrel. Why wasn’t the auctioneer getting any bids?
Someone timidly said, "Twenty-five cents!" I asked myself, "Why not? It’s going for a song." "Fifty," I called out clearly, hoping to buy it. There were no more bids. When the auctioneer said, "Sold," the man standing next to me in the crowd said, "Now you be real careful, young lady. That thing’s loaded you know." Suddenly I realized why no one else in that crowd would pay more than 50 cents for this shotgun with the Damascus steel barrel.
No, I didn’t know it was loaded. But I had no fear about handling it because I’d earned four beautiful white wool sweaters with sleeve stripes and was in the honorary club called Musketeers.
They carefully passed my purchase back to me. There I stood in a mob of people with a loaded shotgun pointed to the sky. I must have been talking, and should have been listening, when the auctioneer explained that the gun was loaded. Everybody else considered it an accident about to happen.
People gave me a wide path as I walked out with my gun. A couple of men wanted to stop me to inspect the decorative lines on the barrel, but I just smiled and kept walking. I unlocked the car and carefully placed my 50-cent Damascus barrel shot gun on the floor, pointing backward, and locked the doors.
As usual, Chub thought this was a sure sign of insanity, but I stowed the gun away safely and looked up Damascus steel in my 1876 encyclopedia: "Steel of the highest excellence ... swords of the Crusaders ... beautifully lined ... so sharp they could cut bars of iron ... formerly made at Damascus in Syria." So much for insanity!
Months later when Uncle Lawrence, from Moberly, heard my sale story, he was eager to see the loaded gun.
When I brought it out, his face lit up. He handled it carefully, lovingly. "I’ll give you five bucks for it," he said.
Uncle Lawrence was born in Centralia. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18, fought in the trenches and survived World War I.
I had no qualms about his being able to handle this dangerous weapon with care. He was serious in his offer, and I accepted, seeing myself as a big winner with the 50-cent investment.
The next I heard from Uncle Lawrence was, "Ha! I sold the shotgun for $50 to the guy down at the beer joint. He mounted it on the wall up above the mirror at the bar."
I was happy! Uncle Lawrence is a terrific guy, and I didn’t care that he made a big profit on the gun - until he added, "And some fellow offered him $500 for it, the very next week. It wasn’t enough. He wouldn’t accept the offer."
As far as I know, my "gun for a song" is still hanging above the mirror in some bar in Moberly.