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One Event Changed His Life
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 by Frank Shortt
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It can be said that Haley was always a little sullen! What kid wouldn’t be whose dad was in and out of jail, raised by an abused mother, even they say, at an early age. Haley and his sister, Ruty, did the best they could with the meager earnings of their mother’s washing and ironing clothes for coal miners who knew not the meaning of the word ‘tip’. The miners were mostly from foreign countries and spoke little of the native language of America.

Haley arrived at his cousin Rall’s house, out of breath, white as a sheet, looking as if he had seen a house full of ghosts! “What’s the matter Haley”, Rall inquired! Haley sat dumfounded for a while as he tried to regain his breath.

“A horrible thing has happened up at Grandpa’s place, Haley mumbled between gasps! I’ve never seen such a ghastly sight!”

“What was it?” Rall asked.

“It’s too terrible to talk about,” Haley replied in horror! The young man, just finishing up high school, was in such a state that it took Rall and his wife both to finally calm Haley down enough for him to tell the awful tale.

Through clenched teeth, Haley relayed the following cold-blooded story: “We had not seen Uncle Clar all morning and we began to worry for his safety. Grandpa told me to go down to the smokehouse as that would be the likely place for Uncle Clar to stay partially warm and where he would most likely hide his nursing bottle of Kentucky Burbon or probably some home brew from over on Osborne Mountain. I walked into the smokehouse as I would normally do on a regular day, but this time what met my eyes startled me into hysterics! Uncle Clar lay on a bundle of old clothes. His hands grasped the little .22 rifle that he kept with him most of the time, (in fact, they were frozen to the barrel and had to be pried loose by the medics that finally arrived to check the horrendous situation!) I just began running down to your house as I did not want to startle Grandpa and Ma Theny! Uncle Clar had put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. You can imagine the mess that the hollow point bullet made of Uncle Clar’s features” Needless to say, Rall and his wife were shocked to the soles of their feet!

Haley was staying with Grandpa to finish up high school in the County as he had been to several schools in other states causing this very intelligent boy to have to scramble to keep up with the other students in his class. Even with the heavy workload on the farm and keeping up with his studies, it was better than not knowing if the next meal was coming or whether he would have clothes to wear. It seems that a dark cloud follows some people wherever they go!

Uncle Clar was a WW2 veteran who had been drinking as a way of life even before he had joined the army. While in the army, as a medic in the Philippines, he had been instrumental in keeping the other GI’s supplied with whatever alcohol he could make from the peels of vegetables and fruits and cans of corn they could steal from the mess tent. Uncle Clar was not a novice drinker of alcohol! When he had been discharged from the army, he married his old sweetheart, Lisa, and they set up housekeeping not far from Grandpa’s place. Lisa finally left him because of his drinking binges. Clar never got over her leaving and brooded about it thereafter. On the day he did the awful deed to himself, Lisa was marrying another man.

When a person chooses the suicidal route, that person does not realize all the people that will be influenced by his or her actions. Uncle Clar’s deed brought a funeral pall to the old homestead and caused Haley, who was already having problems, to continue thereafter to look on the dark side of everything. He joined the Air Force just at the time that the Vietnam War was in full swing. What he saw there did not at all help his mental state. His marriage to his high school sweetheart went sour due to his brooding nature. This caused a deeper despair and caused Haley to go deeper into his inner self. Even with all this, he finished college to become a teacher and was reported to be very good at what he chose to teach. When last heard from, Haley had become a hermit, divorced his second wife, and who knows what has become of him! This was all because of an intentional hollow-point bullet placed in the appointed place at the time chosen by an uncle who did not think of all the turmoil his act would cause thereafter!