Family Stories, “The Girl Who Got Shot”

Posted: May 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

Another installment from the writings of Dr. Martha Diede.  For some background, “the girl who got shot” was my mother, Mary Carol (known below as “M.C.”)…

In the cast of characters, M.C. is one of the most deceptive. She is the oldest of Marie & Victor’s children, and she is known for agreeing to any plan presented to her, smiling, then going off and promptly doing whatever she wanted to do in the first place. But this is in the family.

In Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota, she is known as “the girl who got shot.” The family awarded her this title when she was five.

As was customary, the men often went hunting to provide meat for the family. About a year after Dorothy was born, Victor and his brothers, two more of which you will now meet (Roy and Ray) had gone hunting in the early November morning. Finished with the hunt, they returned to Ray’s house for breakfast. They pulled the four-door sedan up to the front of the house. They left their guns, loaded, in the front seat. Because they lived in Eastern Montana, they left the car doors unlocked. Who would want the car or the guns? They have their own. So, the men went inside to talk to the women, get something to eat, and drink plenty of coffee.

MC & LP and their cousins, LJ and Ronnie, being young and inventive, got into the car first to get their gloves. “It was cold.” But then LJ (yes, he does share a first name with LP, LA and LH) & Ronnie point out that the car is a great place to play. Five-year-old MC and three-year-old Ronnie headed into the back seat, while LJ pretended to drive the car. Three-year-old LP clambered into the front seat, intent on the guns. MC, oldest sister that she is, repeatedly warned him not to play with guns and informed all the boys that “the car is not a place to play.” She could not, however, compete with the Montana November cold.

And LJ, LP, and Ronnie, as little boys are wont to do, completely ignored her.

LJ, Ronnie and MC played like they were riding in the car. But LP, was still intent on the guns. Unable to cock the rifle with his tiny three-year-old hands, he placed the rifle butt on the floorboard of the front seat with the barrel of the rifle against the back of the seat. He cocked the rifle with his foot, using all of his budding engineering problem-solving skills.

Then he pulled the trigger. Also with his foot.

The rifle fired.

The bullet went through the car seat, through MC’s back, much to their mutual surprise. MC climbed out of the car, went into the house, walked up to the adults inside with her hands over her midsection and announced,
“LP shot me.”

Bleeding, she collapsed, on the couch.

With great speed, Victor swept MC up. But the car with the rifles in it had been shot, too. So, Victor and MC got in the back seat of Ray’s car. Ray drove with Roy in the front passenger seat. Regina, Ray’s wife, stayed home with LJ & Ronnie trying to figure out what had happened. LP disappeared.

The men, meanwhile, drove down the ill-kept roads to the nearest hospital. On the road, they met Marie, who had taken the then-youngest child, Dorothy, and gone to town with her in laws, Bertha and Mike. Marie could not guess why Ray’s car was speeding toward her, so she stopped. Ray stopped, too.

Upon hearing that MC had been shot, Marie wanted to return to town with her, but Bertha didn’t drive. At this time, neither did Dorothy. So, Ray traded places with Marie and drove Bertha, Mike, and Dorothy back to the house. Victor handed MC off to Marie and drove to the hospital.

When Ray, Bertha, and baby Dorothy got back to the house, Bertha inquired after the whereabouts of LP, whom no one had seen since the shooting. After an extensive search, the adults found him hiding in the barn, his three-year-old brain telling him that he had done something very, very bad. While MC lay in the hospital, Bertha and Mike took care of LP. They could not help lecturing him on the bad choice he had made, and their every glance in his direction accused him of having tried deliberately (at three) to kill his sister. His sanity, such as it was, and future freedom from the psycho-analyst’s couch was preserved by the transfer of his care from his grandparents to the original Dorothy (one of the few people in the world who could give the Dali Lama lessons in gentleness and longsuffering).

While the adults at the house sought and found LP, Victor, Marie & MC reached the hopsital. Surprisingly, MC survived the thirteen-mile drive into town. When the doctors examined MC, they discovered that she would survive being shot. LP’s bullet missed every vital organ in her body by 1/8″ here, 1/16″ there. Considering that the bullet came from a twenty-two rifle, LP found perhaps the only trajectory that did not kill her. The doctor did find, however, that he had to remove the bullet through her front.

MC’s story spread among the small community, but just how far, no one was entirely sure.

Fifty years later, the entire community gathered for Emil’s funeral and wake. At this event, MC was approached by a community member, entirely unknown to her. Their conversation went something like this:

Man: I know you! You’re the girl who got shot!
MC: Yes.
Man: I trained all of my boys in gun safety using the story of you and your brother.

MC was stunned to discover that she and LP, LJ, and Ronnie had become the gun safety lesson for at least one generation of hunters in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

MC still has scars front and back. LP still credits the original Dorothy with his sanity (such as it is). LJ and Ronnie don’t talk about it.

Next installments: Chickens + Outhouse; and the Original Dorothy and her brother Charles


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