My dad’s closet and the P38

Jeff Reeves


We all have memories that never leave us. One such time for me took place over fifty years ago while I was home one afternoon by myself.

I was probably around 12 years old at the time. My dad had a pistol that I admired but he would not let me hold it while loaded and shooting it was out of the question. The only time I remember him using it was down at our lake when muskrats would start digging holes and dad would convince them to go elsewhere.

I knew where he kept the P38 pistol but I never touched it by myself. I don’t remember why I was home alone that day but I thought that I would try to find it and take a closer look. My parents had walk-in closets next to each other. Hers was on the left and his on the right. When you walked into his he had his clothes hanging on a rack and on top of that were two shelves at the top of the closet. I could not reach either shelf so I went to find a stool to reach them and just maybe I would find that gun. I could see the bottom shelf and there was no gun there. It must be on the top shelf, I thought. I decided to run my hand along the top shelf and see if I could feel anything that felt like a pistol. Down one side, no gun. I went to the other side and all of of a sudden I felt a cold metal object. This must be it, I thought. And it was. I slid it over to the side and very carefully grabbed the gun and stepped down off the stool. I couldn’t believe it. I was standing there - just me and the P38.

The first thing I did was to look up into the handle. I knew it had a clip with several bullets in it, but the clip wasn’t in it. It didn’t matter because I wasn’t planning on shooting it anyway since I didn’t know how. I just kept looking at it and holding it when I thought it was time to put it back up. My finger was on the trigger and I wondered how it might feel to pull the trigger. Since I thought there was no bullet, I thought what could it hurt. I did not know to look in the chamber at the time.

I pointed the gun down at an angle, pulled the trigger and bang, the gun went off. First of all my ears were ringing and I had never felt my arm get kicked like that before and you could smell the smoke and gunpowder. I was scared to death. Number one I knew that I could have easily shot myself, but thank goodness the bullet lodged in the wall, I thought, and nobody got hurt.

Very quickly I put the gun back where I had found it, took the stool back to the kitchen and left the room. No one was home but me, so no one heard the gun go off. I thought that was the end of it.

That was the end of it as far as I was concerned. The only damage I saw was a small hole in the wall, but my dads clothes hid that and the fact that I was shaken up a bit.

The next few weeks everything seemed normal around our house except I kept noticing different bug exterminators were showing up at our house, but I didn’t think much about it.

Then one day when I got home from school, there was a car parked outside our house with a sticker on the side that read University of Georgia and a man was inside our house going through mom’s closet, which I thought was strange!

At this point, no one had asked me about the gun at all and I had not said a word. Here is what had happened - when I pulled that trigger and the gun went off, it went through the wall that divided my parent’s closet. My mother had her best clothes hanging on the right side of her closet. When the bullet went through the first wall it kept going and it started on one end of her clothes, went all the way through them, came out the other side and lodged in the wall on the far side. The bullet passed through every item of clothing.

The man from UGA was a specialist in big rodents. They thought that some large rodent was eating away on my mom’s clothes. The man found the bullet lodged in the other wall. At that point the question was asked had anyone discharged a firearm in the house. For some reason I was the likely candidate because I was so fond of that gun.

What saved me was my parents realized that I could have been hurt and they were glad that no one was.

When my mother tried on some of her clothing the morning after I fired the gun, she discovered a good sized hole in one of her dresses, but was in a hurry. She picked out another outfit the next day and had the same problem. Finally upon inspection of several pieces of her wardrobe she discovered damage in all of the clothes hanging in that location. That is why she started calling pest control people and nobody had ever seen that kind of damage before. Sure my mom was still unhappy about her clothes, but I think that Mr. Norman Fowler took care of that. He was our insurance agent, a close friend of the family and one of the nicest people I have ever known. At the time he was the only State Farm agent in McDonough, fancy that!

Heck, later on someone told me that had probably set some kind of record for hitting the most clothes at one time when I couldn’t even see them. I even tried calling the Guiness Book of World Records to tell them about my shooting abilities and no one had ever reported shooting clothes through a wall before.

I guess I had better stick to fishing I thought. One time I even caught two largemouth bass on the same hook at the same time with Mr. Pete Robinson (one of the best fishermen I have ever fished with). But that is another story I’ll tell you about later on down the road!

Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough. He and his wife Betsy have one son.