“My mother gave me a gun and asked me to shoot him!”

by Nancy Olson

When I was 13 years old, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night and handed me a 410 shotgun.

“Gary is beating your sister again,” she said. “This time we are stopping him for good. I don’t want to kill him, but he is a black belt [an expert in martial arts]. If he doesn’t let your sister leave in peace when I tell him to, then you may have to shoot him.”

Her eyes moved from my face to the gun and then back to my face. “Do you think you can do that? If you don’t think you can do it tell me now.”

“Why do I have to shoot him, Mom?” I asked, in the tiny voice of a confused teenager.

“You are 13,” my mother said, “if you shoot him you will get out of jail pretty quickly, that is if they even charge you. But if I do it myself you may lose your mom for a really long time.”

She kept her eyes to my face again. “But if you think you can’t do it tell me now.”

“I’ll do it if you tell me to, Mom.”

And so we went to my sister’s house and Gary came out.

“I’ll beat her if I want!” he bragged. “She’s my wife! She’s mine and you can’t stop me!”

“Give me my daughter or else,” my mother said. Her voice was unusually calm, not any threatening.

“Or else what?” Gary spurted out.

“Or else Nancy here will shoot you,” my mother told him. Again, in a calm voice.

“Shoot me!” Gary laughed. “That gun is as big as your daughter. Get the f*ck away!”

My mother turned to me. “Nancy, shoot over his head!”

I remembered the last time I shot the shotgun and it knocked me on my ass. What is she thinking? If I shoot over his head, I’ll fall down. Then what will we do?

Still, this is Mom, so here goes…

I shot over Gary’s head.

I remember I was so freaked out that I stayed upright for many seconds.

A very terrified Gary had both his eyes almost popping out their sockets.

My mother took one step closer to him. “The next time I tell her to shoot, it won’t be over your head.”

“The women in your family are crazy!” Gary spat. “Take your goddamn daughter and get outta my house. I never want to see your daughter again!”

And my sister came out carrying my little niece in her arms, and they got into the car.

“What the hell, Mom?” my sister asked my mother. “What if Nancy had just wounded him or if he had attacked her?”

My mother pulled a 45 pistol from her big purse. “If he had gone towards any of you, he would be dead by now. No one hurts my kids.”

This happened way back in the 70s. My mother is late now but I miss her every day.


Nancy Olson studied at the University of North Dakota.

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