We were driving home after a weekend on Toledo Bend in north Louisiana. As we drove through Many, my sons asked their grandfather about his childhood growing up in that small town. Swimming, hunting, sports and his family were topics that made the time pass.
As the questions continued, Christmas presents were discussed. My father explained to my sons that as a young child, he went through the hardest time in American history, the Great Depression. His father had lost his leg and, with 10 mouths to feed, things were tight. Dad told stories and gave examples of a big Christmas back then being a pocketknife and a bag of oranges.
He then shared a story of an amazing Christmas that sent me on a quest.
At the end of the depression, his older siblings were getting married and two were enlisted in the service to fight in the war. Dad said that somehow the younger boys all got BB guns for Christmas. His parents bought four guns — double-barrel guns for the two older boys and the new Daisy model Red Ryder for my father and his brother.
One day, some of our family from Lake Charles paid a visit to Many. A cousin started crying, because he didn’t have a gun. My grandfather picked up my father’s gun and gave it to the kid.
My father was crushed, but dared not say anything. All of my father’s brothers offered to share their guns, but my dad was inconsolable.
I asked each uncle what kind of person takes away one of his children’s prized and one of only a few possessions. Each said that they never openly questioned why, they simply obeyed.
After we dropped off my father in Baton Rouge, my sons turned to me and said, “Dad, we have to find that gun and replace it.” That began a two-year quest.
I finally found one in an antique toy shop in New Hampshire. The man told me the gun did not fire anymore. I told him I needed that particular model and said something very philosophical to the shop owner.
Christmas 2014 arrived and there was much anticipation about the gift. We built a special case for the gun with a plaque that included the philosophical statement: “Given to our grandfather, Doe Doe, to heal a wound.”
My father was a cross between James Dean, Steve McQueen and John Wayne. One of only three or four times in my life did I see my father cry.
Our family considers this the second greatest Christmas story behind “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” My father passed away days before Thanksgiving this year exactly how he wanted. He went to sleep and did not wake up the next morning … and to the best of my knowledge, without any wounds.
— McDonald lives in Prairieville
Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited.