A Deafening Decision: Black Powder, Bloody Ears

It was late, dark…a deck railing lined with empty cans marked the evening’s accomplishment.

On a moonless Autumn night, the single man’s version of a housewarming party was winding down when Roger suddenly remembered something. “Hey man, I forgot to show you this,” he chuckled, stumbling up the overgrown walk to his truck. “I traded for it yesterday.” Proudly, he produced a rusty black powder pistol from the passenger seat.

It was old – museum old – heavy in the hand, and according to Roger…unloaded.

Not a firearms expert, but a casual enthusiast of historic technology, my interest was piqued; coupled with a heightened enthusiasm fueled by cheap beer.

“Let’s take it up to the shop,” I suggested. “It’s too dark out here to see anything.”

New to the neighborhood, my recommendation was two-fold. Sure, I really wanted a closer look at the pistol, but I also wanted to make sure the two loud drunks on the driveway wouldn’t wake the neighbors.

Once in the light of the garage, Roger displayed the inner workings of the antique. With a cap, lead ball and powder, he carefully demonstrated how to safely load the weapon, pack the powder and cock the hammer…then handed it to me.

“Are you insane?” I barked, immediately pointing the relic out the side door of the garage. “Never hand someone a cocked and loaded weapon, especially me!”

“Well uncock it, Princess,” Roger wryly replied, amused sarcasm obvious through the grin and glint in his Douglas County stare. “It’s easy. Just put your thumb on the hammer, squeeze the trigger, then slowly lower the…”




I’m certain that I was screaming at him. If you’ve ever fired a weapon in an enclosed space without ear protection, you know too well the agonizing pain associated with that silence. Pissed, still pointing the discharged weapon out the side door of the shop, I turned with bulging, bloodshot eyes to bitch-out my buddy, the antique weapons expert.

In fact, hands over his ears, Roger was screaming right back at me…but there was no sound. None. Just a dull, agonizing hum; auditory pain punctuated by the throbbing thump of a racing pulse. Silence. Disbelief. Then laughter.

Hysterical laughter.

Not a humor invoked guffaw; the type of laughter heard when someone escapes an attacking bear unscathed; the relief-fueled cackle of a virgin bungee jumper on the third bounce; perhaps the cachinnate heard frequently in a sanatorium.

Though we couldn’t hear a thing while rolling on the concrete floor of the shop, there is no doubt in my mind that if the gunshot didn’t wake the neighbors, our reaction did. To this day, I’m not sure if my thumb slipped off the hammer, if the trigger was more powerful than my thumb could handle, or if I simply misheard the instruction. It doesn’t matter. It happened…and a lesson or twelve was learned.

The most important of which is obvious: If there’s a “For Sale” sign in your neighborhood, make sure neither of these idiots know about the listing.