Tragedy averted with help of trusty guns |

Tragedy averted with help of trusty guns

To the best of my recollection, the year was 1946. We had recently moved to Rough and Ready. The sign on Highway 20 claimed there were 125 people living in the mile-square township. I doubt it; there were probably 50 or less.

I was 11 years old and attending Rough and Ready Grammar School. One dark night, my mother had just finished mopping the kitchen floor and she stepped out the back door to hang the wet mop in the fig tree that was within a few feet of the house. As she turned to go back into the house, a soldier from Camp Beale lunged at her from the shadows. He grabbed her by the arm. She was a small woman, just 4 feet, 11 inches tall, but she was wiry and strong for her size.

She twisted out of his grasp and ran through the open door of the house, which she slammed shut in the soldier’s face. There was no way to lock the door; we didn’t have any locks on any of the doors in the house. She ran through the kitchen and across the front room to the book case that stood in the northeast corner.

The soldier, who was in uniform, had come through the door and was only about 10 feet behind her. She reached the bookcase as he closed within about 5 feet of her. Reaching up on the bookcase, she grabbed the .22 caliber Colt Woodsman semiautomatic pistol that was always there. She did not have to load it; it was always loaded and the safety was always off.

It was one of the firearms that we always had in the house for protection. My sister and I knew that we would be severely punished if we touched the firearms unless it was a dire emergency.

I was in the back bedroom, already in bed, when I heard the commotion. I saw the soldier come bursting through the door and start through the kitchen. I grabbed my old bolt action .410 shotgun and put a shell in the chamber. I knew there was trouble and was afraid for my mother.

My mother turned with the Colt in her hand. She had it pointed at the soldier’s head. The muzzle was steady; her hands were not shaking. She was ready to defend herself and her family. Almost like a bad cartoon, the soldier came to a very sudden stop, put up his hands and said, “Jesus Christ lady, don’t shoot me. Jesus Christ lady, please don’t shoot me. I made a mistake.”

He started backing up to get out the door, and about then he saw me in the hallway with the shotgun. He turned white as a ghost and turned and ran out the door.

He didn’t get more than 25 yards when he was attacked by Von, our wonderful old Doberman, ex K-9 dog, who was trained by the military to stop people who were fleeing. The soldier got bitten on the back of his legs and his buttocks as he went across the fence that surrounded our property. He got over the fence, leaving a part of his khaki uniform in the barbed wire. He was arrested after showing up at the base hospital with dog bites.

No guns in your home? What would have happened to my mother and perhaps to my sister and me that night without guns in the home?

It is fine with me if you choose to not be able to protect yourself in your own home. But please do not try to force your ideas of what is right or wrong on me or my family. Perhaps you should put a sign in your yard that says, “No guns in this house.” It would make it so much easier for someone who is planning a burglary or a home invasion.

Why did we have loaded guns in the house? Well, my mother was a very, very good shot with a pistol or a revolver, having spent many hours at different shooting ranges practicing with my father, who was a California Highway Patrolman for 33 years. My father knew, as do all sane people, that the first line of defense is the homeowner. You could get very raped or very dead in the time that it takes to get a law enforcement person to your house, especially back in the old days when there were very few people wearing a badge in Nevada County.


Robert Steuber is a longtime resident of western Nevada County. He attended Mount Saint Mary’s School for the first and second grades, Old Bell Hill School for the fourth grade and then graduated from Rough and Ready Grammar School with two others in his class. He started at Grass Valley High and was in the first graduating class of Nevada Union High. He is retired.

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