A Packard 180 and a 384 Winchester

Dad told me this story again the other day, over the phone. I heard it the first time when us four kids and mom and dad were having dinner at Peohe’s. We were celebrating mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. We laughed so hard that the other diners were giving us the stinkeye.

Here’s the story as Dad tells it.

“It was in the late ‘40s, after the war was over. It was deer season. Harold (dad’s uncle) had a neighbor, Fred A., who’d never hunted, probably never even held a gun. He asked Harold if he could go with us hunting.” Dad chuckled. “Harold knew that Fred was a fantastic cook, so he figured he’d set him somewhere out of the way where he couldn’t shoot anybody, and Fred could cook suppers at night. So, Harold said ‘OK, Fred, you can come.’ The only gun Harold had that wasn’t being used was this huge 384 Winchester magnum that he used as a saddle gun, as a protection from Grizzlies. That was what he gave Fred to use.

Harold's Packard looked just like this 1941 Packard.

Harold's Packard looked just like this 1941 version.

“Harold had this Packard 180 that was so big, it looked like a mafia hearse. It had two spare tires, one on either side of the engine cowl. We put the deer, dressed, antlers forward, between the spare tires and the engine cowl, that was how we got them home. That car was a big thing. Harold and his son, Mike (dad’s cousin), Fred, and I packed it up with enough stuff for a four-day hunt and headed east for the Okanogan country.”

“There were lots of deer because they hadn’t been hunted much during the war. Harold got a big buck, and shot a buck and Mike killed it, the day before we left. Harold put Fred on a ridge-top and had him watch a gully all day for deer. He seemed to have a good time, and he really was a fantastic cook.”

Dad giggled. “The morning we left it was wet and raining, so we had to keep the windows rolled up in the Packard. And we didn’t pack very well, we just sort of threw the tents and packs and such in the back seat. The front seat was bigger than the back, so Harold and Mike and I sat in the front and we tucked Fred in the middle of the back seat. I don’t think he could even move he was packed in so tight.”

“Anyhow, we were ready to get going and Harold turned around and asked Fred ‘Have you cleared that gun, Fred?’ No, he hadn’t. So he put the rifle butt between his legs, pointing backwards, cocked it, and pulled the trigger.”

“That gun went off and it nearly blew the windows out of that car. I couldn’t hear straight for three days. Harold and Mike and I jumped out of the car and started pulling the gear out of the back. We were sure Fred had shot himself the way he was rolling around the back seat.”

Dad started laughing hard. “Fred started shouting ‘My nuts! My nuts! Oh, my nuts!’ Turns out he’d crushed his family jewels. Plus there was a hole the size of a silver dollar in the roof.”

“Ordinarily, we’d have driven straight home, maybe six hours or so from the Okanogan back to Seattle. But Mike and I decided to roast the liver of the deer we’d shot, and that liver was full of parasites. We had diarrhea so bad we had to stop about every half an hour or so and get out and run into the woods.” He giggled again. “Every time we’d stop, Fred would cry ‘Do we have to stop? Do you guys really have to stop?’ He wanted to get back and get to a doctor, he was really in some pain. He spent the rest of the trip home with one leg propped up on the gear, just to get some relief.” Dad laughed again, and of course I was laughing again.

I asked Dad if the story got spread around the neighborhood. The answer was no. I guess it was a more genteel time. Nobody wanted to embarrass Fred.

I can still hear Dad telling me “My nuts! My nuts! My poor nuts!” and I start giggling again. And I wish I’d seen the hole in that Packard’s roof.

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