The day I didn’t shoot my eye out

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

It was a pretty embarrassing moment—that day years ago when I shot myself.

I like to think of it as an accidental shooting, though I was holding the gun, and I was aiming carefully, and I did pull the trigger on purpose. I was intent on causing a death, yes, but not mine.

Some of the details are a bit fuzzy, I admit. The individual in my sights was fuzzy, too, in a furry sort of way. He was a mouse.

It was autumn and, as the world began to cool off outside, we’d begun to see a rodent or two looking for warmth inside. No such beast can survive in our house because that’s where my wife lives. On the rare occasions when a mouse has tried to take up residence in our home, a shocking lack of personal hygiene has always given him away. And, you can count on it, once a mouse in the house has blown his cover, neither his life nor mine is worth anything until he is stone cold dead. One of us has to be put out of his misery. So far, it’s always been the mouse.

And that’s what I had in mind the day I shot myself.

The mouse I saw, you see, wasn’t in the house. This rodent had the good sense to stay out in the garage. If he’d had better sense he would have hidden behind a bag of fertilizer or a lawn mower. Instead, he flitted across the floor and put on his brakes in front of an old cabinet. That’s when a light bulb went off in my head, or, more likely, a capillary burst in my brain. And I went for my BB-gun.

Great big game hunter that I am, I stood at the top of the stairs looking down into the garage where the rodent stared back, his long whiskers twitching as he gazed at an armed and uncommonly silly-looking human.

The operative word here is “ricochet.” I’m not a bad shot. I was confident that my BB would sink deep into that warm and soft little body. But, just to be safe, I’d taken some precautions. As I recall, I wore a coat and a cap and goggles. I lifted the gun slowly, took careful aim, squeezed the trigger, and shot . . . myself, as it turned out.

The BB barely missed the mouse but did not miss the concrete floor, the cabinet edge, and the only part of my head that was uncovered, my forehead.

I’m so glad I didn’t shoot my eye out and have to explain, over and over again, how I had been recruited by the CIA after college but had lost my eye in a live fire training exercise and had decided to go into the ministry instead.

My kids actually enjoy the real story much more than they should. But I know they love me. And so does the God who loves us on good days and on bad, on days when our brains are working well and on days when it would be hard to find evidence of much rational thought even before we pulled the trigger, blurted out the nonsense, or did the dumb deed.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at: