April 19, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

A Gift From Lou

By Tom Watson

In August of 1957 I graduated from Florida State with a BS in meteorology and was assigned by the Air Force to RAF Manston in England as a weather forecaster. Before we left for England, Flora, my first wife, and I took a trip from Tallahassee to Missouri, and on to Athens, Ohio, her home. I wanted her to meet some of my family, and of course we wanted to see her mother.

While we were in Missouri, my cousin Ben asked if we’d like to join him on a trip down to the Current River to see Lou Burns, and of course do some fishing. Lou, a colleague of Ben’s was a man in his early fifties who in Ben’s words “had become more and more reclusive as the years had gone by.” At first, he withdrew from most of the office activities, and then finally he retired and moved to the Current River to become a hermit. I had spent a weekend at Lou’s place in 1950, fishing, frogging, and exploring. We were eager to go, and the trip was set.

As we drove down Ben explained to us that Lou had gotten even more reclusive and had decided to go into a monastery. Thus, in addition to being the only hermit I ever knew, Lou became the only monk I ever knew. This visit was by special invitation to Ben, Sid Rowden, and Sid’s wife. It was to be Lou’s farewell.

The weekend on the Current was beautiful, but not much to tell about. Late on Sunday afternoon we said our thanks and goodbyes and got into the car to return to St. Louis. Lou called to Ben and asked him to come into his house, which Ben did, as Flora and I waited in the car. When Ben came back, he was carrying a package wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Ben didn’t say anything at the time, and we started out on the winding two rut road toward the highway. Suddenly Flora yelped, “I’ve got lice all over me!” I looked, and saw tiny ticks crawling on her. Ben stopped the car and took a walk while Flora undressed completely and I picked ticks for at least a half hour. She was not very happy. Finally, I convinced Flora that all the ticks were off. We shook and brushed her clothes as well as we could. After she had dressed, we called Ben back and started our journey home. By the time we came to the highway it was dark.

Flora wasn’t in a very jolly mood, and Ben and I had the good judgment to keep quiet for quite some time. At last, Ben broke the silence. “Remember when Lou called me back to his house? Well, he said he wanted to give me something to remember him by. That’s what’s in the paper bag.” Ben then went on to explain that the bag contained a U.S. Army 45 caliber pistol, with the serial number filed off!

Ben’s dilemma was, “what to do, with the damn thing.” Ben had obviously been thinking of little else during the long silence, because he posed some questions.

Should he turn the gun over to the Police? We discussed that for several miles, concluding that with the serial number filed away, Ben could have some tough explaining to do. Where did he get the gun? Why was he turning it in now, after so many years?

Should he throw it off a bridge, possibly into the Mississippi? Ben didn’t like that idea, because someone might see him toss it, and perhaps have it dived up. How would he explain throwing a “hot” pistol off a bridge? At best the gun was stolen; at worst, it may have been a murder weapon. That thought led to speculation by all of us that the pistol might be the reason for Lou’s increasingly reclusive behavior.

We didn’t reach any conclusions, and of course never will. I don’t know how Ben finally resolved his problem. I only know that he had a pistol he did not want, but had no idea how to get rid of it. Flora and I laughed many times at poor Ben’s situation. For us it had been a very interesting ride home.

Request a Tour of Army Residence

"*" indicates required fields