By Bernon J. Auger

The Christmas of 1932, a Sunday, is one that I never will forget. Santa brought a new pair of skis and a new .22-caliber rifle for eight children to share. They were actually needed to work our farm.

My brother and I decided we wouldn't go with the family to church. We realized that if we didn't go, we could first try out the new toys. We rebelled enough that Father consented to leave us home on the condition that we were to do all the daily chores. We agreed.

We watched them go out of sight in the bobsleigh. We forgot our promise, hurriedly executing our plan to try out the new gifts. There was about 2 feet of snow. I took the rifle and the old skis. Arnold took the new skis and we headed for the hills above our place. We hoped to shoot a rabbit for dinner, but saw none. We were out a long time and decided to go get the chores done, as promised.

We were atop a small hill and raced to the bottom of the hill. Halfway down I lost my balance and plunged headlong into the snow. I let go of the rifle, and I didn't know where it went. It was still snowing, and it took a long time to find it. Realizing we were out of time we hurried more. I told Arnold to dry the rifle and skis and put them away, thinking we could hide the evidence of our folly. I hurried to the barn to take care of the cows. This way it would be a perfect day.

I had hardly made it when I heard Arnold screaming loudly. Turning, I saw him running toward me saying, "Do something, I'm dying." I couldn't imagine why!

I ran back to meet him, asking what the matter was. Again, "I'm dying." I noticed that he held a white cloth to his chest. I pulled it away and believed his words, as I saw my brother bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound. As he cleaned the gun, he put the gunstock between his feet sitting on the oven door. Ejecting the bullets, one discharged. I panicked, not knowing what to do. The only thing I could do was help him back to the house and go for help.

We lived 5 miles from the nearest doctor, and the roads were drifted with snow. All our neighbors were at church. I ran to the barn for the saddle horse and started for help. When I passed the gate, there was Arnold begging me not to leave. He kept saying, "I'm dying."

Again I took him back into the house, laid him on the floor, told him to be quiet and assured him. Upon reaching the saddle horse I looked down the road, seeing my folks coming home from church. I shouted at the top of my voice for them to hurry. Then I broke into tears for joy or sorrow, I couldn't say which. I felt tugging. It was Arnold again. When he saw them he collapsed in my arms.

I will never forget the look of anguish and despair on Mother's face when they pulled up. What should have been one of the happiest days of our lives turned into the most tragic.

In only moments Father turned the sleigh, wrapped Arnold in blankets and headed for the doctor. Under normal conditions it would take a team one hour to make it to town. This day Father mercilessly whipped the horses and made it to town in 45 minutes, breaking all records considering the deep snowdrifts. With the loving care of Mother and a fine physician Arnold survived with little or no bad effects.

Once Arnold was "on the mend," Father returned home. I dreaded seeing him. I was sure I was in for stern punishment, perhaps even a stripe or two with the razor strap. For the rest of my life I have remembered when he came through the door and walked directly up to me. Then, he said, "Bernon, I hope you have learned a lesson from this." That perhaps was more stinging than any physical punishment might have been. I knew I had disappointed my father and mother.

Throughout my life there is not a Christmas that comes and goes without my thoughts reflecting back to that one. I have had many happy Christmases, but I have learned from my experience — rebellion and disobedience can only bring trouble and heartache.

Bernon J. Auger was born in Preston, Idaho. He attended Preston High School and Utah State University. He worked as a control room supervisor for Utah Power. Bernon married Janice Jenkins in 1990, and between them they had eight children, 27 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren. He enjoyed woodworking, gardening, family history and his family. He was retired for 27 years before he died on Nov. 7, 2007. Today's story was condensed from one he wrote in his personal history.