Opening day

News | October 31, 2017

Editor’s note: The Quad-City Times and Dispatch-Argus recently ran versions of these words from St. Paul member Paul Olsen. He is a professor and coach at Augustana College.

The recent massacre in Las Vegas took me back to an October Saturday long ago that still stirs in my brain and my heart: opening day for duck season. For a year I had been shooting at targets with the Winchester 410 my older brother David had given me, and now he and dad agreed that I was ready to go after the real thing.

Already in pre-dawn I was oiling my gun and counting out the shells for the tenth time, anxious for sunrise and the walk with dad to the blind we had built the day before on the shores of the lake near our home. No targets this time; I was a hunter now. My brother and his friend, Jack, headed for our other blind, 200 yards away.

Just after arrival I heard the flutter of mallards taking off and at the same time a cry that I still can hear today: “I killed him. I killed him.” “Dad,” I whispered, “did someone get shot?” Dad said no, probably not, but he sent me home while he went to “check on it.” Home was only minutes away, and I hurried back, naively, innocently, eager to alert the neighbors with the warning that “someone got shot,” and my dad is “checking on it.” I told mom too. She didn’t even say, “what?” She just dropped her dishtowel, dashed out the door, and froze at the stoop, searching for dad, hoping, burning to hear this wasn’t anything serious. Dad wasn’t there. She didn’t take another step, and only then did I realize how horrified she was.

Together we stood on the back stoop, silent, dumb in the moments between not knowing and knowing, until we saw dad coming up the hill with our neighbor Walt. Walt’s arm was around dad’s shoulders. Mom knew. The longest walk of Dad’s life brought him close to us, and without a word mom just fainted off the steps into his arms.

The next few duck seasons we had to leave town on opening day. The lake was too close. The shots were too loud.

Today I sympathize and try to identify with the anguish of those who lost loved ones at this recent Las Vegas massacre, just as when I tried to understand those whose lives changed forever after Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook. Yet I can’t. What happened on that October day was an accident. It was not evil. My brother’s death was not someone’s choice. I never hunted again, but our family never asked others to put away their guns.

But the Las Vegas tragedy was a choice, deliberate and planned – and the easy access to assault weapons made the carnage possible. Immediately we hear the justifications: guns don’t kill, people do; or an unbending interpretation of the 2 nd amendment; or sport guns are next to go – it’s a slippery slope. At the same time Vice President Pence reminds us that “we grieve together,” are “united in support,” and are “resolved to end such evil in our time.”

I remember our family’s heartbreak, yet our pain was not magnified by the presence of evil and compounded by the broken promise to actually do something about it. “In our time” is long over due.

3 Comments on “Opening day”

  • Deb Lamp

    November 15, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Paul, Thank you for sharing such an emotional time in your and your family’s life.

  • Jana Baltimore

    November 2, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Your message was emotionally moving and thought provoking. Thank you!

  • John Heath

    November 2, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Paul, thank you for openly sharing such an emotionally life-changing story. Basically, I am in most respects a conservative; but, when it comes to guns, I think the Second Amendment, has the same current usefulness as the ox-driven cart had in the olden days. I am not for getting rid of oxen, I just want them to graze and enjoy the green grass. Courageous piece of writing.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”