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No booze, no tats nets an old .22

Gifters hope rifle will keep nephew’s son on the straight and narrow

Staff writer

When Jeremy Hett of rural Marion was a little boy, he noticed a rifle hanging on the wall above the fireplace at his great-uncle Clifford and great-aunt Evelyn’s house.

“Who is going to get that gun someday,” he innocently asked.

“I still can see him walking around, looking at that rifle, and asking about it,” Evelyn Hett said.

“I was a little kid obsessed with guns,” Jeremy said.

Then and there, Clifford Hett decided to bequeath the rifle to Jeremy if he met certain conditions: He must never smoke, drink, or get tattoos.

When Clifford was in the Army, he knew a fellow service member who got a naked-woman tattoo on his chest. When the soldier woke up the next morning, Clifford heard him say from his bunk, “I don’t know why I did this. My mom is going to kill me.”

Clifford’s dad, Ron Hett, lost an eye in an accident in which four drunken teenagers had driven into his vehicle.

“I never forgot what Dad went through,” Clifford said. “That glass eye gave him trouble, especially when working in dirt, sweat, and wind. He was always upset when he saw anyone drinking.”

The Hetts had purchased the Crackshot .22 long rifle at a 1977 household auction of Evelyn’s grandparents, the late W.W. Unruhs, at Hillsboro.

The single-shot rifle was patented in 1913 by J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co., Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, so Clifford figures it is at least 100 years old.

Unruh had bought the gun as a teenager from a Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog for around $12.

“W.W. said he shot a lot of rabbits with it,” Clifford said.

The Hetts intended to pass the keepsake down to their only son, Calvin, but he was fatally injured in a tragic farm accident in 1997.

Jeremy was born in 1998. Evelyn often took care of him and his two siblings while their parents were putting up hay. He was a little guy of 6 or 7 when he first noticed the gun. Seeing his interest in it, the Hetts were happy to be passing it on to him.

Clifford inserted their intentions into the family trust, making Jeremy the heir of the gun if he met the stipulations stated above.

As Jeremy’s high school graduation neared this spring, the Hetts were prompted to give the rifle to him early. He had remained straight and true throughout his high school years.

“We didn’t want to wait until we were gone because we believed his biggest temptations were ahead of him,” Evelyn said. “We wanted to help him stay clean.”

They presented the rifle to him at his graduation reception.

“I had no idea I was getting it,” Jeremy said. “I was surprised.”

He plans to keep the gun as long as he lives and pass it on to the next generation.

Where Clifford is concerned, the deal still stands.

“As long as Jeremy stays away from alcohol and drugs and doesn’t get tattoos, the rifle is his.”

Jeremy will attend North Central Kansas Technical College in Beloit this fall to become a certified welder.

Last modified July 20, 2017

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