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When you're dead and gone, what sorts of stories will those closest to you tell about you? It's worth pondering while there's still time to do something about it.

If you're lucky the stories will be complimentary, about how good you were to them, how you set a positive tone for their lives.

Unlucky and they'll tell stories about how strange you were, how they barely survived their association with you and even express fervent hope that nobody else in the family will turn out the way you did.

And if you're really unlucky, they'll tell those stories to other people while you're still alive and can hear them doing it.

In any case, we create these memories by default or intent. For many families that consists of things like going to a national park, a museum, Temple Square, reunions, Thanksgiving Point or other even more exotic places.

On Saturday, I took my daughters and their children out for a little quality family time. We drove out into the west desert and blew up their mother's washing machine.

Note: My wife stayed home. She was already tired of loud noises and explosions before we got married.

Approximately two dozen other people came with us, including Sonny and his wife, some of Sonny's friends, my editor, a few neighbors, a couple of acquaintances and one or two unknown people we seemed to have picked up along the way.

Picking up people we don't even know is fairly common. Some personality types just can't resist following a passing pickup loaded with bowling balls, a cannon and major appliances. They have to know.

Another note: These people carry their own stories away from it. "You aren't going to believe what we saw yesterday! These two idiots shot a frozen pig fetus through a refrigerator."

By the time we arrived in the middle of nowhere, the group had grown to about 50 people. While we unloaded the toys, I became aware of a serious personal mistake.

If you're at all like me ­— and I'm sorry if you are — it's risky to mix friends with family in a social setting. Both groups learn way too much about you that may have been previously unknown.

We hadn't even fired our first shot before I heard Sonny and my grandkids exchanging advice based on already-established stories.

Sonny: "So don't do what he says. If you want to keep all your fingers, do what I say."

Grandkid #1: "Grammy already told us."

Grandkid #2: "What about our toes?"

I have no idea how these slurs will carry forward after I'm gone. Unflattering as they are, I can only hope they're of some benefit.

I considered getting even by telling Mr. Safety's grandkids about the time he insisted I shoot a bowling ball in his direction to hear what it sounded like. But he was smart enough not to bring them.

While we spent the afternoon bombing the desert and blowing up a washing machine, I couldn't help overhearing the things for which I'll be remembered.

"Remember when Dad almost burned his face off killing ants?"

"He operated on my cat once. It got better but it hated him forever."

"There's this big hole in the ceiling of the garage …"

About the time my so-called friends started up with, "That's nothing. I've actually seen your old man shoot a ... !"

I put a stop to the manufacturing of infamy by double charging the cannons. There's nothing that protects a guy's reputation better than people who can't hear what's being said about him.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or Find his past columns at