MY MOTHER has never killed anyone.

But she has shot three men.

One of them twice. On separate occasions.

After the second incident in which she pumped a .38 slug into Charlie Pittman, she told him:

"The next time I shoot you, Charlie Pittman, is going to be the last time. I'm tired of fooling with you."

Each time Mama wounded Charlie Pittman, she reminded him, his mother had come to her "to thank me for not killing you for the rogue you are."

My father was a very unpopular United Mine Workers lawyer in "Bloody Harlan" Kentucky during the coal fields union war in the 1930s.

I was away at college on the night in November when Charlie Pittman showed up at the front door of the stone fortress where we lived, high on a hill.

Why anyone would recruit Charlie Pittman for such an assignment is a mystery to this day. He had botched tow previous attempts over the years and was obviously no match for my mother.

But there he was, standing in our living room, hat in hand, telling a made-up story about one of my father's clients being injured in a car wreck and wanting to make a death bed change in his will.

My father went to get dressed. My mother went to get her gun.

She got back first. She knew it was just a ruse to take my father out to kill him. Her silver-plated revolver was pointed straight at Charlie Pittman's chest.

"I've shot you twice before, Charlie Pittman," she said. "And both times, your mama came to me the next day and thanked me for not killing you for the rogue you are. When I shoot you this time, it's the last time. I'm tired of fooling with you."

Charlie Pittman backed to the door, and fled into the night.

During Christmas vacation, I was summoned to the hospital emergency room where Charlie Pittman -- shot six times by someone else -- wanted to talk.

"How's your mama? he asked.

"She's fine, Charlie," I said. "How's your mama?"

"Your mama can read minds, you know."

"I know, Charlie, I know. Can't everybody's?" CAPTION: Illustrations 1 through 3, no caption, O. Soglow; Copyright (c) 1932, 1960 The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.