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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our family had a very unpleasant experience last Fourth of July. In the early afternoon, my 20-year-old daughter was gardening in the front yard of her home near the university she attends when she was struck by a bullet.

Not realizing the nature of her injury, my daughter thought she had broken a bone or pulled something in her leg. In the hospital emergency room, the admitting nurse recognized the wound for what it was and called the police. The bullet had entered the back of her leg above the knee, traveled down, and lodged between the bones above her ankle. The doctors decided to leave the bullet where it is.

According to the police, the gun could have been discharged blocks away, and it was probably fired by someone celebrating the holiday. Don't people realize that bullets come down with almost as much force as they go up? Here in Portland, it is against the law to discharge a firearm within city limits.

My precious daughter could have been hit in the head or chest with far more serious consequences.

Abby, please remind your readers about the dangers of discharging firearms into the air. Those bullets have to fall somewhere. -- RICHARD DANIELS, PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR RICHARD: Your daughter was lucky not to have been killed. Although I have warned readers in the past about firing weapons into the air, I have not had such a graphic example of what can result!

Readers, please celebrate safely this Fourth of July. And if you see someone behaving irresponsibly with a weapon, please report it to the police immediately. You could save a life.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Rick," and I separated two months ago because someone called my mother and told her Rick was cheating. I didn't question him about it; I simply packed his stuff and threw him out. Rick swears he has never cheated on me.

Since then, I have had many heated discussions with my mother because she won't quit digging for dirt on him. She has told everyone she knows about my marital problems.

Rick and I are seeing a counselor, and I need to know how to get my mother and the rest of my family to quit talking behind my back. I want what is best for me, but nobody will give me a chance to figure out what that is.

I still love Rick and I honestly don't know where my marriage stands. He and I argue frequently over my family's involvement. Please help. -- DESPERATE FOR PEACE IN INDIANA

DEAR DESPERATE: I'll try, but you're already getting too much outside advice as it is. Marriage means forsaking all others, and that goes not only for your husband, but for you as well.

If you and Rick want to save your marriage, it's time to circle the wagons and fight to stay together. And that means listening only to the professional counselor.

DEAR ABBY: Please help my lady friend and me settle an argument. I gave her a ring. She refuses to wear it on her "ring" finger, i.e., next to the little finger, left hand. She says that finger is for a wedding ring or an engagement ring only. I say any ring can be worn on that finger, including, but not exclusively limited to, a wedding ring. Please help. -- FINGERED IN FLORIDA

DEAR FINGERED: A woman wears a ring on the third finger of her left hand to let people know she is spoken for. If you and this lady do not have that kind of an understanding, then expecting her to wear a ring on that finger is premature.

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