Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MEMOIRS--Chapter 7--"Rustle my cattle, and I will kill you!"


Chapter Seven

Sometime that winter Mother, Dad, Margie, and I were driving around Boulder in a used car Daddy had traded for when he suddenly spotted a man he knew named Carter. He stopped the car, jumped out, and ran and accosted him. This was the first I learned that this man Carter who was practically Daddy's best friend had rustled some of Daddy's cattle. Both Daddy and Reed had built up a small herd of cattle from dogies their dad gave them if they would feed them, and he allowed them to run their cattle along with his in the winter on King Bench and Bounds bench, Grandpa's winter range. Grandpa's brand was a big K, Reed's was three bar and Daddy was a lazy eleven, that is an eleven leaning to the side.
I took it that Carter had stolen the cattle from the winter range. Now he and Daddy were swinging at one another, calling each other all kinds of names. I thought oh oh when Carter knocked Daddy down in the dirt. His brand new Stetson hat flew off. He jumped up and ran to the car and flung open the door.
“I am going home to get my gun!” he shouted to Mother. “This SOB is not going to get away with rustling my cattle!!”
What Mother was saying barely penetrated my mind let alone Daddy's. “What in the world is wrong with you, Clyde?” she shouted back, “Carter has just been to court. He has been sentenced to state prison for five years for stealing your cattle. What more do you want, for God's sakes?”
“Then why is he home walking around like he got away with it?”
“The judge just let him go home to put his affairs in order.”
“I am still going to kill him!”
“Oh, don't be so stupid,” said Mother. “You will go to prison if you do.” Daddy finally subsided a little bit and Mother made him go back and get his Stetson hat. She knew if Daddy lost his new hat, he would just have to buy another one because Daddy never went anywhere without a Stetson hat on his head.
I think Daddy's pride was very hurt because he was getting the worst of the fight, but I was very alarmed to hear him actually threaten to go get his gun so he could kill a man. He had been drinking a little, though, and that always got him more fired up than he should have been. If he had been sober he would have found out what was going on instead of running over and trying to beat Carter up with his bare fists.
I thought a long time about what I had just seen. I wondered, too, if Daddy had read too many wild west stories. I know Carter and his brothers just loved those tales of the west. Maybe that is why Carter decided to become a cattle rustler. But I just could not believe Daddy would consider killing a man over rustling a few of his cattle. His threat made a huge impression of me. In fact, it caused me to decide not to trust him to handle anything that might make him too angry. Alcohol already had unhinged his mind a little bit I thought. If he had actually had a gun in the car which country men often did, he might have shot Carter! Especially if Mother hadn't been along to talk some sense into him.
Mother had a hotter temper than Daddy did, but she did not drink, thank goodness. Now I was beginning to wonder whether Daddy could stay out of prison. It seemed to me like people put people in prison around there for mighty little. Five years seemed like a long time for a man to brood in prison when his not having any money, I knew, caused him to steal another man's cows. I hoped Carter was not as mean as Daddy. After he brooded in prison five years, he might come out and shoot Daddy!
Oh why had I been set down to live in the last frontier of the wild west? Boulder was the last town in the United States where the mail was delivered by mule, and my two uncles, Reed and Max, had a mail contract. I saw them come into town leading a string of mules just before Max got killed riding in a rodeo with grounds where the rocks had not even been cleared.
What was going to happen next in the wild west? I hoped my family and I would be able to handle it.

Header Photo of Wild West by Connie, Top photo, down in the Gulch leading to King's Bench, second photo driving cattle on the winter range. Bottom photo Boulder Mail Train by mule.


Jeanie said...

My this sounded scary Gerry! It's a good job your mom was with him in the car!
What a wonderful power of recall you have. I am enjoying reading your memoirs.
Jeanie xxx said...

I was thinking last night how unique memoirs are. People from the same family even grow up with a whole different set of people than younger members. Almost everyone you talk about in your early life are no longer alive when I was old enough to remeber!
That's why every one should write their memior. Each is so uniquely different.

Connie said...

I am so glad you are putting this out for all posterity...sure wish some big publishing house would discover this!!!

Cheryl said...

This entry was especially interesting after having worked on the brands all last year. I didn't know about the Lazy 11 brand but a most amazing thing is that about 10 years ago, Steve's brother found a branding iron buried in the dirt on the trail to Grass Lake. I've tried to figure out whose brand it is. It is the Lazy 11. Mystery solved. Thanks for sharing this information.


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