Posts Tagged ‘runaways’

One of my first memories has to do with cows. There’s a story behind the memory that has been repeated many times over the years, and that embellishes my memory. I don’t actually remember the events that have been told in the story: those memories belong to my mother and my older brother. My memories are in italic.


Sunlight filtered through the aspens. Quaking Aspens. Shadows. A narrow one-lane gravel road on an incline. I am sitting in the little Red Flyerâ„¢ wagon, holding on to the sides. My brother is pulling the wagon, his back to me. I can hear the tinkle of bells in the trees.

Torgerson’s cows. He belled at least one of them so he could find them when he needed to. They are beef cattle, probably cross-breed Hereford/Angus/Charolais. Maybe purebred Hereford. Red cows. Big. My fear probably originates from my broken middle finger, the memory I don’t have but my mother says happened: the cow that stampeded and stepped on my tiny hands.

I begin to cry. The bell, the cows. the unknown. No mom in sight. Only filtered sunlight and the tinkle of a bell on a mad Hereford cow that is probably going to charge us any second now…

Torgerson was a rancher who owned a lot of the land just north of Jarbidge. He paid for grazing rights. His cattle roamed free.

The story goes that my brother – probably age 4 – had a fight with my mother. He told her that he hated her and we were going to go live in town with someone my brother was certain would take us in. He loaded me into the little red wagon, with my stuffed bear and a few possessions, and off we headed. He was fuming mad.

Mahoney RS was almost a mile out from the edge of town. Terry pulled me in the wagon all the way. Our mother followed us in Nelliebelle – at a very discreet distance – until we were with in sight of the edge of town. Then she passed us and went on in to have coffee with Youra.

Terry hauled me on in, stopping only when he found his destination. Someone he thought would surely take us in and adopt us from our evil mother. They offered us drinks and lunch.

Terry stopped pulling when I started to cry. He came back and hugged me, and then told me that I had to be brave. He would protect me from the ‘mean mommy’. Always. I sucked it up and hugged Teddy tight.

After we were fed and my brother was calmed down, our mother came by and acted like she didn’t know we had dropped in for a visit also. She offered to take us home in the car, and Terry readily agreed. It had been a really long walk, after all.


We were visiting Jarbidge. Denny was maybe 4 at the time and I was 7? I just remember being down near the saloon when someone shouted that there was a rattlesnake. Then there was a terrifying BOOM! and someone else said, “Old Torgerson shot the head off of it.”

My sister and I were escorted along the street back to where we were staying by our mother. We saw the bloody length of snake in the street, but it wasn’t what we worried about. Mom hissed that the head had been shot off and to watch for the head. Rattlers could continue to snap for hours after their head was severed from their bodies – and it was the head that was dangerous. Don’t ask me what images that conjured up – but I never lost any sleep over it. Rattlesnakes weren’t the same as Dementors. Rattlesnakes could die.

I don’t think I ever saw Mr. Torgerson. I have no recollection of the man. Only his red-painted log cabin home and the spread along the Jarbidge River, the cow with the bell, and the doomed rattlesnake. Oh – and his name.

* it is a fact that rattlesnakes can continue to bite after the head has been severed. We never saw the head to that snake. I do not personally hold a grudge against rattlesnakes, but in the early 1960s, a lot of people did. Still do.

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