Sunday, February 13, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 7: Daddy goes for his gun to kill a cowboy who rustled his cattle

Sometime that winter Mother, Dad, Margie, and I were driving around Boulder in another used car Daddy had just traded for when he suddenly spotted a cowboy he knew. He stopped the car, jumped out, and ran over and accosted him. This was the first I learned that this cowboy named Carter who was practically Daddy's best friend had rustled some of his 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 Grandpa allowed them to run their cattle along with his in the winter on King Bench and Bounds bench, his winter ranges. Grandpa's brand was a big K, Reed's was a three bar and Daddy's was a lazy eleven.
I guess 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 stealing my cattle!!”
What Mother shouted back barely penetrated my mind let alone Daddy's. “What is wrong with you, Clyde?” she screamed, “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?”
Then why is he home walking around like he got away with it?”
The judge let him come 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 from his white hot rage, and Mother made him go back and pick up his Stetson hat out of the dirt. She knew if Daddy lost his new hat, he would just have to buy another one because he never went anywhere without a Stetson hat on his head. 

And I wondered just what gun he planned to kill Carter with.  Maybe he had a six shooter I had not seen, but Mother said no, he was a good rifle shot, and everybody had 30-30s in those days to shoot deer.  
I think Daddy's pride was 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 to 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 I think he would have found out what was going on instead of running over and trying to beat Carter up with his bare fists. Then too, there was that business of him being his best friend. Like Bill Isabel I wondered? Terrible suspicions had tortured me ever since Daddy had taken to visiting Bill Isabel. Maybe that was why he got so mad he wanted to kill him when he rustled his cattle. He felt doubly betrayed. 
I thought a long time about what I had just seen. What it meant. I wondered, too, if Daddy had read too many wild west stories. I know Carter and his brothers just loved those tales. 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. 
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. 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 stay in prison when his being from a poor family and not having any money might have caused him to steal another man's cows. 
I hoped Carter was not as mean as Daddy. If he was, 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 had the 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 could survive being born in an era where danger lurked around every corner. 

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