Sunday, May 1, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 19: Another dangerous animal to watch out for on my Grandfather King's ranch

During the summer Margie and I headed off down through the pasture to Grandma's house as often as we could get away. We had to walk through Grandpa's lower half of the pasture to get to the gate leading down the sandy hill to the ranch house. Grandpa owned a black milk cow with a crooked horn that hated kids, and whenever she spotted us she would let out a little 'beller' and start running toward us with her head down ready to attack.  We had to keep an eye out for her to make sure we made it over the fence before she caught up with us.
When we got to Grandma's house we would have to climb on the fence and start calling for Grandma to come out and hold old Jack, the dog, so we could proceed on into the house safely. Jack hated kids, too, but we were determined to visit Grandma, so we weren't going to let a ferocious cow or dog stop us. 
Grandma would always feed us supper and after a while Mother got tired of us saying we had already eaten supper and forbid us to eat supper to Grandma's any more. I could not give up my supper to Grandma's, so when I went by myself, I would still eat supper to Grandma's and come home and eat another supper so Mother would not suspect I was already full.

The summer I turned ten I encountered another dangerous human predator in the pasture quite unexpectedly. I was riding a horse bareback heading for the gate to Grandpa's pasture when suddenly Cecil, Grandpa's main hired man, appeared on foot and stopped me. He said 'How about a ride?” Before I could say anything he jumped up on the horse behind me and the next thing I knew he had put his hands around my waist as though to hang on, and moved them up swiftly, and began to fondle my little button breasts. 
 I had not even gone into puberty and did not expect to for another two or three years, so there was nothing there but little nubs.
Stunned, I thought that Cecil knew very well this was an unacceptable act of aggression but his resentment of my dad's status as a privileged King's son seemed to know no boundaries. That was just about as far as I figured his thinking went. His grudge against my privileged dad had caused him to commit the crime of molesting me to get even. 
The molesting wasn't very bad yet, but what did happen made me very uneasy.  I knew he was bound to behave worse now that he had started in on me. 
My dad would just have sneered at him had he tried to express his feelings to him about the unfairness of his life as a poorly paid hired man, subject to his employer's will, and to his son Clyde's, too. Cecil could hurt Daddy far worse than any ideas he would have been allowed to express doing something bad to his daughter! He was gambling that I would keep his transgression secret. Maybe I wouldn't even know he had done anything wrong! 
Cecil was resentful enough that what he might have to pay for such acts if I told did not penetrate. He only thought of restoring a sense of power to the powerless. To me this was just another version of Bill and his motives in molesting me on the Salt Gulch ranch when he got angry at Daddy leaving him home when he took off to party with other guys.

After what seemed like an eternity, Cecil jumped off my horse to go tend the water leaving me to wonder how I could protect myself. Cecil was loved by his sisters. He was a handsome skilled cowboy, but even I knew opportunity to make money was very limited for a poor cowboy and hired hand unless he could somehow come by some land and cattle. 
Only that year I had come to love Cecil's oldest sister Ruby who became our family baby sitter when Mother and Dad went out over the mountain together. I was happy now when both Mother and Dad took off on a trip and left us with Ruby who would tend the store and spend the night, cooking delicious meals for us. Ruby was poor, too, but not being as well off as the Kings did not seem to bother her as it did her brother Cecil.  
I didn't see how I could upset Ruby by telling about her brother's small but frightening transgression down in the ranch pasture, full of ominous portent for my future in Boulder. I decided instead I could not be going down through the pasture alone where he could very well be tending water. 
He hadn't done enough for me to raise a hallabaloo about it as I saw it. I just would not be able to explain to anybody how dangerous his sudden aggressive move on me seemed to be. What could happen if he suffered from any more loss of control over his emotions? I was bound to get my period eventually.  What would he do if I ever did grow some real breasts from these little nubs I had now? 
This was a lot worse than being chased by a cow with a crooked horn who hated kids. Was Cecil going completely crazy?  I just did not know if I could protect myself now from all the dangers that seemed to be coming at me from more directions in Boulder.  With a new transgression from still another adult male, my mind once again felt badly strained. 
There was a price to be paid for even venturing into the pastures the men inhabited who took care of a ranch.  I was my father's only substitute son. Margie could not help him after developing hay fever. The other girls were too little to do boys' work yet. I was the lone target for disgruntled employees.   
I had not realized until now what the young boys on some of these ranches had to fear from brooding insane men in the form of disgruntled hired men.  Was this what happened to my dad when some his pwn father's hired men instantly resented their boss's spoiled privileged son? He could not have gotten away from them as easily as I did from Cecil, pleading that I had to help bottle peaches and could not do boy's work. My dad would have been out there all day long at the mercy of whatever predator his undiscriminating dad hired. 
During the horse age, more men were required to do the work on the ranch.  In the summer, hired men would be sleeping out under the trees on my Grandfather King's ranch I did not even know, who had come into town looking for a job.  My Grandfather was known as a go to rancher for wanderers looking for good grub, a bed roll, but darned little wages in those days.   
Bill had been a transient from Canada that people knew little about when my dad hired him. But Cecil being a local man with a lot of relatives would make it even harder for me to tell anybody about what he had done. But what in the world was I going to do to keep this new threat from accelerating?

I wished I could see more clearly back into the dim past.  Cecil was required to go down below and camp out for days to look after the cattle in his off again and on again employment on the King ranch.  My dad, ten years older, would have been along to determine what had to be done in the days after he took over as manager. Grandpa had gotten too old to ride the range anymore.  He had had to stop camping out for days. 
My dad was the winter range boss when they went down below because he and his dad still ran their cattle together on the Boulder winter range. What if my dad had been molested as a child and had turned aggressor as soon as he was in command, letting Cecil know what would be expected of him as a poor young cowboy hired to ride the range and do whatever was wanted or needed.  
What if that included being sexually assaulted in the tent at night and just putting up with it as something a poor cowboy had to do to keep his job. Had something like that been going on for years, and was that maybe why Cecil always seemed to have mixed feelings about my dad, even when he was partying with him on the weekends?  Is that why Cecil seemed to have lapsed into plain old seething hatred for my dad now that he was acquiring more and more property and had not killed himself as had been predicted would be his alcoholic's fate?  
I was tortured by horrible suspicions. I had been just too well educated about horror by the dark side of this world I had been born into.  If something happened Cecil felt helpless to prevent in order to learn to cowboy and keep a good job, no wonder he had no hold back.  Maybe he was out to get revenge at whatever price because he felt he had been forever altered, changed to a thing that was less of a man than he had imagined he would be, growing up in his more normal father's care.  
But his father was poor, so he wouldn't have been able to protect Cecil very long. He would have been expected to get out and see if he could find work as soon as he was old enough. 
Was this a cycle of abuse, with my Grandfather originally not paying enough attention to what happened to his own son Clyde, making him work, camp out with hired men at a very young age, do all the work that had to be done on a ranch, no matter the price.  My Grandfather believed in hard work and he demanded it of his sons.  They didn't even get Sunday off most of the time.  I always thought my dad had to drink to get the nerve to play truant from the heavy ranch work. He said himself his dad was the sort to wrap a bull whip around an offending son who did something wrong when they were handling cattle.  
I knew my Grandfather had a bad temper.  I had seen him angry. Had that temper caused him not to value his son for fear of spoiling him?  Even to the point of sending him on long camping trips into the hinterlands at the mercy of predatory older hired men?
Maybe similar abuse happened to my Grandfather when he was a poor young cowboy trying to get ahead after his dad drank up everything he owned and died broke.  My Grandfather lived on the cattle trails for years, driving a herd of horses clear to Chicago twice that I knew of.  Now I had  to wonder what happened at night in the tents he inhabited? 
Were there trail bosses he had to satisfy who could not get access to women in their jobs?  My Grandfather was a small man.  He might have seemed like a satisfactory substitute for a woman to a predatory trail boss who had an eye out for attractive, dirt poor young cowhands who might have needed the job too bad to resist and tell him to go to hell.  I was sure my Grandfather had probably gone to work as a cowboy when he was a mere child.  He was that good at handling horses and cattle. 
Nobody ever talked about these possible scenarios in books or anywhere else I knew of.  How was I going to handle such dangers?  I had never imagined boys being treated like sex objects when I aspired to do boy's work on my dad's and grandfather's cattle ranches.  And I knew if I did tell tales about the hired men I might never be allowed to ride a horse again.  I might be imprisoned inside the house for my own safety.  Could I bear that? 

Even the prospect of being put under the thumb of my volatile mother made me put off telling as long as possible.  Of course if it looked as if I was going to be raped and killed, I might have to ask somebody for help.  
I felt I had been lucky in Salt Gulch to have escaped a  very dangerous predator with no more damage to my body than a molesting of my private parts several times.  After all, I had not been raped or murdered. 
Another very disturbing thought struck me about my male cousins. Grandpa's grandson Ray who was not much older was wanting to come to Boulder each summer after his dad had been banished from the country because of a crime. I doubted now if he would be safe on Grandpa's ranch when he came to work.  He would have to do what Grandpa said if he was going to earn his keep.  
I was even wondering what else had happened to my cousin Stewart, Ray's oldest brother, who died so fast in a terrible fire?  He had done a lot of work on that ranch, both him and his younger brother, Park.  Did what happened there have anything to do with his death?  Was there some kind of despair going on, some deep terrible mental anguish disturbing him so he got so drunk he didn't care if he lived or died, like my dad, suicidal maybe, without the will to live after he had been altered forever, turned into somebody who could not be normal, who sought those dangerous men now who could satisfy lust just as well as a woman when none were around.  A habit that could not be resisted even with marriage.  
Was this how men became altered forever on some cattle ranches, how my dad's normalcy had been so affected that I had to worry all the time about his frequent near death experiences while drinking? If this is what happened to men who grew up and worked on some of these ranches in this country, it was a damned tragedy.  I mourned for both my dad and Cecil and their tortured minds.  Maybe they had both been victimized and grew up to torture others just like they had been tortured. Like Cecil had begun to torture me.  
I was seeing a possible endless cycle of cause and effect, with new assaults in every generation with the inevitable result of men sinking into angry revengeful despair.  Somebody had to talk about this.  I had to survive all these dangers somehow. I had to live to tell the sad stories of these broken men who would never tell anybody about being tortured.  
My cousin Ray, the youngest brother, would likely be allowed to come to the ranch this summer. He was sure to become a victim, too. How could anybody save him?  The family could not endure another death of a King son, first Max, my dad's youngest brother, and then Stuart, his brother Glen's oldest son, young men who could ride so well because they had practically been born on horses.  Dead drunk and dying as though by accident, but were their deaths really 'accidents'?  I doubted it.  At least I had no desire to tamper with alcohol, but I was sure that would not be the case with my wild and reckless cousin Ray.   

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