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Copyright 2007

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... It was cold enough that morning that I was glad that I had brought a coat. The horses were all but blowing smoke rings and the dogs were racing around to keep warm. We got loaded and on the way before long. I was in no great hurry because I thought that I could be at the ranch before dark.

While driving through town, headed for the interstate, I noticed a hitchhiker on the side of the road. About all that I could see was an Army field jacket with the hood up, combat boots, and fatigues. I would have picked him up, but I was in the wrong lane and the morning work rush was on.

I didn't give him another thought until I saw him many miles on down the road. I tried to get into the outside lane but was cut off by a semi going by. Later a car passed and a hand waved to me from the rear window. I supposed that it was the hitchhiker.

When I reached the place where my road turned toward the ranch, I pulled into a truck stop to fill my tanks and myself as well. The tables were filled so I took a booth by a window and as I looked out I saw the hitchhiker open the escape door in my trailer and get in, shutting the door behind him. I was pretty sure that he thought that I would still be going down the Interstate as I had been for the last several hours. When I went back to the truck, I tried to get a look at my passenger, but could see no more than to tell that there was more than dogs in the manger. I could just imagine the surprise and maybe shock when, instead of following the interstate west, he realized that I had turned north on the feeder road. It was his hard luck, not mine.

It had become increasingly cold as I traveled north and now there was more snow than open ground, and I was sure that the ground was frozen. I was watching for a landmark - I was to go one mile past an electric substation and turn in on a cattle guard onto a nice graveled road. My next mark was a mailbox at a pasture road that led to the ranch house some five miles farther on.

When I turned off the gravel I was on a pasture road that was neither good nor bad, just passable, until I came to a small creek. It was too cold for there to be much run off but there was standing water covering some large rocks and I hung up on one of them. If I had not been so heavily loaded, I would have made it, and if the ground had not been frozen I could have pulled out anyway, but I was stuck. Rather than get out in the dark and stumble around in icy water, I decided to curl up on the seat and have a nap. I had plenty of fuel and left the motor running and the heater on full blast.

At some point in the night I was roused, but not awakened, by the trailer shaking, but animals often change positions when they have been standing for any length of time. When daylight came I was surprised to see all my horses tied to trees behind the trailer. I put the truck in its lowest gear and pulled out of the creek.

When I stepped out onto the frozen ground I was surprised to see my passenger riding the one-time spooky gray and leading the other five across the creek. ...


I was Helen Dorr until I married Pete McCoy or he married me, I'm not sure which.

When I was about fifteen years old, I made a count of my male relatives. I had nine uncles and twenty-six boy cousins. I was the only girl child.

There were nine wives, but I could not brag on them. They were hard working, God fearing house keepers, but I could not give them much for looks.

On the other hand I could not brag on their husbands except for size. Each of them was as big as a skinned mule and twice as ugly. They were hard workers at hard jobs. Three of them worked in a quarry where the nearest things to mechanical aids were a 12-lb hammer and a wheel barrow. These items were for driving the bits to make holes for the dynamite that makes little ones out of big ones. The barrow was used to move the prepared stones to a loading site. It didn't pay much, but they didn't need much. What they did earn was put in a box on a shelf where anyone that needed to buy anything, could take what they needed. Of the other six, three worked in the woods felling and trimming trees for the sawmill where the other three worked.

My Pa was a lot different. When he was just a kid, one of his brothers let a shotgun go off and remove the front part of one of his feet. This injury prevented him from working as the rest did and as a result he did not attain their great size. He was no peewee, but did not have the strength that the others had developed.

His lameness, in a way, was responsible for my being on this earth and it was this way. My cousins were growing up as wild as deer and not half as smart. The brothers got together and decided that a school was needed. The three that worked in the mill and the others in the woods agreed to furnish the lumber and do the work of putting up a one room building for a school. They agreed to take money from the box to pay a teacher, and in time a teacher was hired.

The first year it took five teachers. The boys would devil them until they quit. Then one was hired that was meaner than the boys. He used a double-bitted axe handle as the board of education. He made believers, if not scholars, out of my cousins. This teacher stayed for several years. Before he left, the wild crop of boys had left for places where they could find work of one sort or another.

The younger kids were not so rebellious and for them a woman was hired for less money. But I have been told that she was as handy with a willow switch as her predecessor had been with his axe handle. Pa fell for her like a ton of bricks. I do not doubt that she was the first good looking woman that he had ever seen. ...

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Posted 11/15/05