Tricounty News

History Matters: 'When Jessie Went Wild'

I ran up the little hill to our house, trying to keep up with my mother. Fine dust from the narrow country road puffed up around my bare feet and squished between my toes. The skin around my big toe, stubbed on a rock by the back porch early that morning, began to throb and bleed little, round, red, dust-colored balls in a trail behind me. "Mama, my toe," I gasped, trying to catch her arm. She walked faster, not even glancing down at me and fear gathered in my chest and made me run harder. Maybe Muddy can't fix things this time, I thought! It was dusk, the quiet hour before dark, when dew is beginning to fall and animals and birds and human life are settling down to a night of rest. The scent, from Daddy's purple fields of alfalfa mingled with Muddy's night blooming white nicotina, wrapped itself around me like an old familiar comforter as I looked up at my mother's stern face. Her chin was set and her mouth pressed shut in a straight line. It's bad, I thought. "What you goina do, Lyda?" Mrs. Nothnagel was out of breath, hurrying to keep up with my mother. Her grown daughters, Mary and Lena, looked sober and worried as they trailed along behind. Muddy had not said a word since my brother Jack ran down the road with the bad news. Quietly, she listened as his words ran over each other. Then she got up from her chair in the neighbor's kitchen and started up the road for home, the neighbor women following and me running to catch up. Muddy skirted the path which cut across the yard to the corner front porch of our house and headed straight across the back yard for the barn. I could see the farm buildings outlined against the night sky and the big hill behind the barn sliding down into the pond. Jessie, Daddy's big raw-boned work horse, noted throughout the neighborhood for its distinctive, almost silver, salt and pepper coloring, was wild in the side corral, leaping and snorting. Pawing the dirt. Making a dead run around the fence. Then stopping suddenly, stiff-legged, tossing her mane and rolling her eyes. I thought Jessie knows she's done something bad. Jack had run ahead and now stood, quiet and stiff as a ramrod, beside the open barn door, his face white and streaked with tears. He reached out a hand as if to hold Muddy back from going inside. He said, "Mama ... " But Muddy brushed past him and strode into the barn. As I rushed past the neighbor women into the barn beind Muddy, I looked past her and saw the crumpled body of my father lying in the straw of the horse stall, his face white and twisted, his eyes closed. Muddy fell to her knees beside Daddy, and said, "Oh Bailey." She placed her hands on either side of his face and gently turned his face toward her. "Oh Bailey! You're hurt!" "It was my own darned fault," Daddy said, opening his eyes. "I suppose you'll have to call the doctor."  Jack lifted the lantern up high so we could all see better, and I thought, don't let my Daddy's leg be hurt, the one he broke in Montana when he was a cowboy out there, herding cattle and getting caught with that broken leg 20 miles from the home ranch and having to ride horseback in the middle of the night, all those miles for help. Daddy was only 19 then. They set his leg in Montana and again in Minneapolis, but the leg was never the same. My Daddy always walked with a limp. Don't let it be that leg, I thought and prayed a little. By now, the barn was crowded with men. The news must have spread, I thought. "Jack, call Dr. Brigham to get right out here. Bailey's been hurt." I knew then everything was going to be all right. My mother's voice was quiet and strong. Jack handed the lantern to me and ran out the barn toward the house. Muddy turned toward the men and directed, "Get that old door leaning against the side of the corn crib and bring it in here." She turned to me. "Elizabeth, bring some blankets from the house. Get them from my bed." I handed the lantern over to her and ran for the house. The men lifted my father onto the padded door, padded with the blankets from my parents' bed and several blankets over him. He was moaning and shaking now, not saying anything. I was glad he was not crying. Muddy pulled the blankets up close under his chin and said, "We have to be careful, he doesn't go into shock." And she said to me, "Get the hot water bottle ready." She took a handkerchief from up under her sleeve and wiped Daddy's forehead and then led the way into the house. We all learned that night from the doctor that Daddy's leg was all right, that he was very lucky to have only a broken collar bone. Daddy said the cuts and bruises and the soreness all over his body were worse than the broken bone. That night, my brother Jack was a hero. He probably saved Daddy's life. Jack was milking in the back of the barn when he heard Jessie threshing and whinnying and Daddy said, "Whoa there, Jessie. It's only me, Jessie. Damn it, Jessie, stand still." And then Daddy was down, being trampled by our own Jessie, a Jessie wild with fear because Daddy had stepped up beside her and laid a hand on her flank without speaking, without letting her know who it was stepping into her stall. Daddy was down, down in the straw, trying to roll out of the way of the flailing hooves, and yelling, "Jack, untie Jessie. Quick, untie her. Let her out before she kills me." Jack climbed over the cow manger and reached into the horse's stall and untied Jessie. Daddy said, "Get your mother." and Jack ran for Muddy at the neighbors. It was strange to see Daddy, lying in bed all those weeks, getting better and someone else doing his work. The neighbors brought in food and all the relatives came to visit and even the preacher came out to eat and pray. And Jessie was quiet in the side corral, only rolling her eyes and tossing her mane. She knew she had hurt my Daddy. ********** Thanks to gifted members Elizabeth Cooper Mike and Duane Stanley, you've been enjoying many stories here that have never before appeared. ********** Tuesday, Oct. 28 - The 1862 War ... Dean Urdahl, retired history teacher and author, tells a story about human tragedy, heroism and survival during a clash of cultures whose legacy still lives with us today. The war centered in the Minnesota River Valley, but its consequenes reached Stearns County, as well. You're invited to join us at Kimball's historic city hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28. Everyone is welcome. Bring friends. We assure you, no one will leave disappointed. A brief business meeting, and light refreshments are included. ********** Tuesday, Nov. 18 - Holiday Potluck: Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 6:30-8 p.m., in Kimball's historic city hall. Come join us for our second holiday potluck social gathering, discuss the past summer months' happenings, a very brief meeting inviting your ideas and suggested topics you'd enjoy, if they were presented in 2009. Bring a dish to pass. Beverages and eating utensils will be provided. All are welcome. Bring a friend. No charge. We look forward to this time of fellowsip, so hope you can come. ********** For more information, tax deductible donations to the city hall project now entering Phase 4 "inside," your own family story in this column, membership, your family history assistance, contact The Kimball Area Historical Society, Box 100, Kimball, Minn. 55353, or phone (320) 398-5743, (320) 398-5250 or (800) 252-2521, if out of area. ********** "Love of history is hereditary."