“Hold on,” her father blared, “Don’t let go!”
Curling up together on the couch, Annie snuggled close to her mother. With a blanket draped around them to ward off the chill of the rainy day, Momma read a story to her only daughter.
When she read the last page, the little girl did not want the stories to end. “Mama, tell me a story about when you were growing up on the ranch,” Annie asked.
“One time when I was a little girl,” Momma began. The little girl nestled in closer, ready to hear another tale about her mother’s childhood. Sometimes she listened to the same stories over and over, but she didn’t mind. Her mother’s tales were always her favorite.
On a summer afternoon, while riding along the dusty mesa, Dotty rode her horse Midge while heading home. Suddenly, the horse spooked and bolted for home. Looking around to see what had frightened her, the girl noticed a red racer had started chasing them. She remembered her father’s warning about these snakes. This snake wasn’t poisonous, but they were mean and could take a chunk of flesh if it decided to bite. That’s all the information she needed, so the girl let her horse run home. The snake kept on their trail and wouldn’t give up. She was afraid to give Midge too much slack and allow her to race because of all the rocks and loose gravel, so the snake stayed on her heels.
Once she arrived at the driveway to her home, she spurred her horse on while loosening her grip on the reins. When she came to the house, the child started hollering for her dad. He and her mother came racing outside and witnessed their daughter’s predicament.
“Hold on,” her father blared, “Don’t let go!”
The girl and her horse raced around the place, and that determined snake would just not give up its pursuit! Her father kept screaming at her to hang on, so she kept riding, but the snake persisted and stayed right behind them.
Finally, Dotty became so frightened that she just wanted the safety of her dad. In that instant, the child made the decision that when she circled again as soon as she was close to him, she would let go of the reins. Before she loosened her hands free from the reins, she slipped her boots from the stirrups and held her breath before letting go and falling to the side. Tumbling through the air, she hit the ground hard and rolled through the rocks and gravel. The child felt the stinging of sharp rocks pierce her skin through her clothing as she hit the rough terrain.
the In the all of the commotion, the snake slithered away. Midge came to a stop and pawed the ground. Elva walked up to horse and led her to the front porch and tied horse’s reins to a post before she raced to her daughter’s side.
Her father immediately ran to her side to make sure his daughter was still in one piece. “By God girl, why didn’t you stay put?” He ranted as he checked her from head to toe. “Where do you hurt?” He hollered.
Her momma fussed nearby and told her husband, “Now is not the time to lecture our daughter!” Turning to her child, she worried, “Are you hurting?”
Not wanting to upset her parents any more than she already had, Dotty replied, “I think I am okay.”
“Does your head hurt? Do you feel dizzy?’’ Grandpa inquired
“No. I’m fine.”
Carefully, he helped her to her feet. “What about now? Any dizziness?”
“Well, you have plenty of scrapes and scratches. Let’s get you up to the house, so I can get you doctored.”
Groaning from her aches and pains and knowing what was to come with the doctoring, Dotty hobbled to the house with her father’s help.
Once inside their home, the couple guided her to the bedroom. Her mother helped her carefully change into her nightie while her father warmed water on the woodstove. Bringing in a bowl and a fresh rag, he handed the items to his wife, so she could clean Dotty’s wounds.
“No, not like that,” the gruff but concerned father admonished. “Let me do it.”
His daughter grimaced in pain as her father examined and cleansed each wound that required attention. “Easy girl, it will be over soon. Hang on. Try not to move. It will only make it hurt worse,” he softly crooned.
At that, the young girl smiled. Her brusque father always lowered his voice and softly spoke on three occasions, when he was spoiling children, breaking horses, or doctoring people and beasts alike.
“Elvie, you clean the places I can’t see while I grab the whiskey and iodine.”
“Doing a good job, honey,” the mother whispered to her daughter. “Why did you let go of the reins?
“I was afraid. Midge and I were both spooked, and that snake wouldn’t stop chasing us. I just wanted daddy. I knew he would save me.”
The mother smiled at her daughter. Her little girl had so much faith and trust in her father’s love and knew he would always try to protect her. Tom listened outside the room and choked up at Dotty’s admission. He took a deep breath and questioned, “Is it safe to come in?”
“Yes,” Elva answered.
Loaded with his medical supplies, he sat at the edge of his daughter’s bed. “Now you know this will sting, but we don’t want an infection to set in.”
Opening the whiskey bottle, Tom took a clean rag, held it the mouth of the bottle and tipped it until the whiskey dampened the clean cloth. First, he cleaned each wound, all the while explaining each step, so Elva could clean the rest of her cuts and scrapes.
Afterward, her father dabbed each wound with iodine which left reddish-pink stains on her skin. Grabbing a clean rag, Tom moistened another cloth with whiskey and handed it to Elva and sternly advised his wife, “Make sure to clean out each cut carefully and then add the iodine. Remember, you can’t use too much whiskey.”
Tom went outside to tend to Midge during all the commotion, Elva had hitched the horse to the front porch. After removing the saddle, the rancher checked the mare for any injuries. He stooped and run his hand down one leg and then another until he had checked each leg and the hooves for any gashes or abrasions. Once satisfied that Midge was in good shape, he led her to trough for water. As she drank, he walked to the porch and grabbed the saddle and placed it in the barn. Grabbing his tools, he walked out to the coral and began brushing his daughter’s horse.
The day’s events rushed through his mind. As he cared for Midge, his hand began to tremble as he thought about what could have happened to his youngest daughter. His gal had spirit, but when life threw her a curve, she would often retreat, seek cover, or run to her dad to alleviate her fears. His bashful girl worried him, but more than anything, he fretted that he would not always be able to protect her.
After putting Midge to pasture, the concerned father walked into the cabin. Elva placed a single finger to her lips to signal that Dotty had fallen asleep. “I made her some whiskey and tea with honey. After her ordeal, she went to sleep right away,” the woman told her husband.
“Good. Good,” her husband replied. “Let her rest. I will do her evening chores and help you milk the cows. Tom told his wife.
The little girl slept until supper when she could smell her mother making her favorite version of fried chicken in the oven of the old cookstove. She knew that meant she would also have mashed potatoes with country gravy. Suddenly, her stomach began to growl, for she had not had anything to eat since her ordeal, besides some crackers that her mom made her nibble on before she drank her tea and took her nap.
“That smells good!” She told her parents as she slipped into the kitchen. Looking up, the couple smiled at their daughter.
“Feelin’ better?” Her mom questioned.
“Yep, but I’m starving,” she replied.
Her father chuckled and told his girl to pull up a seat at the table. Her mom dished up plates for everyone and served her family. In between bites, Dotty told her parents about her day leading up to her mishap. “Tommy and I rode almost into town, but his horse threw a shoe. It took forever to walk back to his house, and it was hot. I couldn’t wait to get home.”
The couple glanced at each other and smiled, relieved to know she seemed to be back to normal. Dotty chattered away for the rest of the meal. After their supper, her mother started heating water for the dishes while her father cleared the table and wiped it clean. Dotty knew what was coming next. The family would listen to the radio and play games late into the night. The girl loved her family, and playing games was one of their favorite pastimes.
As her dad turned on the radio, Texas Jim Lewis began to croon. Once Tom settled in his chair, his foot went to tapping along with “Too Late to Worry, Too Blue to Cry.” Elva brought some coffee and a big bowl of buttered popcorn, and the family laughed into the night as they shared their evening together.