BAD TIMES

CATEGORY: GRASS VALLEY
PHOTO: SELF PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER AS I REMEMBER HIM

Mary and I were playing in the back yard.  We heard the screen door screech open and slam shut.  Gracie came running out of the house.  She looked frightened.  Then the door opened and slammed again.  Daddy ran out after her.  He looked angrier than usual.  Gracie ran off up the hill climbing through the barb wire fence.  He climbed over it and they disappeared from view.

The two of us ran into the house to find my mother distraught.  She told us that Gracie had turned loose the baby coyote that my father kept in a cage to collect its urine as scent for his traps.  Gracie had been its care giver, feeding it milk from a bottle.  She knew that because of the requirements of his job, he would have to kill it when it started needing meat to eat.  When daddy discovered it was gone, he confronted her.   She was so afraid that she ran away and he chased her.  That was the scene we had witnessed.

I did not see Daddy return.  I think that when he did return he drove off in the car and did not come into the house.  Later Gracie came stumbling back, crying hysterically.  She was scratched and bleeding from running through the rocks and sage brush until she had fallen.  Mother tended to her wounds.  She was furious with my father.

Mother later told us that he could have caught her at any time, but he let her run ahead of him stumbling over rocks and scraping through sagebrush until she had collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.  Then he walked away and left her there.

I had nightmares about this for many years.