Just A Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 2

This entry is part 02 of 19 in the series Crazy

Chapter 2

Jim had made up his mind. The business that he intended to take care of in Payette could wait. Elly May was coming home. And unless he went to meet her she would be stranded. This should not happen to anyone. Let alone a beautiful girl like her.

As the fence posts flashed by his mind drifted back to the last time he had seen the girl. It was graduation day at the Valley View schoolhouse. This was a big day for the people in this neighborhood. Most everyone had a relative or a friend that attended school here. This was Elly May’s last year at Valley View. Next year she would go to high school in Payette.

After the graduation exercise the women put on a big feed. Most of them were noted for their cooking. Many fancy dishes were placed on the long table.

After the healthy appetites were satisfied the tables were cleared and put away. Next would be a big dance. Lizzy Cook played the piano while Earl Thomas sawed away on the fiddle.

The quality of the music wasn’t the greatest but it had lots of volume. To add to the racket one woman brought in an old wash board. She played this by rubbing a silver dollar over the surface. A man with two tin plates joined in. With these he beat on every part of his anatomy keeping time to the music.

Jim would never forget that afternoon. He had dinner with Elly May. She was his dancing partner and dressed like a princess. On her feet were a pair of black and white slippers. Her honey colored hair, which hung in ringlets covered her white shoulders. She had big blue eyes that seemed to flash each time she spoke. Her ruby red lips were full and inviting. Her teeth were pearly white and glistened like a string of pearls. He could not keep his eyes off her that afternoon. He was sure that she vas the most beautiful girl in the world!

The weather had been quite warm. After one of the dances he had taken her by the hand and they had slipped outside for a drink of water. The pump was back of the school house in the shade of a weeping willow tree. He had taken the dipper from the nail which was driven into the tree and pumped it full. She drank from the dipper, her eyes smiling at him over the top. She handed it back to him. He drank it dry and hung it back on the nail.

A strange feeling had come over him. He looked around no one was in sight. He slipped an arm around her waist drawing her close. Her big blue eyes were shining and her ruby red lips were slightly parted. There were roses in her cheeks. For a few seconds he stared down into the beautiful face. He drew her close. He could hear his own voiced; it was saying, Elly May… I want to kiss you.”

The little white arms stole around his neck. Her eyes were closed, her voice was soft, “Why don’t you, Jim?”

Her lips were soft and sweet .He kissed her long and hard. He had felt like he was in some sort of heaven. Then he pushed her gently away. Once more he was talking…

“Elly May. I want you to be my girl; my real girl for ever and ever.”

The big blue eyes had flooded with tears. She drew herself close to him he could hear her saying..

“Oh Jim I will always be your girl, and someday I will be your wife!”

He kissed her once more. “Promise? With all your heart?”

“Promise!”

A ground squirrel running across the road brought Jim’s mind back to the present. He gave the wheel a slight jerk to jeep from running over the little fellow.

Shortly after the school party the girl had packed up and left. No one but her folks knew where or why she had gone, and they would give out no information.

He had gone to her mother Martha- She had treated him very badly.

“What are you doing here again?” She demanded.

He had tried to control his temper. “Where is Elly May? Where did she go?”

Martha had glared at him. “Young man, that is none of your business! Now get out of here.”

Jim had been stubborn. “It is my business Martha. She happens to be my girlfriend.”

“I told you to get out of here.” She had shook her finger at him. “Get out and stay out!”

“Not until you tell me where she is!”

Martha’s harsh features softened a bit. “I’ll tell you this much. She has gone to the coast for the summer. I am sure she will write you a letter if she wants to hear from you.”

He had retreated. There was nothing else he could do. For weeks he had expected a letter. There was none, not even a post card. Four years slipped by; he had almost forgotten her.

Now, like a bolt out of the blue this card bad come though the mail. Fate had taken a hand and placed it there in front of him. Was there a better explanation?

Then another thought struck him. Maybe she was married and had a bunch of kids. She was old enough; she would be eighteen now. The card: had been signed Elly May with no last name. Maybe Buck was right when he suggested that she might have run off with another guy. Women do strange things sometimes.

He put on the breaks and brought the Jeep to a stop.

For a moment he just sat there. Strange thoughts ran through his mind. Was he sticking his nose into something that was none of his business? If she had wanted him to meet her she could have sent him a card.

But there was one thing for certain. She would arrive at the bus station and there would be no one there to meet her. That is no one unless he kept going. Once more he put the Jeep in motion and once again he was rolling down the road. Husband or not he would be there to meet her. He would do this much for any friend

Just ahead was a road that turned off to the right. To one side was a cedar post. Two metal signs were fastened to it. The top one read, ROTTEN RANCH. Then there was an arrow pointing up the road. On the second sign were the words, DEAD HORSE GULCH. There was another arrow pointing in the same direction.

Jim smiled. These names had been there as far back as he could remember. They seemed to belong together. All his life the Rotten family had made their home in Dead Horse Gulch.

Elly May had lived there for fourteen years. Beautiful Elly May. Now she was coming home, back to Dead Horse Gulch.

Many years ago a young man by the name of Seth Rotten and his wife Lola settled there. Other than the Gulch itself the land was rolling foothills, suitable only for grazing. The Rottens had filed on what no one else wanted.

Jim’s grandfather was one of the first to settle in the area. He had located far up in High Valley. Up in the tall timber where the lush green meadows were surrounded by an evergreen forest. To Jim.” this was God; country.

Seth Rotten had been one of the last to homestead in this area. Dead Horse Gulch was all that was left.

Like Shirt Creek the old timers had given it the name it deserved. Dead Horse Gulch had long been a burial ground for dead cattle. Many years ago someone had dragged a dead horse into the gulch breaking a trail through the brush. Other ranchers did likewise. People for miles around disposed of their dead animals there. Old and worthless critters were brought up and shot. In the summer time the stench was awful.

Seth and Lola had come early in the spring. The ground was still frozen and covered with snow. The carcasses were well preserved The smell was not quite so bad. They homesteaded the place, pitched a tent, dug a well and then began building a house. It was a one room affair built of logs which they brought down from High Valley.

As the weather warmed up the aroma of Dead Horse Gulch filled the air. The nearby ranchers complained of the smell. They formed a committee and called the Sheriff. Together they went to see the Rotten family. The wind was blowing down the gulch when they arrived. The words spoken by the Sheriff were never forgotten.

“I don’t mind the smell,” he said. “But it sure makes my eyes burn.”

They rode up to where Seth and Lola were working on the house. The Sheriff was in a vile mood. He came right to the point.

“Mister Rotten. The smell of this place is something awful. Something must be done about it.”

Seth laid down his hammer and looked them over. He spit a stream of brown tobacco juice.

“What do you suggest?”

“Pour kerosene on all the carcasses and set them on fire. Put up some NO TRESPASSING signs. Get the name of anyone that drags a critter up here and I will personally throw his ass in jail.”

Seth shook his l head. “Can’t do that. The stuff is worth money. The meat and bones make darn good chicken feed. Not to mention the hides for leather.”

“How about the rotten ones?” Asked the Sheriff.

Seth had all the answers. “In the winter time when the snow is deep Coyotes for miles around will come to feed. Their pelts are worth money not to mention the bounty.”

The Sheriff and his party retreated. Seth and the smell of Dead Horse Gulch were too much for them.

There was a half smile on the face of young Jim Green as he recalled the many tales that had been handed down from father to son. This part of Idaho was sparsely populated and most everyone knew the history of everyone that lived in this area.

The history of Seth and Lola Rotten after they had settled here was common knowledge to everyone. Where they came from no one seemed to know. When they arrived their belongings were in an old wagon. Hitched to it was a team of mules.

Soon after the Sheriff had called on them their new house begin to take shape. It vas the topic of many a conversation.

It was a one-room affair with a large fireplace in the north end. There was a door and window in the east side. In the north end just above the floor line was a hole about three feet in diameter.

Through this hole with the aid of the mules Seth shoved a log the length of the room and into the fireplace. In cold weather it would burn off about three feet a day. Every morning Seth would hitch up the mules and give it a shove.

“Sure beats chopping wood!” He would say. “Besides it gives us something to sit on.” Seth was smart all right. The logs back of the house would keep them in firewood and furniture for the rest of the winter.

When winter came so did the coyotes. Seth was an expert trapper. Also a dead shot with a rifle. His trusty thirty-thirty got plenty of action.

Deer came down out of the high mountains to get out of the deep snow. Usually there was a deer hanging out in Seth’s woodshed. This kept them in meat most of the time. Now and then a neighbor’s calf would come up missing. Although Seth was never caught in the act it was common knowledge where the critter had gone.

Seth was a man of many talents and could brew white lightning like no one else in the country. He always he had a stock on hand.

“For sickness only.” he would tell the neighbors. But everyone knew he peddled the stuff in all the near by towns.

They had one child which was a boy they named Seth. He grew up in his father’s footsteps. He was a dead shot with a rifle a trapper and could brew moonshine as well as his father.

All this happened in the early nineteen hundreds.

Then come along World War I, the one that would end all wars. At least that is what everyone was told.

The war was followed by the flue epidemic which claimed more lives than the war. Seth and Lola Rotten were two of the victims.

Young Seth who was little more than a boy stayed at the ranch and followed in his father’s footsteps. He raised chickens, trapped coyotes and lived off the fat of the land. When he was twenty he married a girl from down in the valley.

Immediately, they began raising a family. They had seven children and all of them boys. The eldest they named Seth. Once more the Rotten family was a long way from becoming extinct.

The big stock market crash come in twenty-nine. The thirty’s were a nightmare. Times were really tough, but not for Seth Rotten. He bought a bigger still, a brand new Hudson Super Six Coach and started bootlegging in earnest.

Several times he had been arrested. He spent time in jail. Several times his outfit had been destroyed. This didn’t stop Seth. Each time he would start up again, bigger than ever. Just when everyone else was having such a hard time Seth was doing a land office business.

Lumber was cheap. The price of a gallon of moonshine would buy a thousand feet of lumber. They built a new house and moved in. The chickens took over the old log cabin.

Then one day up the gulch in the side of the hill there was a big explosion. It was heard for miles around. A big mushroom cloud of dust rose high into the air. Seth’s still had blown up, and with it had gone Seth!

Times really got tough for the Rotten family. Young Seth and Sam were the only ones old enough to help support the family. Like their father they seemed to know how to live off the fat of the land. The trusty thirty-thirty saw lots of action. When a deer or elk couldn’t be found a white faced steer did just as well. No one pressed charges for there was no market for the critters. Money was scarce everyone was fighting to survive.

Then Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Liquor was legalized, a pint of grams could be bought for sixty cents and a half gallon of Golf Stream for two dollars. The day of the bootlegger and moonshiner was a thing of the past.

The P. W. A. was organized. The C.C. camps came into being. There was some relief.

Things weren’t going so good in Europe. Adolph Hitler decided that he was going to rule the world. England and Germany were at war. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Seth and Sam were inducted into the army. Most everyone got into it one way or another. Then suddenly it was all over. Seth and Sam were discharged they returned to Dead Horse Gulch.

Their five brothers were gone. They had taken off for greener pastures. Now there were lots of good paying jobs.

The new house was a mess. There was a dead horse inside. Somehow it had got in and the door closed on it. It had been there for about a year. They cleaned up the mess and moved in.

While in the army they had learned the mechanic trade. They had a fair education in this field. With their mustering out pay they had bought several old cars that wouldn’t run and they were in business.

Several years later they both married, Seth to Martha, Sam to a half breed Indian girl from Pocatello. Seth and Martha stayed in the new house. Sam and his wife in thee old log cabin. The chickens had to find a new place to roost.

Sam and his wife started raising a family. Up to that time there were eight of them. Two of the litter were those terrible twins, Jeb and Zeb.

Seth and Martha had also been busy. Martha had given birth to five children in six: years, all of them boys. There had been a three year pause then she had one more. It was a girl and they named her Elly May.

As the years passed once more Dead Horse Gulch became a grave yard. Not only for dead animals but old car bodies and all kinds of junk squired by the Rotten brothers.

Young Jim Green pulled the Jeep off the highway into a roadside rest station. Here he would freshen up a bit. There was a faint smile on his face as his thoughts came back to the present.

Out of all this mess had come a beautiful girl with blue eyes and hair the color of spun honey. It was utterly unbelievable.

Series NavigationJust A Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 1Just A Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 3

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