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Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 62

...Mama quickly opened the car door and grabbed her army-issue Colt 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol from beneath the seat. She whirled around and began firing at the van until the 9-shot clip was empty.,,,

Continuing her life story, Bertie Stroup Marah tells of a runaway attempt that ended with gun shots.

Mama didn't always escape the consequences of making rash decisions. At fifty-six, she should have had better judgment than to run away from home in the middle of the night. She was tending bar at the D-Bar-J, and not unexpectedly this led to P.G.'s drinking too much. She responded with anger. One night, after arguing with him, and having had more than a few shots herself, she made a flawed decision to just run away to New Mexico for a while.

It was late in the night when she gathered a few duds and took a salary advance to go with the little nest egg she carried in her billfold. Her nest egg could accurately be called "mad" money—for she was livid!

She didn't bother to fill her '69 Chevy with gasoline as she angrily sped out through Grand Junction on her journey to New Mexico. She had owned the old car for a couple of years and had complete faith in its dependability. She drove with the determination of a greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit through Montrose, Ridgeway, Ouray, Silverton, over Red Mountain,
Molas, and Coldbank passes. Late at night, as she drove through Durango she didn't see any service stations open.

Finally she reached the isolated outskirts of the city and stopped at a station. There were no attendants, only an automated system requiring dollar bills in exchange for gas. The instructions were frustrating and confusing and in trying to sort them out, Mama laid her billfold on the hood of the old Chevy. As she was trying to get the pump going, a van load of hippies pulled up, got out, and pulled a con game on her. One of them asked for directions while another grabbed her billfold off the hood. They then leapt back in the van and sped off.

Mama quickly opened the car door and grabbed her army-issue Colt 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol from beneath the seat. She whirled around and began firing at the van until the 9-shot clip was empty. She missed the tires but thought she saw sparks flying from the van. "I peppered the piss out of'em," she would later recount.

When her anger subsided, bitter realization sank in. With no money, her run-away trip would have to be aborted. She fervently hoped that one of her bullets had hit its mark resulting in the death or, at the least, the wilting of a flower child.

"My fear was that the lice-infested, longhaired buggers had contacted the police," she confessed. "So the only alternative was to turn around and head back over the mountains toward home."

She was driving back through Durango when she saw a cop car and became paranoid, sure that he was going to pursue her. To evade capture, she raced as fast as the old Chevy would travel to a turnoff at Molas Lake, hiding in the shadow of trees for an hour or so until she was sure she had evaded the law.

I would never have learned of this escapade, except that Mama, penniless, was forced to call Reita to meet her in Ouray with gas money. She was humiliated to have been bested by the likes of filthy hippies and begged Reita not to tell anyone. Reita kept the secret for a couple years and Mama never told me about it, probably because she knew I might reprimand her.


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