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Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 64

Continuing her life story, artist Bertie Stroup Marah tells of trouble at the Cattlemen's Ball.

When a group of us went to the Cattlemen's Ball in Collbran, early on things got off on the wrong foot. Donna Helams, who owned the community building where the dance was held, had been a thorn in Mama's side for quite some time. Mama claimed that she openly flirted with P.G. many times in the past.

The Cattlemen's Ball was an affair enjoyed by folks of all ages. No refreshments were served in the building and no alcohol was allowed inside. That evening, P.G., as was his custom, was dancing with every wallflower he could find because he wanted everybody to have a good time. Mama and Tell were dancing around the floor when Donna Helams grabbed Tell's leg with the boot that held a pint of whiskey—bootleg whiskey—if you will.

"What the hell are you grabbing at, Donna?" Mama challenged, turning loose of Tell.

"He's got whiskey in that boot!" Donna shouted. "I know he has, and I don't allow drinking in this building! It's my building and those are the rules!"

"Well, I've got some rules of my own," Mama informed her, "and one of 'em is you don't touch a man while I'm dancin' with him." The altercation continued out on the front porch where Jessie was restraining Mama from administering to Donna the overdue punishment she felt she deserved. Jessie yelled at Burt Chase, the town Marshal, "Get that woman outta here before I turn my Mama loose."

The skirmish was finally broken up and we decided to leave. With tempers still hot, things veered out of control again when Fred and his wife Red appeared on the scene. A couple months earlier Larry had fired Red, who was employed at our liquor store for an infraction that she and her husband denied having happened. Fred jumped on Larry proclaiming his wife's innocence. Larry was still recuperating from heart surgery and Jessie, who loved to fight, used the excuse of defending Larry to take on Fred in the muddy gutter.

Reita tried to intervene by swinging at Fred, only to miss him completely and connect squarely with Jessie's jaw. Tell then became involved trying to pull Jessie off Fred. I was disgusted with the fighting and got all muddy trying to make the whole bunch behave. Gloria got caught up in the excitement and informed Red, who was trying to get out of her car, "Keep your ass in the car. Don't make matters worse!" Red complied with Gloria's order, which helped defuse the situation.

When we finally started home I got mad all over again when the whole bunch started singing, "Where's Red and Fred's Dead." I swore I would never again go with them to the Cattlemen's Ball; and I never did.


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