« Adversity | Main | Love »

Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 71

"The bullet missed my heart by one sixteenth of an inch—and, only because my heart contracted as the bullet passed by and then into my lung before exiting my back. Amazingly the bullet did not lodge in my body or destroy any vital organs,'' writes artist Bert Stroup Marah in her astonishingly frank autobiography.

The doctors considered my survival a miracle. Perhaps only I knew that it was divine intervention and that God determined it was not my time.

He made sure that I knew it was His will and His alone, that I survived. He erased any memory of what I had done about a thirty-minute period prior to my pulling the trigger. The only thing he did allow me to remember loud and clear was my screaming at him. By allowing me to remember only my defiant assertion, His message clearly was, "It's not up to you, Bertie. It was I who allowed you to live."

I would later understand the horror my family had to deal with when they learned of what I had done. The authorities failed to contact my family before giving my name and the story to the media. It was about 10:00 p.m. when I was discovered and the news was on the radio at 6:00 the next morning.

Monty had come home late that night and he had gone directly to bed. He was asleep when my sister-in-law, Betty, called to ask about me. He in turn, called Mama, and then he became hysterical when he tried to tell her what he had heard. Although Mama was stunned, she tried to calm him down and she agreed to go with him to the hospital to find out more about my condition. Monty then called Kelly, who was at work. Kelly could not believe the news but he hurried to the hospital. Finally, Monty called the trucking company and they contacted Larry.

The news traveled through the rest of my family like a wildfire through dry scrub until everyone knew but Jessie. He happened to be driving fifty miles out of Grand Junction on his way to work. When he heard the news on the radio, he nearly ran off the road.

Because of our troubled marriage, my family's first impulse was to blame Larry for the shooting. He was saved from their wrath when they found out he had been out of town. It was difficult for them to accept that I had done this horrible thing to myself. They were devastated and they kept watch at the hospital night and day until I was out of danger.

They told me later that they dealt with the long heartbreaking hours by trying to replace their tears with laughter. One night they were huddled in the hospital waiting room when a weary P.G. spotted an empty gurney standing in the hallway.

"Damn, I'm tired," he said, as he climbed upon the gurney and lay down.
Tell walked to where P.G. reclined, pulled out his pocket knife, and opened the blade.

"While you're here and handy Pete, I think I'll just give you a vasectomy," he said, laughing as he waved the knife in the air.

Just at that moment the elevator door opened and a nurse stared in horror at the sight before her. Her mouth, in the shape of a big zero, produced not a sound by the time the elevator doors closed. In a matter of seconds the door slid back open and she was still standing like a statue, sporting the same frozen look when she heard P.G. respond.

"That's O.K. by me if you'll let me return the favor." As the elevator door closed for the last time, my family and friends gave in to fits of laughter.


To buy a copy of Bertie's wonderful book please visit

To see some of her pictures click on


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.