Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Musselshell's "Dead Man's Bend"

When I was a child, maybe 4 or 5, my mom would take us to rivers and lakes to swim.  She was a strong swimmer.  We would sometimes go with friends to "dead man's bend" on the Musselshell River outside of Roundup, MT..where we lived.  One hot summer's day, the 4 of us Elliott kids were with some of the Harper kids.  We had all been swimming along the shore with my mom and Mrs. Harper..and they admonished us NOT to go under the water.  Mom must have been in her late 20's at the time.

Suddenly we heard a cry for help...in the middle of the river.  It was Pam Harper..about age 7.  It was a blur but my mom threw off her robe and jumped into the river with her cat-eye glasses on.  I recall that...like I was worried about her losing her glasses.. at first.  We watched her swim toward Pam and then the current which had taken Pam quickly, took them both downstream.  We watched them bob up and down...Pam was screaming but I never heard my mom yell.

All of us kids ran along the banks of the river...we were crying for mommy is all I know.  It was about 2 blocks down that mom finally drug Pam up on the shore...falling next to her amid tall grass.  Pam was blue and mom's lips were blue..but she had those glasses on...that I loved so much. I will never forget.

Mom turned her over and hit her on the back...Pam threw up..a lot!  She was breathing and wasn't blue for much longer.  My mom was shivering.  I don't recall much more..except going to Dairy Queen after.

We drove up...mom asked everyone what they wanted.  When Pam did not get what she wanted she said.."I wish I would have drowned"...and my mom's arm came around from the front seat in a rush and her hand smacked Pam across the face.  Not another sound was heard as we took the Harper family back to their house.

The story ended up in the local newspaper...Mrs. Harper called it in.  When we showed up on Sunday (at church) everyone was telling my mom she was a saint...and her cheeks turned the same red as her lipstick, but she remained very humble.  That's when I knew..no matter what my mom ever did, she'd always be my hero.  (and we all learned to swim..very well).

P.S.  I still will not swim in a river.  Underwater currents scare me.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful memory. Water scares me in all forms. It's a dichotomy, though, because I LOVE being ON the water in boats or even water skis (as a teenager), but never IN the water. I know the Musselshell River and I know Roundup Montana.....my old stomping grounds. Love this essay, Melody.

Anonymous said...

Anon up there is Linda Nygaard, by the way! I just can't get it to publish any other way.

Marcia Lowry said...

Great story - I do remember you all being excellent swimmers....I also remember how all the boys were gawking at you that first Worland summer at the pool :)

Bonnie K. said...

Memories are wonderful, aren't they. Times have changed, though. I wouldn't be able to get away with smacking someone else child for doing something wrong or saying something ungrateful. I recall admonishing a child, and I got jumped on by that child's parent. One wonders why so many youth are troublesome. I'm glad your mom was praised for saving the child's life and not jumped on for punishing the girl for her ungrateful comment.

By the way, I won't swim in the river either.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Your mom is a rock star in car-eye glasses.

I actually held my breath as I read this story. Thank god for your mom.

xo jj

Tara Crowley said...

Have you read the Sac Bee lately about the drowning stats in Sac area rivers? Very frightening; people don't take the power of water very seriously, and the die because of that.

Love the image of your mom and her glasses!

Tara Crowley said...

p.s. dahlink, new blog at http://my86,400sec.blogspot.com