Wild West Mom

Some women stand up to violence against women.


My mother was a very gentle person, but she was pretty strict. She hated profanity, and she always insisted that men, including her husband and three sons, should treat women with respect. She really hated bullies. One day when I was 17, she stood up to a bully with such intensity that I’ll never forget it.

Our farm had an apple orchard. Near our house we had two cabins for migrant workers who came to pick our apples each year in September. One Saturday morning in 1967 an older man, Frank, had been staying in one of the cabins for about a month. A man and two women, George, Betty, and Sarah, had just moved into the other one. They’d worked only one day.

I couldn’t work in the orchard that day because I’d hurt my leg in a football game the previous night. I was in my room in the basement of the house when Frank came running in all excited. He shouted, “George beat up Sarah, and your Mom’s going out there with a rifle!”

“No way,” I thought. My mother hated guns. She wouldn’t even touch the rifle I kept in the closet near the kitchen. But Frank insisted, and he told me to bring a gun. So I got a revolver, loaded it, and followed him outside.

Mom was near one of the cabins, aiming my rifle at George. He was standing very still, glaring at her. The two women were carrying stuff from the cabin to their car. Mom was talking in a hard voice that I’d never heard before. She called George a bully and a coward, and she told him that he was fired. She also told the women that they were welcome to stay.

When she saw that I was armed, Mom ordered me to shoot George if he moved. Then she handed Frank the rifle and went into the house. Very soon she came back and paid the three people for their work the day before. Then George and the two women got into their car. Mom repeated her offer to the women, but they all drove away together.

We never saw them again, but later we learned that George had been arrested that same night. He’d pulled out a concealed knife and cut someone in a bar fight.

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