The Mouse Mama At Cagel's Cabin

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In season, there were millions of ladybugs near Cagel's cabin in Young.

Apparently, the black-and-red darlings of nursery lore could be scooped up by the bucketful. At least that is how my mom remembers the area near the cabin, the forest fire watchtower and Reynold's Creek on the edge of Young, as the road winds toward Globe.

"Your Popa and Uncle Curt gathered the red rocks and built the fireplace at the cabin," she tells me.

My Popa could make anything.

How come I haven't heard this story before?

Am I just guilty of not listening?

I listen.

I learn that Cagel was Uncle Curt's father-in-law and realize that my family made two decades of trips to his cabin before I was born.

I don't remember Cagel, but I remember a big, orange chair in his cabin.

Whether the bright-orange chair sticks out from a picture in my scrapbook, or a brain cell is debatable.

I have only one vivid recollection of the cabin in Young.

The movie that plays in my head is of the Mouse Mama.

It is 1969 and I am almost three years old.

My mother, my mother's best friend, Peggy and I are at the cabin. Peggy is in the bedroom, I am trying to sleep on the couch, and my mom is bunked on the rollaway bed, reading.

Shortly after she turns out the light we hear a muffled "squeak, squeak, squeak."

She turns the light back on.

"Squeak, squeak, squeak." The sound is high-pitched, staccato.

Peggy comes out of the bedroom.

"Must be a mouse," someone says.

The squeaks continue.

Mom looks around for the source, finally strips the rollaway, which reveals the ragged, chewed, two-inch hole in the side of the mattress.

My mom said something like ‘I must have squished the mouse's home.'

We three sat back on the orange couch and watched what might happen now that the bed was unoccupied.

Soon a pointy, whiskered nose appeared at the hole.

It disappeared.

"Squeak, squeak, squeak."

When the critter reappeared, she revealed herself as a mama mouse. Her mouth held a tiny pink mouse by the scruff of the neck.

She carefully carried her baby to the end of the mattress and down the bed frame.

She watched us with big eyes and bigger ears all the way across the floor.

"Shush," my mother told me, for if we spoke, Mouse Mama stopped in her tracks.

She ran across the wooden floor and disappeared with her baby through hole at the base of the wall.

A moment later, she raced out of the hole, across the floor, up the frame, across the mattress and into the bed.

Mouse Mama carried 13 children out of their crushed home to whatever dwelling lay behind the hole in the wall.

"The cabin is the ranger's station now," my mom tells me.

She has not been to Young in at least 30 years, and I wonder if the cabin still exists.

Maybe it is time to brave the long washboard road and see if the fireplace Popa helped build is still standing and find out if Reynold's Creek runs clear and cold.

If the cabin is still a ranger station, the ranger surely shares it with the descendants of Mouse Mama.

Learning this tiny bit of history makes me happy.

Those of us with Rim Country stories are blessed.

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