Molly was a gift from a cowboy in Mississippi who loved this little girl from Pennsylvania. Cline’s face was tan and weathered from almost seventy years spent riding thousands of acres of Mississippi pastureland. His right thumb had a scar around the base where it was caught between his saddle horn and rope mid-dally with a two-thousand pound bull on the other end. It has been cut clean off, but in his no-nonsense way, he plucked it up out of the tall grass, put it on ice, and took it to the hospital where they stitched it back on—ready to ride another day. Years later, he used that thumb as a teaching illustration, ensuring that I would never forget to “go thumbs up” while roping a cow. 

Cline taught me all kinds of lessons: how to put the right amount of ice in a cup of cheap Canadian whiskey, how to check a pregnant cow, how to brand a calf, and how to play poker. Mostly though, Cline helped me through some of the hardest years of being a kid. Mississippi was far enough away that I could forget how much middle school hurt and come to learn just how much there is to see in the world. Cline took me on the best adventures, and in Molly, he gave my family an adventure that would live on even after cancer took him on into the next pasture.

When we finished the long drive and finally got to the barn on that January day ten years ago, my friend Julie and I immediately discovered a new attraction—there were two litters of puppies fighting over a pan of food in one of the back stalls. Full of mischief and delight, we opened the door and let twenty little Catahoula puppies run wild into the big, open-air arena. We chased and giggled and tried to herd them back into their stall, all while Cline yelled from the tack room that we “had better get all those puppies back in their place!”

As I ran after a group of four little fur balls, I noticed a tan little puppy running alongside me, seemingly trying to help. Even after we got the puppies back into their stall, I noticed that she stood apart, often trying to herd her brothers and sisters. I liked her immediately, and we spent the rest of the week side by side. Each day, after coming back from whatever work we had been doing on the ranch, I would brush my horse down, store my tack, and go find Molly. We would sit in the rocking chair while the guys played poker, or we would run around the barn playing tug-of-war with bits of twine. She had smart, hazel eyes and she always seemed to know exactly what I was thinking or feeling. I had never experienced anything like it. 

As the week came to an end, I contemplated saying goodbye to my little friend. I knew there was no way that we could accomodate a puppy at home. And so, on that last morning, I dragged my feet on my way back to the stall, and hesitated before I slid the heavy door back. At that moment, Cline walked up and said, in his miraculously gentle drawl, “You can take her home if you want to.” It was a generous offer—Catahoula puppies have value on a ranch, and I knew that the gift came from the tender heart of a toughened cowboy, but I also didn’t think I could accept. Until dad stepped in. Dad, who always delights in making dreams come true. Dad, full of wisdom. He said that he believed in saying “yes” when opportunity knocks, and that he thought I would regret saying no to this gift. Time would prove how right he was. 

Molly rode on my lap for seventeen hours as we trailered our horses back across the Mason-Dixon, and by the time we made it home, the deal was done. We were bonded for life. 

These days, Molly’s face has lots of grey hairs, and when the weather changes, her right hip makes her limp. She still loves chasing the horses and running through the pasture, and when I get home, she lets me know with lots of kisses that I’m still her favorite. Last night as I fell asleep with my hand resting on her soft head, I whispered a grateful prayer to Cline, who disrupted our lives so beautifully with this generous gift to a Yankee girl.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Cline and I had many adventures together, he was my 1st cousin, but we were like brothers til the end.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this wonderful story of my brother. He and I shared so much together and our love of horse’s. I live in Centreville, Miss and anytime you like come for a visit.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Cline was a true sweetheart!!! Cline and my brother we’re friends and Cline’s youngest sister were friends from way back. LOVED me some Cline. He will never be forgotten by many of people.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    My Uncle, mommas brother. So honored about your story of a man larger than life, in my eyes. He taught us, his nieces and nephews a lot about life, both on and off the farm. Miss him greatly. What a wonder reminder of how many he touched. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    I met Cline in 1988 when I started courting his cousin Bobby Daniel. Whom I later married in 1997. My life changed forever after meeting that Claiborne County Cowboy, being around him was a day filled with laughter, and adventure. He was for sure my buddy , he took laughter and love wherever he went. He now roams the great pastures in the sky. God chose a real cowboy to come home to the heavenly pasture. But I delight in knowing, that one day I’ll hear that laughter and feel that loving heart again.

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    Thanks for the sweet story of Uncle Cline! I have fond memories of my Uncle Bobby and him on my visits to Hermanville. I can her my grand mother getting tickled at both of them and their stories. She loved Uncle Cline and always made sure he had some of her famous fried apple pies !

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Wow! Thank you for your story! It brought back fond memories of our friend, Cline! Never known anyone like him and most likely never will- tough yet with a gentle heart. He had a way with horses of no other.

    Like many others who knew him, I can honestly say that Cline took us on adventures of a lifetime that we would never have experienced had we not met! We spent many evenings visiting at the barn by The Shack in Vicksburg with Bubba, Jan, Sam, Jimmy and many others. Time well spent.

    Thank you again for your story

    Reply
  7. Kyric Koning

    This strikes right for the heart, even for those who have no idea who Cline is. Beautifully rendered.

    Reply

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