Thunder Butte

October 02, 2005

Strange Happenings At Thunder Butte Creek

Thunder Butte Creek is a special place. The 7A- (called “seven a bar”) ranch was leased by my parents from R.L. Foster, Jr. When my parents ran it, in my early childhood, it was the XL ranch (their brand) and pronounced “excel.” The ranch was located in a large bend of Thunder Butte Creek, between the Charley Roach place and the old 73 ranch on the East.

Some of my first memories of Thunder Butte Creek were when the creek was in flood stage. At that time, it was probably a half mile wide in places. This was an all year creek. Usually, even in the heat of summer, it ran all year. But, in flood stage this creek was a spectacle. Our ranch house was less than 50 feet from the high water bank of the creek. As a small boy, probably no more than three years of age, I was fascinated by the swirling, roaring, muddy stream, lapping at the banks and within one or two feet of the top of the bank. I used to crawl on hands and knees to the bank, fascinated by the flooding water. Sometimes, I felt a force dragging me toward the water. I could only resist the magnetic pull of the water by using every bit of will power to drag myself back, away from the edge. Fear gripped me then, and when free of the pull of the stream, I would run terrified to the house. I didn’t tell anyone. I was always afraid they would make fun of me, or laugh at me. So, I kept quiet.

The creek was always a mystery, even in the dead of winter when the ice was frozen to a depth of from two to four feet thick. I used to lie awake at night listening to the night sounds coming from the thick woods and the creek. The most unusual of these sounds was a terrible groaning and moaning like tormented souls, in my mind at least. These sounds, coupled with the screaming of wild animals—bobcats, cougars, and various others—were enough to cause a small boy to lose sleep on many nights. The moaning sounds came from pressure on the ice in the stream. Sometimes the ice broke with a sound not unlike a cannon shot. Later in the spring, when the thaws started and the stream started to swell with water, the ice stacked up into huge ice jams, which actually blocked the water flow and caused the creek to swell out of its banks. These ice jams caused a variety of crashing, grinding, explosive sounds.

After a month or so, when the ice had all melted, the creek would continue to swell. The stream could only be crossed by the most daring. My brothers, Joe and Neal used to swim their horses entirely across the stream from one bank to the other. They would have to slip off the back of the horse and hang on to his tail to keep the horses’ head above water.

Another happening on the creek was the cutting of ice. My father and brothers would use a large cross-cut saw and cut up huge chunks of ice, which they would haul to a cave dug out of the side of a hill. The ice chunks would be stored in this cave, and would be used for keeping foods chilled all summer.

As the floods receded and spring turned to summer, I would explore more and more of the creek and woods. One day I was playing near the lower crossing, back of the house, when a huge monster emerged from the creek crossing and started up the trail toward me. I had never seen anything like it before and was very curious. But, when it started chasing after me, I turned and ran like a rabbit.

When I reached the house, I called to my mother that I was being chased by a giant bobcat. That was the only thing I could think of at the time. My mother got a .22 rifle out and asked me to show her the bobcat. So, we started down the trail toward the creek where we discovered the animal, which also started to chase my mother. It was a giant snapping turtle, eighteen to twenty inches across the back. My mother shot him in the head many times before he would stop. I have seen many, many snapping turtles in my lifetime, but I have never seen one that large. I have never seen or heard of one chasing people.

The turtle was hopping mad. My mother finally got an axe and chopped his head off. Even then, he kept crawling. The end result was a fine turtle soup. My mother gave me the heart and I kept it in a jar of water, where it continued to beat for four or five days. I don’t suppose that was paranormal. Or, was it?

There is no doubt that I would have been seriously hurt if that turtle had caught me.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, October 02, 2005


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