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Mrs. Albert (Ivy Fluss) Brubaker

AIR #95
August 7 & 11, 1966

Mrs. Albert (Ivy Fluss) Brubaker of Terry doesn’t remember a thing about her arrival in Montana, so all she knows is what people have told her. But from what people have told her, the year she came was an eventful year. While one member was added to the family, another member came close to being subtracted. Lon Fluss and Irva Boothe had been married five years when they moved to the Bar G Ranch near Mildred in September of 1908. That same fall Mrs. Fluss went back to Illinois to await the arrival of their first child while Mr. Fluss kept things going on the ranch.

They had ‘gone modern’ on the ranch with a gasoline engine to pump the water when the wind failed to turn the windmill, but one afternoon the engine would not start. It was dark in the dugout where the engine was located so after expending considerable time and effort trying to get it started, Fluss struck a match (what a boon, flashlights!) to see what was wrong. He started something, but it wasn’t the engine. Somehow gasoline had leaked out on top of the water, and when he struck the match, the ensuing explosion threw him up behind a 2X4 on the door. On the heels of that explosion (if explosions have heels) the gas tank blew up and catapulted him out the door. In those split seconds while he was being tossed about, he was subjected to searing flames, which burned off all his clothes except his belt and singed every hair from his head, severely burning him.

Fortunately he was not alone at the time of the catastrophe. George Johnson, standing in the door while Fluss tried to start the engine, was also burned, but Gilbert Booth, Fluss’ brother-in-law, was at the corrals and unaffected so he was able to take charge. Booth hurried to where the saddle horse had been picketed so he could use it to round up the team, but he was acutely distressed to find that the horse had broken loose at the noise of the explosion.

Ordinarily the team declined to be rounded up without the persuasion of a mounted man, but this time - wonder of wonders - Booth was able to catch them even though he was afoot. While he was getting the team and hitching them to the spring wagon, Fluss made his way to the house. The storm door stuck, and as he tried to pull it open he peeled the skin off his fingers. In the house he smeared himself with lard and flour, the only first aid at hand, then staggered to the buggy. They made the trip to Terry in record time, the horses on the run the whole twenty-five miles.

Even when they reached Terry there was no medical aid available so they waited at the depot for the train to come through to take him to Miles City. Badly burned though he was, he survived, and scars were not too evident. By the time Mrs. Fluss came back to the ranch in March, bringing their tiny daughter, Ivy, he was home from the hospital with a five-pound jar of Unguentine to aid his recovery.

Mr. Fluss used to tell his children about his first encounter with Calamity Jane. Soon after he came to Montana he happened to be in the Drummond Hotel in Terry when she came in. He got up to give her his chair, but she checked him with, “Young man, just keep your chair. I’ll brush off my pants and sit on the floor.” And she sat on the floor.

One summer soon after he came west, the hay crop was scant, and they weren’t very busy in August so Fluss, with the Burts, decided to take a trip to Yellowstone Park. Planes grounded? Train reservations limited? Try a team and sheep wagon! That trip wasn’t of the few-hours going, few-hours coming, with a whirlwind-spin-through-the-park- sandwiched-between variety. They took a leisurely six weeks and thoroughly enjoyed the sights in the Park, including Old Faithful. The Gardiner entrance was the only one in use at that time so they had no problem deciding where to go in.

While Mr. Fluss was taking care of the sheep down on the Powder River he and his young wife lived in a small log cabin on the ranch. They were very isolated with company a rarity. It’s perhaps difficult for today’s modern to realize the extent of isolation. No radio, no TV, no telephone, no means for rapid transportation, no contact with other human beings for days and weeks on end. With so little outside contact Lon would often tease his wife by pretending company had arrived, knocking on the door when he came back from the sheep sheds. She was wise to him, though, and he didn’t fool her.

One day when he had been at the sheds she heard the knock so she just laughed and called, “Come in and quit fooling.” He didn’t come in so she, a little confused, called again, “Lon, come on in; I know it’s you.” Still he didn’t respond so she walked to the door and gave an ear-piercing scream that brought her husband from the sheds on the run. As she approached the low door she had seen two long, black braids of hair, obviously not her husband’s! Her scream scared the Indian almost as badly as he scared her, and it scared Lon, too. As it turned out, the Indian was entirely innocent and had no intention of frightening anyone. He had become separated from some other members of his tribe and had merely stopped to inquire, little expecting a white woman to answer the door.