Murdo Girl…Rainbows in the clouds

We’re not exactly sure who wrote this accounting of a time in the life of M.E. and Mary Sanderson that began with a fun vacation at their cabin in the Black Hills, and ended in near tragedy.

My brother, Billy, who was with Grandma and Grandpa on the trip, found the letter in some papers a cousin on the Francis side of the family sent to him. I think most of the information is accurate, however, I know the young daughter of a family friend was also with them on this trip. I copied the letter verbatim.


The photograph is of Mary and Maynard Sanderson at their cottage in the Black Hills near Nemo (1951). Shortly after leaving for home, they were involved in a serious accident near Wall. Billy Francis was with them and they had stopped to get him a drink. When they returned to the highway, Maynard hadn’t put his lights on “bright” and hit a tractor which had no lights. A kind motorist had them taken to a Wall hospital where they learned that Mary and Billy both had broken thighs and were put in casts from the waist down. Maynard had several broken ribs.

When they could return to their apartment above the store in Murdo, Ella and Al (Leckey) also lived there and gave them special attention. How grateful the whole family and friends were, that they survived.


The cottage near Nemo, cost Maynard and Mary about $650.00. There was a cool stream in the valley below and a beautiful view. When Helen and Bob and family came from Michigan on vacation, they spent time with her Mother and Dad and also visited his older brother, Ray, (Marj and Darla).

The cottage was in the national forest and had to be burned unless it could be moved to private property.

They enjoyed many good times there without modern facilities, such as running water and electricity, for many years.

As the writer of this letter said, the family enjoyed the cabin for many years. We all loved to go there. Uncle Jerry Miller made improvements and updates to it through the years, but some things like the old walls papered in pine cones, beds with lumpy mattresses, and heavy warm quilts, as well as the sounds of the creek, laughter, frying fish, and the breeze blowing through the pine trees, never changed. Just like Grandma’s beads, you could count on them to always be there.


Billy was seven when they were in the accident. I was born a few months later. Billy was sitting on the lap of the young girl who was with them. She went through the windshield first and he went through behind her, which saved his life. I don’t believe she was seriously hurt. The man on the tractor was thrown off into the field and walked out of the hospital a few hours later. I think Grandpa also had a broken arm. I remember it didn’t heal right and he wore a leather lace up cuff when it bothered him.



8 thoughts on “Murdo Girl…Rainbows in the clouds

  1. scoper07 April 21, 2018 / 5:34 pm

    It’s a good thing cars were made of steel back then or it could have been worse. Everyone had their angel with them that day. Spending time in the Black Hills was always a joy. I was always amazed at the people who lived out there. I thought they were fortunate. How wonderful your family was able to have a cabin there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mary Francis McNinch April 21, 2018 / 6:49 pm

      It was awesome to go from the prairie to the beauty of the Black Hills in just a couple of hours. As I read that letter, I thought about them stopping to get Billy a drink. You hear about so many things good and bad happening when someone veers off their course even a little.

      Liked by 1 person

      • scoper07 April 21, 2018 / 7:18 pm

        I think about that a lot. I’ve had a few close calls while driving and would wonder if I had altered my timing would have that been it?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bobby April 21, 2018 / 11:07 am

    My mother (Helen) wrote the cabin story-I believe in the late 1980’s. I’ve researched a bit and have more details which are part of an unfinished “book” about the Nemo Cabin. I haven’t disciplined myself sufficiently to finish proof reading it. —In the top ten on the things to do list.

    Liked by 2 people

      • sanjuan831 April 21, 2018 / 11:12 pm

        I agree with Mary. Put that goal on a post-it right on the mirror where you brush your teeth each morning. Those neon colored ones are eye catching!

        Liked by 1 person

    • sanjuan831 April 21, 2018 / 11:10 pm

      So good to see your comments, cuz. Keep at it- -being writer isn’t easy.


  3. lifelessons April 20, 2018 / 11:00 pm

    I had never heard this story, but guess I was only three or four when it happened, so I would not have remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

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