Through Any Given Door

1.64 Summer 1950, Bounty Hunter

Summer 1950 • Sonora ~ The family met Jay Bruce and his wife in the summer of 1950 when their car broke down and was being repaired across the way at Kelley’s. Betty was amazed; they were the oldest people Betty had ever seen driving (they were almost seventy). Mom was concerned about this elderly couple stranded in the alley so she invited them in out of the searing heat. Other than family, we seldom had adults in our house any more except Mom’s family, an occasional priest, or the doctor. While she was in the kitchen showing off her good set of dishes to Mrs. Bruce, the gentleman, dressed in khakis and a white wide-brimmed safari hat, entertained Betty and Claudia in the living room. A retired cat man who’d worked for the state as a bounty hunter, the government paid Bruce by the scalp and ears for the sanctioned killings of coyotes, bobcats, and cougars. Moving as if on stage, he regaled his captive audience with tales of himself as a great white hunter and told them he was writing a book about his life. Betty was enthralled. Claudia was polite. The stories were boring enough to a five-year-old, but when he pulled out his banjo and began strumming, Claudia silently back-peddled towards the door.

“A little banjo,” she said, “goes a long way.”

Although she seemed quiet and unsure of herself and without the confidence of the older kids, Claudia had her own beliefs and opinions. She dug in her heels with the best of mules and had a hidden temper. You did not want to be the one to get her dander up.

Three years later Mr. Bruce returned to Sonora for a book event at Dad’s store.

July 14, 1953, an article in The Union Democrat:
Jay Bruce, famous cougar killer, will be in town Thursday to visit friends, autograph books. A famous Mountain Lion hunter and now a widely known writer will return to Sonora on Thursday. Jay Bruce, known throughout the Mother Lode country for many years as state trapper and lion hunter, will be in town to autograph his new volume, “Cougar Killer,” the story of his life’s work on the trail of savage California mountain lions.

Mr. Bruce, who now lives near Placerville, will spend the day at Clemens’ store in downtown Sonora, to meet old friends and to sign copies of his book.

In his book, Bruce tells of his many lion hunts in this area and many residents can remember when he would return to Sonora with a large lion over the fender of his truck, victor once again in the strange business of tracking down and killing a marauder.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. That is neat!

  2. How sad when you think of it now, but so awful in today’s world.

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