Amidst the hard times of the Great Depression, Jim Muri and his brothers and sisters suffered from no lack of adventure as they grew up. Good-natured give and take was the norm.“We never had real battles — well, we never whacked each other’s eyes or anything. Your know how kids are,” Bill Muri said in 2014.
A cottonwood tree spread its foliage across an irrigation ditch that brought water from the Yellowstone River. The Muris attached a rope to a tire, which they suspended from the branches so they could swing across the ditch. Fun and relief from the heat beckoned on summer days in the 1930s, including one occasion that Bill described: “We’d catch each other but the time I went across, Jim moved over and I hit the tree. Down the ditch we went. There was a bunch of girls. We were all naked, of course. We went back up the river.”
After the Battle of Midway, word came to Miles City that the movie theater in town would show a newsreel of battle highlights. The Muris went and may have spotted the destined-for-fame member of their family on the screen.
Meanwhile, another Muri brother, Bob, was enduring his own hardship. Buck Muri remembered being at a high school dance in the nearby town of Ingomar when he heard that the B-17 Bob piloted had been shot down on a bombing mission over Germany. A girl at the dance caught Buck’s eye but nothing came of that after the teletype with news about Bob arrived at the school. The Muris hurried back to Cartersville and waited anxiously for days to learn of Bob’s fate. Finally, they were told he was alive but a prisoner of war; he spent 17 months in a German POW camp.
Decades later, Buck Muri still laughed as he described how the night turned out differently than he might have hoped.
“I always gave brother Bob hell,” he said, telling Bob after his release, “You sure fouled up a good night for me.”
The Muri brothers’ hijinks included their version of a Western tradition, as Bill recalled: “Every time the folks went to get groceries and stuff, we’d run the cattle in the corral and have a rodeo. They’d buck like hell.”
Bob and Andy were able to ride the milk cows, but Bill and Jim had less success, exemplified by one memorable day.
“Bob, Jim and I were out riding on Big Dry Creek, and Jim says, ‘I can ride any cow there is.’ Sure enough, we roped a cow and put Jim’s saddle on it. He rode about three or four jumps, and off he went (bucked off).”
The cow kept running with Jim’s saddle on its back. Bob tried to lasso the animal and got his rope around the saddle horn, but the cow dragged Bob into side draws. He finally caught and stopped the cow but it skinned its side.
“In about a week or two, we were branding, and dad said, ‘I wonder what happened to that cow?’ Bob said, ‘I betcha that’s some kind of disease.’”