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“9 to 5” singer Dolly Parton grew up in Tennessee, sharing aspects of her childhood in the memoir Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business. That includes the story of how she got lost while chasing a butterfly — and was saved by the family cow, Bessie.

Dolly Parton released her memoir ‘Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business’

Dolly Parton performs on stage at ACL Live during Blockchain Creative Labs’ Dollyverse event
Dolly Parton performs on stage at ACL Live during Blockchain Creative Labs’ Dollyverse event | Gary Miller/WireImage via Getty Images

She’s the Queen of Country. Parton is the musician behind “9 to 5,” “I Will Always Love You,” “Here You Come Again,” “Jolene,” and other hits.

In Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, this artist detailed her experience growing up in Tennessee. She was one of 12 children in her family — her father worked as a sharecropper. As a result, Parton often spent time in the woods surrounding her childhood home. 

Dolly Parton got lost as a child while chasing a butterfly

There were plenty of missteps from Parton as she grew up. In the memoir, this artist shared that once, while chasing a butterfly, she got lost in the woods. 

At first, the young child thought it was “actually fun” being in a new environment. Once it got dark, though, she got scared. She called out for help, but no one could hear. With no lights nearby, the trees were “only silhouettes.” 

“Finally, when all seemed lost, I sniffed back a tear just in time to hear a familiar sound, one my mind associated with a friend,” Parton wrote. “It was not a human friend, but I was in no position to be choosy. It was the sound of the bell worn by our milk cow, Bessie.”

She devised a plan, realizing that the animal would eventually walk toward the Parton home. Following Bessie became her “mission.”

“Bessie was not aware of my plan, so she had no intention of slowing down to accommodate my stubby young legs. As she passed by, I reached out and grabbed the leather collar Daddy had fashioned to hold Bessie’s bell and held on for dear life,” she continued. “I soon became aware of exactly how dear my life was.” 


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Dolly Parton found her way home thanks to Bessie, the cow

The child was scratched by twigs as she went home with Bessie. She eventually reached her house and expected a warm welcome from her mother. Instead, she received “a few extra bruises” on her butt from a hickory switch. Parton’s mother hit her because she didn’t come after being called back. 

Parton wrote that her mother said, “You scared me half to death. You have to feel pain now so that you’ll remember this in the future.” 

Parton discussed more aspects of her family life in the memoir, elaborating on her relationship with her parents. Of course, music by the Queen of Country is available on most major streaming platforms.