Chief

As our pickup slowly descended down the gravel road into the small canyon below, it was like passing into another time. The ranch took up all of the flat space in this magical valley. The 300 hundred acres were divided somewhat evenly between hay ground and horse pasture. The old red barn complimented the brown two-story ranch house with its full length front porch overlooking the fields. Everything was old and antique including the old soul waving to us from a seat on the porch. His wide-brimmed cowboy hat and the Hereford cowhide that covered his chair proved that he was legit.Thin and wispy. he walked us out to his little treasures,  a pasture of Shetland ponies.

My father had four Shetland mares in a plan to have a whole herd at some point of time. To say that you have a horse ranch. you have to have a stud. That is why we were there.

The stud he had for sale was a little bigger than the rest, white with three large brown spots. He had a wide chest and was thick through the withers. His head was large and masculine and his eyes were very alert. At this point it may sound like he was a keeper. Void that, he was the meanest piece of horse flesh that ever existed.

Shetlands have a saying that follows them around. If you are big enough to handle them, you are too big to ride them. If you are small enough to ride them, you are too small to handle them. There are hundreds of well-behaved Shetlands about that have been trained correctly, but there are the others.

I was in my teen years and had done a lot of riding of regular-sized horses. When I was on Chief, that was his name, my feet were about a foot off the ground on each side. It looked silly when I rode him. It was hilarious when I rode him with a saddle. The problem was that every time he was out of sight of my father, he would buck me off. The implication at this time was that I would re-train Chief for small children to ride.

Chief understood that my father was the key to the mares, therefore, when father was was watching, he would behave like a little gentleman. However, back at the barn, it was a different story. If I approached his front, he would try to bite me. If I approached his rear, he would try to kick me.

Once he escaped up into the timber, I prayed feverishly that he would get shot. Through all of this, my father loved him…

Like a normal stud, he would circle and try to prevent a person from getting to the mares. So when I was given orders to saddle or bridle or even brush any of the mares, it was a battle. One day when trying to gather the mares, he crow-hopped and tried to kick me with both feet. He flashed his tail, lowered his head,  flaring his nostrils, and seemingly going to attack. I’ve seen studs act this way with other studs, but never this.

To say there is a God would be an understatement at this time. This new pen that we were in had an electric wire around it. In this moment of rage, Chief’s tail became entangled in the electric wire. As he pulled his tail away, the wire came loose from its post. the wire snapped forward and stung him in the butt. The more he bucked and jumped, the more the wire and Chief connected, finally curled between his hind legs, still firing amp after amp. I was just about to the electric charger when the fence grounded its self out.

Chief was totally beaten and his body shook. I put my hand on his rump and removed the the wire from between his legs. I took hold of his halter and walked him to the barn.

In the old days, cowboys would break horses  to ride by achieving the same level of surrender from the  horse.

The good part was now I could handle him, the bad part was he would no longer service the mares and was totally listless.

I guess sympathy would be the order of the day, but he had been ruined before we got him and to be bitten and kicked the way I was left me flat emotionally.

I guess the moral of the story is that we bought him for the electricity between his legs and sold him because of the electricity that got between his legs…

 

 

Playing Doctor

I was premed, needed a job, and there was an up-scale nursing home right in the pathway from school to home. Connect the dots; Change a few bedpans, play dominos with the old guys and collect a paycheck. Easy enough.

The interview as a orderly was as intense as dealing with the CIA or Interpol. I have been looked at before, but not with this much intensity. The two viewers were staring at my long sleeved shirt wondering if they might find needle tracks or psychopathic tattoos. Deep whiffs were taken to see when I taken my last toke. This nursing home had never had a male nurse’s aide before and this clean-cut country boy wasn’t to be the first. A male infidel for crying out loud.

What saved the day was interviewer number two, a nurse, suggesting that having a man around might be helpful in lifting patients and handling troublesome men patients. So, I was not hired for my intellect or charisma, but rather for the load I could tote.

The first few days were not good. I was trained on one floor, but would actually work on another. I wore a white short-sleeved polo shirt and white pants. Taking care of the men was easy, but my approach with the old women was not working. Around 8 o’clock in the evening,  I would enter a woman patient’s room and ask her if I could help her off with her clothes and get her into bed. When I couldn’t get to first base with my female patients, I thought about it for a bit. Had I ever been successful with that line, whether it be the backseat of the Ford or anywhere for that matter. The answer was no, the story of my life.

I am a quick learner. Upon arrival for work at my new floor, I now wore a doctor’s coat with a lanyard and two plastic badges. Neither meant much, a picture of my driver’s license and the other my parking permit. The look implied that I was probably at least a neurosurgeon.

My approach or rather my bedside manner improved immensely. I would walk in with a bit of a frown, stare at the patient for a moment, take her pulse, and ask if they were treating her well, Any pain?

Soon, I was their favorite doctor, “You should get some rest now. Here,  let me help.” A charlatan if there ever was one.

Memory rides only if carried by emotion. Here are three memories.

Several weeks after my arrival, I heard a call for me to go to Mrs. Williamson’s room. When I arrived, I found two aides and a nurse in a physical commotion with the patient. Mrs. W was one that had been completely taken in by my pseudo-doctor routine. Instead of going in physically, I took my little charade on the road.

“Ladies, ladies. what is going on here?” Although it was very pompous, it worked. Everything stopped. The nurse surprised at my approach and holding on bravely said, “Mrs. Williamson needs this pneumonia vaccination and we are not having any luck.”

As I stepped through to hold the patient’s hand, the aides stared at this theatrical performance dumbfounded. I had been called to help wrestle an arm free for a vaccination. I have always been full of myself and here is a prime example.

“Mrs. Williamson,” I said with a touch of painful worry and a tad of consternation. ” They say that you haven’t taken your shot yet. That really worries me.” Holding her hand and  leaning over to whisper, ” If you were my grandmother, I would tell you to hold my hand and get this done.” She pursed her lips and held on to my arm. Done.

On the way out, one of the aides that was present at the shooting , leaned to me with a smirk”, ” That has to be the biggest piece of crap I ever saw.”

“I’ll bill you in the morning,” I said with a dorky smile.

Some weeks later, I was walking by the women’s showering room, I heard a cry of help. Not really inclined to enter just any woman’s shower room, I waited at the door for another invitation. Another cry of help came quickly. I rushed in to find Tory, a cute little nurse’s aide, pressed in an awkward position, trapped in the corner of the shower. The avalanche slowly sliding down on her was a slippery, obese Mrs. Johansson. Mrs. J as we will grow to know her, was bare naked and slick from the constant flow of water from the shower head. Her big bottom had slipped off the plastic showering chair.

I jumped in lifting, trying to stabilize the situation. I must say the three of us became quite familiar with one another as we tried to get the plastic chair with wheels to return to the scene of the crime. Every time I gathered up a large portion of Mrs. J’s slimy  pink body to lift, a bunch of the rest of her popped out somewhere else. By now both Tory and I were tangled up beneath this glob of humanity desperately trying to re-seat mama J . Finally we slid the chair beneath most of her.

The head nurse flew in with another aide, they stopped . In fact, time stopped. The picture in front of them was of a shower raining down on a naked and obese woman with a soaked orderly on his knees with his hands around her buttocks. Tory tucked in between the both of us. Tory’s hair soaked and stringy, her image was of a full-length wet T-shirt contestant. I guess you had to be there.

The nurse said quaintly, ” Do you three always shower together?” I turned to see her, but it was hard to see her with water droplets dripping freely from my eyelashes.

Mrs. Anderson had been a patient for four years, not able to care for herself all during this time. Also, she had been silent all four years., nearly catatonic. Her level of dementia was fairly severe. Since she never spoke, we were not sure how severe. She had a catheter that drained into a plastic container attached to her wheel chair. Each night as I emptied the container, I also poured a half a cup of urine into a paper cup. Since her blood sugar was fluctuating, we checked  for the amount of sugar in her urine, common in those days.

This night I set the cup on the corner of her wheel chair table and worked to re-attach  the plastic container near the base of the wheel chair. When I looked up, Mrs. Anderson was holding the cup out to me, ” yum good.” She had drunk the sample and was looking for more.

At the nurse’s station, “Did you check Mrs. Anderson’s sugar?” I thought a minute how Mrs. A enjoyed her fresh-squeezed urine.

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“High again?”

“I believe so…”

 

 

They cheered and the irony of it all

Unbeknownst to us, we were about to experience the greatest irony in sports. Our chance encounter was serendipity at it’s highest level. The fans immediately to our right, about thirty of them were in a state of absolute euphoria. The billboard on the outside of this huge sports venue said, ‘ High School State Championship Wrestling’.

This was my first such trip to this event as I was a first year varsity wrestling coach who was lucky enough to have two first year wrestlers qualify for state. We were assigned a particular place in the stands for us and our fans. By the luck of the draw, our team was  to sit next to the state deaf and blind school.

Our two wrestlers lost in the first round, therefore we became witness and participants to the greatest show on earth. The communication between the unsighted and the unhearing and their relationships drew them to us. Everything else in the tournament became landscape. The real story was how a deaf student could read the wrestling program and transmit that information to a blind student that could hear. An announcement over the loudspeaker was heard by the blind students and relayed at once to the deaf students. Trips to the bathroom or concession stand was a ballet of gestures and touches that had been choreographed years earlier by these students.

Then on Saturday night came the climax of this reality play that was set before us. A deaf wrestler representing his school has qualified for the state championship match.The energy and the transmission of that boys’s match is one of the greatest ironies that I have ever seen. There will never be a better last sentence to a sporting event than this next one. With tears in my eyes, I saw blind students clapping and cheering loudly for a champion wrestler who they couldn’t see and toward that same champion that couldn’t hear their exultations.  Regardless, the feeling between them was electric. When he won, the transmission lines were overloaded with excitement and pride. I will never forget that moment.

From Silly to Cool

I don’t know why this young couple did what they did, but they did…

I was a young teen, slipping slowly away from ‘pinch and giggle’ with the girls. I was done with teasing the girls, then running enjoyably from them. Somewhere, somehow, I was beginning to hope that one would catch me. I was now teasing my friends that had girlfriends, quietly jealous at the same time. I was beginning to pass notes to the friend who would pass along to the cute girl who was in my same English class. Without older brothers or sisters from which to emulate, I knew not how to carry forward until summer Saturdays at the grange.

I arrived by bicycle, others were dropped off. He and she pulled up in his coupe, She sitting close to him. She got out on his side and waved to us as she , with keys in hand, unlocked the grange door. He followed with a record player and a box full of records. Everyone helped putting chairs and tables around. He and one the older boys brought in a case of Cokes and orange pop.

She wore a bright summer dress that fluffed up daringly about her knees when she moved. I was past needing a babysitter, but if the need would ever again arise, she would be the one. As she danced and talked with him, I noticed she was wearing his junior class ring as a necklace. What would it be like to have a girl wear my ring around her neck, to publicly acknowledge that she was mine. I would have to get a ring first.

Every Saturday he wore a white t-shirt and Levis, white socks and black oxfords. Although he was thin, he worked on a summer hay crew and you just knew he had the right stuff. He had such charisma and confidence that his smiling eyes just melted away any silliness in the room.

 

They never tried to impress, but were so impressive doing it. Regardless which of us young people was talking to them, there was eye contact and interest. Dancing, they smiled at everyone and yet kept to themselves. Seated, they would drink their Cokes, hold hands, and talk while watching my young companions jerk and jive in the pretense of dancing. To have them respect us as equals encouraged us to rise to their level of maturity.

Initially I sat with the non-dancers who wished we could. The girls were paired up and dancing every dance. Slowly we were picked off by the girls and Saturday by Saturday were all at our own ‘sock hop’.

I didn’t have older brothers and sisters to learn from, I listened to a $12 AM radio I got for Christmas, I had no records, therefore no need for a record player. My models were the couple at the ‘sock hop’, the way he treated her and her response in kind. I was know longer into ‘pinch and giggle’, I was learning to be cool.

Enough about them, By the second Saturday my girl and I paired up. She would laugh at my dancing, sat laughing as I extolled my virtues, and enjoyed those moments with our friends.

One Saturday , last dance. We noticed each last dance would be a slow love song where  our couple danced together quite closely. Well, my girl pulled me up tightly and pressed against me and changed my life forever. I had heard of them, knew women had them,  and when they were pressed through my chest, I felt them. Two marvelous reasons to be cool.

Thank God for the Saturday sock hops…

 

 

 

Waiting for the Angels

This room was larger than the rest. It easily held the six chairs that were placed around the bed. All of her effects had been moved to this room as well. There was a small table which usually held  pictures that were important to her life and had embraced her nursing room walls. White-haired, frail and near the end of her time. This lady lay quietly in her bed except for the moments when her eyes awoke and looked about , then slipped again below the surface of consciousness. Noticeably absent were pictures of family. One framed picture stood at the center of the table. Many years ago this picture was taken and framed for all time.The distinction of the picture and what could be read into the picture was significant. He and her in a warm embrace, the dress had been lovingly made, white fabrics delicately formed into a gown from which a lifetime of new memories would follow. A military dress uniform added to the masculinity of the young man to be. A glance of the old woman and the picture coalesced the two into one, that pretty young woman now lay gray in this bed. Pink was her best color, full of life and possibility, followed by white , the transitional color, then the terminal gray as today.

Although I’ve never experienced this assignment before, I knew the main task was comfort and companionship to the end. Swab glycerin to moisten her dry mouth, quietly wash and massage her feet with a warm cloth. Waiting for the angels was the hardest thing I ever did.

I began to hold her hand and talk to her as if I were her only son. As if for tea in the parlor reminiscing the old times, I told her that she was valued and respected by those who knew her and I hoped her lifetime here on earth had proven to be pleasant and fruitful.

Time passed slowly.

As she slept, I wondered about the man in the picture and why no photos of children. Whether it be true or not, I sensed that he did not return from battle those many years ago. Her love so deep that there would be no other. Whether it be true or not, I felt a longing for her to again be with her man.

With a little turn of her head and the tightening of her grasp, her eyes opened towards me. Her stare was muted , but she was there. With a hint of a smile, she drifted away. She had said adieu and now was off with the angels to find her man

 

Fall fishing

Fall fishing can be the best or the worst of fishing days. Some days the fish are so busy thinking about sex that forget to check our hooks. Other days it is like a buffet line, our finned friends will hit on anything. Sunny mornings can turn into a blustery wet afternoon.

So on this morning rendezvous at the lake, the fish failed to show.We started with worms, then proceeded to go through our fishing boxes trying every little thing we could. Eventually we started fishing worms again.

The day was cold. Bundled up and ready to leave, my fishing partner Doug nudged me. A recent arrival to our shore was a girl, ten minutes in and she was pulling  out a nice trout. We settled our belongings back down and started to fish with the thought that they were beginning to feed. They were, at the end of her pole. Our little damsel had quickly caught two more.

That did it, Doug gathered himself and proceeded over to wonder girl. They talked and he returned.

“What did she say?” I asked anxious to duplicate her success.

“I could not understand a word she said.” said Doug quite put out at the failed attempt to steal her secrets.

It wasn’t five minutes before she landed another, a big one.

That did it. This time it was my mission to discover her extraordinary luck.

” Hi , we are amazed at your luck this morning” With a blanket around her shoulders and her directed to her pole, she mumbled a sentence or two.

” I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.”

With a touch of distain, she spit into her hand, ” It helps to keep the worms warm.”