Hi. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Schuyler Jane
Fairfax. “Sky” for short. My friend Gary Hobson gave me that
nickname when I was twelve going on thirteen.
I was born September 17, 1957 in a small town in Kentucky – the Northwest region of coalmines and farmland. Close to the mountains but with enough woods and farmland to keep my daddy and his family happy. Daddy was working for a government lab that dealt in agricultural matters – crop rotation, hybrids and the like. He wasn’t real happy about it since he preferred experimenting his own way but he had a wife and three growing children to support. That all changed when I was about to enter my teens.
One of my favorite activities as a child in Kentucky was running down to the corner of our street to watch the trains go by. We lived in a small, reasonably close-knit neighborhood but there was kind of a big gap in ages between us kids. My brothers Jamie and Alan are three and five years older than I am. Our closest neighbors across the street had kids considerably older except their youngest, a girl three years younger than me. Across from them the kids in the family were all older than me but the youngest was only older by a year. Down the street a ways there was a family of four who’s youngest was eight days younger than me. The whole gang of us would get together and go down to watch the train. The sight of those trains traveling to who knows where always made me long to travel. I loved our family vacations in New England, Virginia, Texas and Scotland – my family’s ancestral home. My Fairfax grandparents are distantly related to General Washington’s friend George William Fairfax. Distant cousins or something. My mom’s family, the MacGregors, are Texans. Many family vacations were taken at Grandpa Mac’s ranch. If not there then at Uncle Rob’s or Uncle Will’s. We went to Uncle Angus in Scotland a few times too.
As I was saying the gang of us would get together to play. We’d play Hide and Seek, whiffleball, dodge ball, and tag. We went on hikes but only Jamie and Alan really liked to go hiking in the mountains with me. We knew the dangers of snakes and such but we had been taught general first aid and where to watch for snakes.
A lot of things attract me to the mountains - the peacefulness, the cool air, cold streams, the wildlife (ok most of the wildlife). The people too. Coal miners and farmers most of them. Ragged barefoot children whose daddies spent long hours, days and weeks working in the dangerous mines. As a child I was fortunate enough not to witness any of the mining disasters but years later, after getting my medical degree and my license, I would. In those years I was still known as Schuyler. I hadn’t acquired my nickname yet. That was about to change. All it took was a hike in the mountains and my first encounter with Gary Matthew Hobson.
You see when Gary was just a wee bairn, as my great-grandmother might say, he got himself lost in those mountains. I lived real close to them when I was growing up and I used to go hiking or horseback riding in that area. Back to Gary though. It seems that he was on a camping trip with his folks, Bernie and Lois, and they’d stopped for lunch. Somehow or other he managed to wander off a far piece before they noticed he was missing. I guess maybe they were playing around in the water where they were washing their hands or admiring the scenery. Gary was only four going on five and usually a pretty good kid. But he had no pets at home and when he saw a wild rabbit he followed it and got himself lost. Only the Good Lord knows how that child didn’t wind up in some hollow or covered in poison ivy or something. I reckon his Guardian Angel must have been working overtime ‘cause I was in the right place at the right time for certain.
You see I’d stopped for lunch and to do some sketching while on a hiking trip of my own. After my lunch stop I started walking again and I heard this frightened child’s voice calling for his parents. From the sound of his voice I could tell he’d been lost for a while. And he was wandering around in an area where I knew there were apt to be snakes sunning themselves.
Well, wouldn’t you know it – before I could reach him he stumbled into the path of a big old timber rattlesnake. I swear you could hear that boy for miles when the snake struck out at him. Again all I can say is that that boy’s Guardian Angel must have been working real hard that day. I still don’t know how that snake missed him. At any rate, I when I saw what was happening I rushed right over and scooped him up and took him to safety. I hated to leave him for even a minute but that was one snake that wasn’t going to live any longer. I went over to it, pinned it with my booted foot and cut its head off. Of course, with two older brothers at home to tease me with their occasional bouts of bragging I just had to cut the rattles off for a trophy. I was real careful not to let Gary see it though. And I put them in my pocket before I went back to where he sat crying his eyes out.
It took me ten minutes of cuddling and stroking his hair before he finally calmed down and I had to move away from the dead snake too. The left shoulder of my shirt was good and damp by the time Gary stopped crying with a hiccup or two.
He was so adorable with his dark hair and those muddy green eyes. These days, if somebody asks Gary what color his eyes are, he insists on mud puddle green. So now I washed his face with water from my canteen and the handkerchief I had in my pocket and I asked him his name where he was from. He gave me his name as Gary. Then I got Gary Matthew and then I finally got Gary Matthew Hobson but he couldn’t seem to remember what state Hickory was in. When I told him I was Schuyler Jane Fairfax he couldn’t quite get his tongue around it so he called me “Sky” and I’ve been Sky ever since – even to my family. Well, except for Mama and Daddy and Grandpa Mac and Grandma Phoebe.
I wanted to get Gary back to his parents as soon as possible but I had no idea where they were. However, at this point, I was blessing Grandpa Mac and Uncle Rob and the others who’d taught me how to track. After a couple of minutes of looking around I found the trail Gary had left in his wanderings. I went back to the rock I’d left him sitting on and took him by the hand. We hadn’t gone too far before I realized that the poor little guy was too tuckered to walk any more. He was starting to lag behind even though he was holding my hand. I have to give the little guy credit though – he didn’t fuss or anything – he just started slowing down. After a couple of minutes I stopped and picked him up. He wrapped his arms around my neck and put his head on my right shoulder. After yawning a couple of times he was sound asleep. I just shifted his weight a little to get a better grip on him and started walking again.
About half an hour later I heard someone calling “Gary” from somewhere to the west of where I was walking. A few minutes later I was in hailing distance. A young couple answered me. The woman, her long blonde hair in a ponytail, reached out anxiously to take Gary from my arms. Her blue eyes were teary as she asked me if her son were ok. His dark haired father asked me where I’d found him.
It didn’t take me long to explain but I left out the part about the snake. I figured they’d been worried enough. However when the little guy roused he told his parents about getting “losted” and following the rabbit and then about the snake.
His mama like to have fainted when she heard about that “close encounter” and even his dad looked a bit pale. Neither of them could thank me enough. After Gary fell asleep again I walked the Hobsons back to their campsite and issued a few warnings about snakes and stuff. Gary was napping in the tent when my brothers came riding up on their horses leading Major my own horse. Gary woke up about the time they arrived. His dad caught him as he started to run toward them but when he saw the boys he got real shy and hid behind his dad. The three of us issued an invitation for them to visit us the next day and I drew Bernie a map and wrote directions down on a piece of paper besides.
Before we left my new little friend gave me a hug and a big juicy kiss for saving him from the snake. I could hardly keep from crying I was so happy. Of course, my brothers had to tease me about it. I guess they had it figured out already that he was going to be my little buddy. I just ignored them.
At the dinner table that night I told Mama and Daddy all about him right down to the “puppy dog” eyes of brownish green.
The next morning the Hobsons arrived bright and early. I ended up taking care of Gary all day because he was very shy around my parents and Mama knew he’d be bored around the grown ups. So I showed him my rabbits, introduced him to my collie by the name of Rob Roy (incidentally, Rob Roy was named for Rob Roy MacGregor the famous “outlaw” of Scottish history – a man so well known by his contemporaries that no physical description of him ever appeared on a wanted poster) and to my horse Major. I took him for a ride through the woods and pointed out the blue jays and the cardinals and told him how to tell the difference between male and female.
After lunch I took him upstairs to my room to take a nap. He fell in love with my collection of stuffed animals on sight. I had teddy bears, dogs, cats, a pony or two and various others including this silly stuffed monkey that I won at the town carnival the year before. Gary chose the monkey for his naptime companion. Hugging that silly thing he went right to sleep. Rob Roy elected to sleep on the floor near my bed instead of going back outside – he’d already decided he loved Gary.
When the Hobsons got ready to leave Gary came out of the house carrying my monkey. His mom tried to make him give it back but he wasn’t about to let go of “Vinnie”. I told Lois he was welcome to the silly thing. I wasn’t that crazy about it. It was just something I’d won, and rather easily at that, at a carnival.
Little did I know when they left that day that I’d soon see them again. You see Daddy’s always been kinda fiddle footed. He’s always had an urge to go places and see things. So when the government decided to close the lab he was working at Daddy started looking around for a place to move to. A farm of his own rather than one controlled by his employer. He could experiment with different crops as he saw fit and no one could tell him “no”. What a surprise it was when he came home from a weekend away and told us he’d found a place – in Hickory, Indiana. I was thrilled. Like Daddy, I kinda have itchy feet and besides I’d been sort of depressed since the Hobsons left for home. Gary had quickly stolen my heart and I missed him after they were gone.
By the end of July Daddy was ready to move us to our new home. We were to arrive at the beginning of August so that the boys and I could get settled before school started.
The big day arrived and we moved on. It took us a couple of days because we had to stop and let the horses stretch their legs once in a while. When we did arrive at our new home Lois and Bernie were expecting us but they’d kept it a secret from Gary. The first of many with mixed results.
Daddy put me in charge of the animals and their gear. Once they were settled into their new home, their feed and all the saddles and such put away Mama sent me over to the Hobsons. Gary, not quite five, was sitting on the stairs in the front of the house watching and waiting. When he saw me coming his beautiful eyes got really wide and he more or less literally launched himself off the stairs at me. I laughed when he gave me a big hug but then wriggled out of my grasp and started pulling me toward the door yelling for his Mom.
A very excited little boy soon had permission to come to our farm because - in his words - Rob Roy and Major “needed” him. Mama had figured he’d be too excited to wait. So he spent the day helping me and playing with Rob Roy until we went to supper at his house. Nothing else would do when we got there but for me to sit next to him. When it got to be his bedtime it was me he wanted to help him put his pjs on and read him a story before he went to sleep. I soon became his regular babysitter and spent many nights there while his folks went to dinner or a movie or something.
That fall I started Junior High, Jamie was a sophomore in High School and Alan started his first year of law school. Gary started pre-school and was quickly the darling of the teachers because of his looks and his shy demeanor. At that point in his life Gary still didn’t like girls. Just let one of the little girls in his class show any interest in him and he’d go running. The only “girls” permitted to be part of his life were our mothers and me. One day the teacher, Miss Jean Crane, asked Gary’s class to tell about their best friends. Some of them told about older siblings or their dads or a grandparent. Gary lost his shyness about speaking in front of the class long enough to tell them about me and how we met.
Disaster struck when he was through. There was this kid named Jack Wallace in Gary’s class. He was taller and heavier and had a tendency to be a bully just like his older sister who was in my History class. Jack started picking on Gary as soon as he was through talking. He declared that I wasn’t for real and even if I was no girl would ever touch a snake or have anything to do with a “shrimp” like Gary.
Poor little guy! He was so upset at Jack’s bullying. No amount of assurances from Miss Crane could calm him down. He was still crying when Lois picked him up at school. When they got home he turned down his Mom’s offer of a snack and ran up to his room to throw himself on his bed hugging Vinnie and crying his eyes out. When Lois couldn’t calm him down she called my house to see if I was available to talk to him.
I biked over as quickly as I could and went straight up to his room to talk to him. Entering his room I had to step over a few matchbox cars and stuff he had littering the floor. Gary wasn’t crying as hard but he was still upset.
I crossed the room and went to sit on his bed. Then I pulled him onto my lap and hugged him and kissed the top of his head. I told him what his mom had told me. What I didn’t tell him was that I was angry with Jack whom I suspected had been egged on by his sister Margaret. Margaret was in my History class and never did a day go by but she had some comment about my nickname or how tall and skinny I was. It didn’t bother me but I wasn’t a five-year-old. It didn’t take long for Gary to calm down once he had my reassurance that we were really friends and would always be friends.
When I went home that night I pleaded with Mama and Daddy to let me skip school or at least a couple of classes so I could go to school with Gary and prove my existence to his class. Just because he and his mom and dad knew I was real didn’t mean that Jack’s torment didn’t hurt Gary. Mama and Daddy both harbored a soft spot for Gary themselves and understood how hurt he was by what had been said. They readily agreed because the first two classes I had the next day were my two best classes and I was passing them easily.
Next morning, bright and early, I picked Gary up at his house and walked with him to school carrying my book bag, lunch and another bag – the contents of which I kept secret from Gary all the way to school.
Miss Crane welcomed me to the class. When we first got there Gary could scarcely tear himself away from my side. Jack wasn’t in class just yet and my poor little buddy was apprehensive. Jack really had the little guy buffaloed. The rest of the class was just as scared of him.
When Jack finally did come in, ten minutes late, he swaggered to his seat confident of his position in the class and confident that he was right about the “shrimp”. A few minutes later Miss Crane told the class who I was. There had been a lot of curious looks as the children had arrived. Their parents suspected why I was there. I heard years later that many of them were hoping I’d take the Wallaces down a peg or two.
Well you could have heard a pin drop as I told those kids about how I met Gary in the mountains near my old home. The girls squealed when I described that big ole rattler and the boys’ eyes got very wide. All except Jack’s. He made some snide remark about “shrimps’, sissies and girls so I told him to ask his sister about the black eye and the fat lip she was sporting. Like my mama I never started a fight but I sure have finished a few. I got even better at it after a few lessons with Washo when I was living in Texas. I’ll tell you more about that later.
Gary was as surprised as the other kids when I pulled out a snakeskin and the rattles I had taken off that snake I killed the day I found him lost in the mountains. He was a little afraid and I reckon I don’t blame him. Rattlesnakes are pretty scary even from a distance. And when you’re only five years old they’re even scarier. Before I left that schoolroom I gave the children a little nature lesson on how to tell a poisonous snake from a non-poisonous snake making sure they understood that some snakes are helpful to farmers because they eat insects and rats and mice that can damage or destroy valuable crops.
When I was through Miss Crane thanked me for coming and I left after saying good-bye to the class. I knew Gary was a lot happier and Jack Wallace might think twice before making any more of his stupid observations. I got to school just in time for my Biology class. At lunchtime I called Lois to let her know how it had gone at Gary’s school. I assured her that Gary was just fine when I left.
Late summer gave way to fall. On September 17 I turned thirteen and Gary turned five. Our parents planned a joint barbecue and birthday party for their “twins”. I got riding clothes and stationery, an Osmond brothers album and money. Gary got a license plate for his new bike from me plus some new books, clothes, matchbox cars (like he didn’t already have enough – you couldn’t set foot in his room without stepping on or over at least a dozen of them) plus a baseball cap and a ball and glove (that was Jamie and Alan who would soon spend almost as much of their spare time teaching him how to throw as his dad, Bernie would).
In the fall we gathered the leaves all the maple and horse chestnut trees dropped. For a few days we’d rake, jump into the piles, throw them up in the air yelling “Happy New Year” (we were just kids you know), make blueprint type outlines of houses and finally gather them in piles for bonfires. We introduced Gary to the joys of listening to the chestnuts popping in the bonfires. One of my favorite things about the fall was the changing colors of the maple leaves, the smell of bonfires and fireplace fires and listening to the chestnuts popping.
When winter snows came there were hikes and sledding and skiing. And snow angels (Gary was always better at those than I was). We found a couple of really good hills for sledding and we’d go coasting for hours with Gary and his friends from school as well as some of our own new friends. When we were through sledding, tobogganing, skiing or whatever and we needed to dry out and warm up we’d head to one house or another for hot chocolate. At our house Daddy would often have a nice fire going in the fireplace and we’d sit around with our cocoa and some cookies. More often than not Gary would fall asleep and one of us would have to bundle him up and take him home or we’d have to call his parents and Bernie would come after him.
Lot of nights, if Bernie and Lois were going to be out really late, I’d bring my sleeping bag and pillow, clear a spot on the floor and spread it out next to Gary’s bed. Rob Roy insisted on accompanying me and would sleep at the foot of the bed or between Gary and me. Next morning we’d be up bright and early feasting on Lois’s blueberry pancakes.
In the spring I reveled in the sights and sounds and colors of emerald green grass, green leaves on the maple, hickory and willow trees. Bright purple crocuses pushing their brave heads up before it was quite warm enough for the other flowers. Red and pink geraniums. Tulips of all colors. Mama was particularly fond of red and yellow tulips and always planted some around the house. Violets grew in profusion in our yard as well. The rushing sound of the nearby creek swollen with melted snow. The sight and sound of returning songbirds such as the endangered Kirtland’s warbler and game birds like turkeys and quail – I can still hear the cries of “bob-white, bob-white” as I wandered through the woods and field. I was happy to find out that cardinals were as common in Indiana as they were in Kentucky. I’d’ve missed seeing and hearing them.
I remained a tomboy – still am in fact – disdaining the pretty dresses most girls wore for dungarees or cutoffs with loafers or sneakers on my feet. Fancy dresses would play very little part in my life until I started dating when I was fifteen or sixteen and more so when I met my future husband.
Summer came and Jamie, though he was supposed to be more mature, decided
that we needed a Tarzan swing over the pond on our farm. So he took
some of his paper route money and bought a length of rope about eight feet
long and tied it to the limb of the tree overhanging the pond. He
wouldn’t let any of us try it until he was satisfied that it was safe.
Thereafter it was a mad scramble as we all jockeyed to have our turn.
The little guys (and girls) were not allowed to do it on their own.
One of us bigger kids had to do it with them.
Baseball games sprung up on the fields and playgrounds. That was in the days before tee ball so the little ones that wanted to play had to learn from the older kids. By the time Gary was old enough for Little League he had a head start on some of the other kids. Jamie and Alan have always been baseball fans and they were more than happy to have a “little brother” around to work with. I was already as good as they were – probably even better – so having Gary around to work with was a real treat.
I was an inveterate tree climber. I loved getting up in the trees and surveying the neighborhood. A few times I put baby birds back in their nests. The parents knew I wouldn’t harm their nests or their families otherwise they wouldn’t have allowed me near the nest and they probably would have abandoned it and their family.
Later that second summer I started having sore throats almost every week so Mama dragged me off to see Uncle Eric Fairfax who had settled in a Hickory a couple of years before we did. Uncle Eric was one of several doctors in town and he was the reason I decided to go into medicine myself. Uncle Eric gave me a good looking over and decided my trouble was tonsillitis and I’d have to have my tonsils out. It turned out to be the first of two brief hospital stays.
While I was in for my tonsillectomy I started studying ASL – American Sign Language. It enabled me to communicate without always having paper and pencil handy. It would stand me in good stead very soon – one of my classmates was deaf. I was the first one to recognize her disability for what it was and we became good friends.
When I came home Jamie and Alan took turns with Mama seeing that I had all the ice cream I could eat. Gary, who would start Kindergarten, was there as well fetching ice cream and cold water. With the boys and Daddy working and Mama looking after me it was Gary who entertained Rob Roy and brought Major, Jubal and Noelle special treats and gave them lots of attention too.
I recovered quickly from that and got through the fall and winter without incident. We had a lot of snow and rain that winter and a couple of ice storms. Sometimes it seemed like we’d never dry out or warm up. We all had minor bruises and most if not all, of the little guys like Gary had scraped knees from minor spills on the icy sidewalks or chills from being caught in the rain or heavy wet snow but none of them was very badly hurt or got very sick.
That next spring disaster struck me again – I’m just glad it was warm weather or I’d have been really miserable. You see that was the spring I broke my right ankle and Gary, my little buddy, was more or less responsible.
Gary never suffered from a lack of curiosity. In the year and a half I’d known him he’d listened to my lessons about snakes, birds and other wildlife. He watched me climb trees to look into bird’s nests and get the neighbor’s cat down. Little did I know what that would lead to.
One day, about a week or so before school ended Gary, about to start first grade that fall, decided he wanted one of the abandoned bird’s nests for his room. Before he got to be a sports nut he collected all kinds of odds and ends – rocks, feathers and leaves among them. Why he suddenly had to have this particular bird’s nest I don’t know. His mom was in the house, his dad was at work and I was just coming back from running some errands for my mother. Gary took it into his head to be disobedient and climbed that tree anyway. His parents and I, and my brothers too, had told him that the birds had abandoned that tree because it had been damaged by the storms over that winter and the last storm we’d had had left it even weaker. He wasn’t to even think about climbing that tree for any reason.
Normally he was a very obedient little boy. This time though his rare occurrence of disobedience would have serious consequences. He got a chair from the porch to help him reach the lowest branch and then somehow managed to scramble up into the tree. He climbed about three quarters of the way up the tree before he realized just how far off the ground he really was. When he looked down from his lofty perch he got really scared and started crying for his mom. But she couldn’t hear him because she was down cellar running laundry.
I’m not sure how long he was stuck up there before I came along. I heard him crying but couldn’t find him at first. When I did finally figure out where he was I was half tempted to leave him up there just to teach him a lesson but I couldn’t bear to hear him crying so pitifully. I put my sacks down and walked over to the tree. I didn’t need the chair to reach that lowest branch so I moved it out of the way. Then I just reached up and caught hold of the branch and swung up into a sitting position on it while I got hold of a branch further up to pull myself up into a standing position. Then I proceeded to climb up to the branch where Gary was sitting crying his eyes out. He was so happy to see me that I just couldn’t stay mad at him. I gave him a little hug and calmed him down. He was too scared to climb down on his own and, truth be told, I was afraid to let him so I made him wrap his arms around my neck and proceeded to carry him down piggy back.
To this day I’m not sure exactly what happened. I thought I knew exactly which branches were safe to use. But about ten feet from the ground a branch broke under our combined weight and we plummeted to the ground. Gary, somehow, was shaken and scared but unhurt. I wasn’t so lucky. My full weight, plus Gary’s, came crashing down on my right ankle and I felt it buckle. I wasn’t too concerned at first since I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me when I landed. At first I was more concerned about Gary. But when I felt the pain in my ankle I knew I was in trouble. Gary sat there looking at me like he knew he was in trouble. He would be soon enough but right now I needed his help. I told him to run and find his mother. When Lois came out of the house and saw me with my leg twisted under me and blinking back tears I’m not sure whose face was the palest – hers, Gary’s or mine. She quickly ran back into the house and called the fire department and my house. When she came back out she brought a blanket to throw over me to ward off the shock she knew might come. Looking at her young son with a frown on her face she told him she would deal with him later.
Mama and Alan arrived around the same time as the ambulance. The EMTs (there were no paramedics at that time) put a splint on my ankle and loaded me into the ambulance. Mama rode with me while Alan took my packages home and then drove to the hospital promising Lois he would call as soon as they knew what was what.
At the hospital the x-rays revealed what I had suspected – my right ankle was broken. Fortunately it was a clean break and I would be fine. I wasn’t so sure about Gary – his mom was pretty mad at him for disobeying her in regard to that tree. He wound up spending the next eight weeks running around doing things such as getting me drinks and snacks rather than playing with his friends.
Later that year Gary’s mom took him to the library to get his first library card. Miss Flowers was the Librarian even back then and boy did she terrify all the little kids. You had to be so careful with any book you took out because it was like she was entrusting you with her children or something. Anyone under the age of ten was deemed untrustworthy period. They were watched extremely closely by Miss Flowers’ eagle eye. Between the ages of ten and sixteen you weren’t watched quite as closely but you were given stern warnings of what would happen if you damaged one of “her” books. After the age of sixteen most residents of Hickory had dealt with her long enough to ignore her or get around her but many a Hickory Township teenager was still terrified of her. My cornball brothers though would just smile at her and pour on the charm and suddenly she was putty in their hands. I heard from Lois that Gary was so scared of Miss Flowers that his hand shook when he tried to sign the application for a library card. If she could have had him sign it at home instead of at the library she would have. But Library policy required that he sign it in Miss Flowers’ presence. She had the poor kid so buffaloed that it was years before he’d set foot in that library unless one of his parents or I or my family went with him. Personally I let whatever lecture Miss Flowers felt obligated to make go in one ear and out the other all the while letting her believe I was really listening. I seldom, if ever, had a book out longer than I was supposed to without renewing it and I never lost or damaged one. I also spent a good deal of time steering youngsters to good reading material and spent a lot of money on books for the library. But though I was a rare exception I wasn’t completely above suspicion with Miss Flowers. No, no, no. I was too good to be true. I shudder to think what the current generation of Hickory students has to go through with Miss Flowers who is now in complete charge of the library. Probably the same terrifying ordeal that at least two other generations have gone through.
When he got into the second grade Gary had a teacher whose idea of entertaining the families was to have the children do skits. Gary wound up playing a teapot. I was in High School studying History and Chemistry and Physiology in preparation for my planned career. I also joined the Glee club and the orchestra. I had taken up guitar and violin after a couple of years of piano lessons to learn the basics. Mama insisted I take piano first in order to get a good musical foundation. When I got into Harvard Medical School a couple of years later I dropped the music. I was determined to get the best marks I could and I didn’t want any distractions.
When I was sixteen I started dating. At thirteen, fourteen and fifteen it was all group things. Mama and Daddy only had that one rule other than no smoking, drinking or sex and I had no trouble at all obeying those rules. I knew they were for my protection and I was underage. In a small town like Hickory you could find yourself with a reputation, good or bad, in no time if you weren’t careful. And those things didn’t interest me anyway.
My dates had to “pass inspection” with at least five people – Mama, Daddy, Alan, Jamie and Gary. Gary doesn’t remember much about the guys I dated which is understandable – he was only eight – but any guy I went with had to get his approval as well. Not only because he’s like a brother to me but also because it’s hard to fool kids about your personality. They can sense when you’re faking an interest in them.
I played basketball and softball on the Varsity teams all four years. Having two older brothers and a bunch of cousins and friends to work out with was a big help. We always had a game of some sort going on. If it wasn’t at the farm it was at Uncle Eric’s.
I was considered somewhat of a paradox in High School. I was an athlete that didn’t hang out with the other jocks and I was a musician on top of that. I was a serious student who didn’t just study and not have any fun. Neither did I hang out with the so-called campus beauties though I was considered to be as good-looking as any of them. I treated all my fellow students the same. Well maybe there were a couple of exceptions like Margaret Wallace but for the most part I treated everyone the same. And no upperclassman got away with pushing any underclassman in my presence, or me, around just because of their so-called special status. I wouldn’t put up with that nonsense and they soon knew it.
At my Junior Prom I wore a midnight blue gown with a high square neckline and a long skirt. A simple gold cross and gold low-heeled sandals completed my outfit. My date, a boy I dated during my sophomore and junior years, wore a lighter blue tux. Because of my “rebellious” ways I was not picked for Prom Queen or her court but it didn’t matter. I found that group to be totally self absorbed and stuck up – they weren’t my cup of tea by a long shot.
Senior year came and went almost in a blur. I dated a few guys casually but no one boy seriously. I had too much on my mind. Uncle Eric had let me start working in his office to gain a little practical knowledge before I went off to med school.
Graduation day arrived on the first Sunday of June in 1975. Mama and Daddy, Jamie and Alan, the Hobsons, Uncle Eric and his family – they were all there for the big moment. After the ceremony we had a huge barbecue to celebrate. My gifts included stationery, a pen and pencil set, a new tape recorder with some blank tapes and a beautiful silver heart shaped pendant from Gary and his parents. It was inscribed “To Schuyler with love from Bernie, Lois and Gary”. I still wear it to this day. It’s a very special gift from three very special friends.
I spent the rest of that summer working with Uncle Eric and getting ready for school. Mama and I went shopping in Indianapolis and at the local malls too for clothes, bedding, textbooks etc. But I still found time to have fun. Knowing how much I would miss Gary when I left in a few weeks I took him by himself, to the carnival that came to town. We gorged ourselves on hot dogs, soda, popcorn and that wonderful pink, blue or green airy confection known as cotton candy. We rode the merry-go-round and the Scrambler. I had to go on the Ferris wheel alone since even at nine Gary’s fear of heights had already developed. We went to the shooting gallery where I won one of their biggest prizes – a four-foot tall teddy bear which I still have to this day.
Gary and I both won prizes at the booth where you have to knock over the heavy bottles with baseballs. Even at that age I could tell that Gary would wind up being an excellent ball player. He had a good eye and a strong arm to go with it. I’m not sure the guy running the booth was too happy with us. At the rate we were going we’d have cleaned him out in less than an hour. I have a feeling that the person sitting in the dunking booth was just as glad to see us leave. Between us we dunked him about a dozen times.
Bernie built Gary a tree house that summer. Why I don’t know. You’d think that he’d have realized that his son had a profound fear of heights and know enough not to force the kid. But, much as I love Bernie, I have to admit that there are times when he’s more of a kid than his son is or was.
Bernie’s never going to live down the day he and Gary got stuck up there because I’m never going to let him. Gary got up there ok but when Bernie got hold of the floor of the tree house to pull himself up and in the old rope he used to get up there snapped. If he hadn’t had a good grip with his right hand, gotten a grip with his left hand and had a little help from Gary he would have fallen about fifteen feet. Who knows how badly he might have been hurt. Instead he had to suffer the humiliation of being stuck fifteen or more feet above the ground with no low hanging branches. For Gary though it was terror and panic. He didn’t think they’d ever get down and it didn’t help that his dad assured him that he’d work out some sort of strategy. Even at not quite ten years of age he knew what his dad’s strategies were like and the one word that usually described them was disastrous.
Like the previous fall when Gary joined a Pop Warner football team for Junior Pee Wees. They were only kids just learning the game and they were supposed to be learning good sportsmanship. The parents of the players on both teams were more into the rivalry than the kids. The kids just wanted to have fun but some of the dads decided that all’s fair in love and football and the next thing the league official knew several mascots including a bulldog and a goat were missing. The league wound up with a bunch of unhappy little kids and certain mothers threatened certain children and/or fathers if those mascots didn’t turn up where they belonged soon. I don’t know how they did it but somehow Bernie was given custody of the goat that was the mascot of the rival team and kept it hidden for three days. He might have gotten away with it longer but for the fact that it got into the house and trashed several rooms including the kitchen and the living room. There was broken glass, water, flowers and greenery as well as the contents of the trash can spilled all over the kitchen floor. In the living room magazines, books, slipcovers and upholstery were damaged by the hungry goat. When it managed to escape from the empty house, through the back door, which hadn’t closed properly, it started in on Lois’s clean laundry and her late blooming flowers. The end result was that poor Gary got suspended from the team for something he wasn’t responsible for and had to replant his mother’s flowerbeds by himself. Even Lois thought he was guilty at first. Bernie got hit in the pocketbook so to speak for he had to replace all the damaged items and pay a big fine to the league for his actions. The other mascot thief fared little better.
No wonder Gary was unsure of his dad’s strategy! They wound up being rescued by Jamie and me. We passed by on horseback and seeing their predicament got one of Bernie’s ladders and some rope. Jamie held the ladder while I climbed up with some new rope to tie to the tree limb closest to the floor of the tree house and I helped Gary, who was white as a sheet and shaking like a leaf, climb down the ladder to his mother’s waiting arms. Bernie should have dropped dead on the spot from the look Lois gave him. Jamie and I were smart enough to hold our laughter in until we were where they wouldn’t hear us.
A week before the dorms opened for freshmen to move in and have their orientation Daddy and I loaded my boxes into the station wagon with a little help from Gary. One look at his woebegone face and I knew I’d better have a talk with my “baby brother” so he understood that I wasn’t deserting him. I had promised him five years earlier that we would be “forever friends” and I wanted him to know that just because I wouldn’t be around all the time now didn’t mean I was going to make all kinds of new friends and forget all about him. I gave him a big hug as I promised him I’d call or write him every week to see how he was doing and we’d go places together whenever I got home. And I did. For the next four years I would call Hickory every weekend. On school breaks of a week or longer I would fly home to se my family and friends.
Keeping my promise to Gary we saw a few movies, went to the circus and a couple of museums. If my break was too short to go home I would go sightseeing somewhere in Massachusetts or maybe New Hampshire or Vermont and send Gary a postcard or a souvenir or both. The first school pennant I bought was mailed to Hickory for Gary to put up on his wall if he wanted.
When I got home that first summer I couldn’t get over how much Gary had grown in those few short months. He’d lost all traces of baby fat and was growing into a gangling young man with the promise of being a six-footer when he reached his full height. Since I’m six feet myself I figured I might just have a little competition in the height department. It would take another couple of years yet but I would be proved right when he got to be an inch taller than me.
That same summer he made a new friend when Chuck Fishman moved to Hickory. Chuck was this skinny little boy about half a foot shorter than Gary with brown hair, blue eyes and a craving for more money that he usually had on him. But he was like the Tom Sawyer of Hickory, Indiana. If he could get what he wanted he was happy and if he got it without actually working for it so much the better. The Monopoly games we all played were practice for what he’d do in the future. And while I never actually played Pit with him if he played it the way he played Monopoly I’m not at all surprised he ended up being a stockbroker. He had all the makings of one, for better or worse, when I first met him.
The summer passed and I set off for Massachusetts two weeks early so I could stop off in Texas to visit my grandparents and other MacGregor relatives. Grandpa Mac owns a fair sized ranch but he also has a Wild West show. I would catch him and Grandma Phoebe during one of their brief layovers at home to pick up new stock and replace sick or injured stock.
September came and I settled back into the routine of classes, work and studying. Now that I was somewhat familiar with the area I would hop into my car with an atlas and a list of places to visit. It was during my sophomore year that I met Mark Bradley – a good looking, charming young man who turned out to be flawed in a major way. He drank too much, goofed off in class and out of class and had a major ego and control problem.
Initially I discounted the rumors I heard about him. I chalked it up to talk from jealous former girlfriends – he had somewhat of a reputation as a ladies man on campus but since I wasn’t serious about him I didn’t pay attention. Then came the night he tried to get rough with me. I don’t mean that he tried to talk me or force me into bed with him but he tried to push me around. I’m not a drinker but Mark was and still is. And he was jealous besides. The third time we went out together I saw some friends from school – guys and gals – and struck up a conversation with them. Mark was seething. It seems that I was supposed to only pay attention to him and nobody else when we were out together. He made a big mistake when he slapped me. I’d put up with his “bossiness” at first foolishly chalking it up to nerves or excitement or something on his part. But on the third date his “bossiness” got out of hand. I’d never told him we were going steady because I wasn’t ready for a steady relationship. I never told him that I wasn’t seeing other guys either. He just took it for granted, without ever asking, that I was seeing him and him alone.
I wanted to get my degree and get an internship and a residency in a good hospital before I settled down to that kind of relationship. I guess you could say I saw red when he pulled me away from my friends and tried to make me leave with him. His biggest mistake was in telling me I couldn’t talk to my friends while I was with him and accused me of “cheating” on him. Let me tell you, it was like waving the proverbial red flag in front of a bull. When he forced a kiss on me, an act he would repeat when our paths crossed again a few years later, I slapped him as hard as I could. When he tried again I slapped him again. When he got mad and slapped me I punched him in the stomach. My brothers had made sure I knew how to defend myself. When Mark recovered from the blows to his body and his ego I told him we were through. I was now wise to him and understood the stories I’d heard about him and there was no way I’d ever go out with him again – ever! Then I rejoined my friends, a little shaken and very angry, but determined to show him that I mean what I had said. Outside of class I wouldn’t see him again for a couple of years as he was suspended for excessive drinking and fighting.
Before going home for Christmas that year I did a lot of my shopping in the stores and mall around Boston. My favorite place, outside of the malls in Framingham and Natick (two towns about fifteen miles north of Boston), was Faneueil Hall Marketplace. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace were and are home to some pretty pricey restaurants and shops but there were plenty of places to buy cheap souvenirs and postcards. Then there was my favorite restaurant in the city – Durgin Park.
Located on the upper level of the market place Durgin Park is an old establishment that has been around since the time of my grandfathers or great-grandfathers. Initially it was opened to service the vendors in the old Haymarket Square area. Except for the recently added Peter Faneuil Room it’s not a fancy place – which is fine by me. Instead, in the main part of the restaurant, you sit at long tables with fellow tourists, business executives and local merchants. The tables are covered with red and white-checkered tablecloths and your meals start with a pitcher of ice water and plates of cornbread with butter. One of their specialties is Boston Baked Beans. Nowadays you can read about the restaurant on the Internet. Back then it was word of mouth and the phone book that led to such discoveries. I haven’t been back there for a while but I hear you can buy bean pots and baseball caps advertising the restaurant as well as cornbread mix. Sounds good to me. I’ll have to get back there some time in the near future.
I bought Boston tee shirts, sweatshirts and caps for Gary and Chuck. I bought a New England cookbook for Lois, dress shirts for Daddy and Alan (and ties to go with them) and a Celtics jacket for Jamie the basketball fan. Growing up in Kentucky we hadn’t had a local professional sports team to root for so he’d adopted the Celtics as his favorite team and convinced me to be a fan as well. I was able to find a good book on baseball history for Bernie. Jamie, Alan and I had chipped in to get mama a nice winter coat with a hat, scarf and gloves. I purchased the hat, scarf and gloves before I left for home. Jamie and Alan recruited Aunt Kate to help with the purchase of the coat.
When I got home I found that little had changed in Hickory itself. The Christmas Parade had been held the beginning of the month and I’d missed it but there were lots of parades, fairs and festivals and the like in Massachusetts I could and did attend when I had time.
Even in the three short months I’d been away this time Gary seemed to have sprouted up like the proverbial weed. I jokingly told his mother to put a brick on his head before he got any taller. It was amazing how much he’d grown. Chuck, on the other hand, still seemed like a little pixie. I knew even then that he’d always be smaller than most of his friends. I figured that’s why he schemed and connived so much – it was his way of compensating or maybe over compensating for his shorter stature. Both boys were getting good grades though Gary did struggle a little with Math. It was a little humiliating when his mom’s best friend Betty Callahan bragged about her darling daughter Renee. Renee was pretty much a math prodigy and that had its drawbacks. It tended to frighten a lot of the other kids away. I think Renee ended up being somewhat of a loner because of it.
Christmas break was over before I knew it. I’d spent the time with my family, went skating and sledding with the youngsters in town like Gary, Chuck and their friends and spent some more time working with Uncle Eric in his office. When summer came and he thought I’d been working too hard he’d be making me take time to just relax. So I’d sit or stretch out on the porch swing with a good book. If it were warm with a soft breeze and the sounds of birds singing and bees buzzing then, more often than not, I would doze off in my peaceful surroundings. My peaceful respite wouldn’t last for long as Gary and Chuck, with or without some of their other friends, would show up with a feather or a piece of grass or even a squirt gun and tickle or squirt me until I was wide awake and chasing them until all three of us were breathless from running and laughing. Mama just shook her head at the sight of her young adult daughter frolicking with two preteen boys and their chums. She says that even at that age I was still kind of coltish. But she says maybe that’s a good thing since I became a General Practioner and I have patients of all ages.
That summer flew by and I started back to Massachusetts after saying good-bye to family and friends. With Chuck around now I knew that Gary wasn’t quite as lonely as he had been the first year I was gone. This time I stopped off to visit family and friends in Kentucky on the way. It helped to have my trips planned this way because I could stay with them and save money on motel bills and meals.
Back at school I settled into the normal routine of study, class and work. Some of our professors made arrangements for us to visit the hospital in the Longwood Medical District. It was a good learning experience for us.
My last two years in college flew by and soon I found myself looking for a good hospital to do my residency and internship. After some investigation I applied to, and was accepted at St. Matthew’s Hospital in Dallas, Texas. It had a good reputation, was far enough from home for me to maintain my independence but reasonably close to my grandparents and several aunts and uncles and their families.
The first Sunday of June in 1979 saw my parents, Jamie, Alan, his fiancée Kim, Grandpa Mac, Grandma Phoebe and a couple of aunts and uncles, among them Uncle Eric, in the audience as I received my degree from Harvard Medical School. The Hobsons weren’t able to afford the trip at that time but they had sent a card and a gift certificate with which to purchase something for my new home in Texas. Happy as I was to see my family member and soon to be sister-in-law, I missed seeing the Hobsons. To hear Lois’s motherly/big sisterly scolding about eating right or one of Bernie’s silly remarks or to see my “baby brother” would have made the day perfect. But it was not to be. I’d move to Texas and not see Gary and his parents for several years.
The move was pretty uneventful. All my personal belongings from my dorm room were loaded into Grandpa Mac’s truck or my car. Uncle Rob would help me find an apartment not too far from St. Matthew’s. Little did I know what was in store for me when I settled in.
I was working in the Emergency Room one day when a senior Ranger brought a young Texas Ranger. A car had struck the young man and though he insisted he was fine the older man had insisted that he be checked out. Ranger Cordell Walker was not the kind of man you argued with if you knew what was good for you.
I was the lucky one – no I’d have to say now that I was blessed – to take him on as a patient. His name was Jonathan Nicholas Bradley and he would soon – within a year in fact – become my husband. Jonathan’s brown eyes, smile, charm and manners were evident even as I examined him. Both of us were instantly smitten and Jon came in for a lot of ribbing from his fellow Rangers for acting so goofy. Walker came in for his share of harassment too. His beloved Uncle Ray, the man who had raised him after his parents were murdered, was always on his case about settling down, marrying and having a family of his own. I was privileged to have counted Uncle Ray among my friends and still consider “Washo” – Cherokee for Lone Eagle according to Uncle Ray – as a friend.
I took Jonathan to meet Grandpa Mac and Grandma Phoebe and the other Texas relatives. He, in turn, took me to meet his family. Imagine my shock when his younger brother turned out to be Mark Bradley – the guy I had dated while attending Harvard. It was no a pleasant reunion that’s for sure. He was jealous and still angry with me and he tried to convince his brother of all kinds of lies. Thankfully Jonathan had no intentions of believing his stories or even investigating them. He tried to mollify Mark and reason with him – he even asked him to be his best man – but it was to no avail. Mark didn’t even come to the wedding.
We drove to Hickory so that he could meet my family. Jamie had graduated from the Chicago Firefighter’s Academy a few years earlier and had settled in the Chicago area. Alan had married Kim who was expecting twins any day. Both like Jonathan on sight though they did tease me about settling down instead of wandering. The Hobsons were away on a camping trip (thankfully not the near disaster the one that they were on when we met) so Jon never got to meet Gary or his parents.
We set the wedding date for July 10 when I would be almost twenty-three. Jon was a couple of years older. He entered into the wedding plans wholeheartedly. Walker was best man and Alexandra “Alex” Cahill, now Alex Cahill-Walker was my maid of honor. My brothers and a couple of cousins were ushers and bridesmaids as well as the flower girl and ring bearer.
I wore a floor length white satin gown with buttons down the back, white shoes without heels and a veil. I carried a bouquet of pink tea roses with greenery and baby’s breath. My bridesmaids wore emerald green with gold accessories. During the ceremony my Aunt Beth sang The Carpenter’s We’ve Only Just Begun while Uncle Rob sang The Wedding Song by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary.
At the reception a DJ played a wide variety of music ranging from big band to contemporary. With such a diverse group in attendance we wanted something for everyone. The only black cloud or shadow on my day was that my surrogate family, the Hobsons, were unable to attend. Just two days before the wedding Gary came down with a severe case of German Measles. Later on I found out just how ill he’d been – he’d almost been hospitalized because of the fever he ran. Jonathan tried to console me (I’d wanted them to meet so badly) saying they’d meet some other time but it never happened. After a short honeymoon in Scotland we were back to work. Less than a year later Jonathan was dead – shot by thieves fleeing a jewelry store robbery.
On a bright sunny day in April of 1982 we had been married just under a year and we looked forward to our one-year anniversary. We planned on driving to Hickory to visit my family and friends. Jonathan had gone off duty and was on his way home when the call went out on a silent alarm coming from a jewelry store. Never one to shirk his civic duty of stay out of the line of fire (I swear Washo set the example for him) he responded and was shot and killed by one of the thieves as they fled the scene.
I happened to be off duty that day. I was home alone when Washo came to the door. When I saw his truck pull up I didn’t think anything of it at first. In the short time that Jon and I had been married I’d become good friends with this somewhat old fashioned Ranger who was seventeen years my senior. But when I saw his face I knew something was wrong.
He broke the news to me as gently as he could. At the age of twenty-three after only nine months of marriage I was a widow. After being shot Jon had died en route to the hospital. Washo stayed with me until Alex arrived – he’d called her on the way. While Alex stayed with me and tried to comfort me Washo called my parents and grandparents and broke the news to them. Another Ranger had notified my in-laws. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those dark days of planning and attending the funeral without Washo and my other friends. He was so worried about me that he made me go out to his ranch where he and his Uncle Ray would keep an eye on me until my parents and other family members arrived. It was Uncle Ray who coaxed me to eat when in the depths of my sorrow I would have ignored food altogether. It was Washo and Alex who picked my parents up at the airport and brought them out to the ranch. It was in Mama’s arms that I collapsed and cried the healing tears and it was Daddy who guided me through the arranging of Jonathan’s funeral. It was Washo though who arranged for a Ranger Honor Guard to bury my husband with full honors including a firing squad.
When it was all over, Mama, Daddy, my brothers, grandparents and other family members went back to their respective homes and I was on my own again. Not really alone though since I had my in-law (except for Mark) and the Rangers. My grandparents weren’t always home but I was welcome to take refuge at their ranch if I needed to. Washo and Alex, bless them, took time out of their busy schedules to check up on me. They were at my side when Jon’s parents died a year apart within three years of his murder.
I heard later from his current partner – Jimmy Trivette – that Washo had chased the men who shot my husband for ten miles before he lost them. It’s ironic that he would be the one to nail them years later – in Illinois and he probably saved my life at the same time.
The weeks and years went on. I came out of my deep mourning and got involved in a lot of community service projects. I bounced back and forth between Texas and the Cherokee Reservation in Oklahoma. In June of 1983 I flew home to Hickory to see my surrogate little brother graduate from High School. The somewhat chubby child that had grown into a gangling adolescent was now a tall, good-looking young man about to venture away from home on his own for the first time. He would be attending college in Chicago to be near Genie Bertlatski – his girlfriend. As I watched him receive his diploma I think I just about burst with as much pride as his parents. Especially when the Rotary Club granted him their scholarship. If I’d only known what was in store for him I would have tried to find a way to protect him. He was always an affectionate and sensitive child and I didn’t want to see him hurt – ever. He was so sensitive that he was afraid to tell me when he let Chuck talk him into letting him drive my new car (new used car technically) only to have Chuck lose control, scare themselves half to death along with some pedestrians and practically total it. He was afraid I’d want to strangle them or something. Truth be told I probably did entertain those thoughts at first but all Gary has to do is look at me with misery in his dark eyes and I melt instantaneously in to a puddle of goo. I never could resist those looks. A couple of days after Gary’s graduation I hugged him good-bye and headed back to Texas. There I would stay for a few more years.
While working at the reservation I made the acquaintance of three men I’m proud to call “friend” – Sam Coyote and George Fox of the Reservation Police and White Eagle the Shaman. White Eagle taught me a lot of things about holistic and herbal medicine. I started a clinic there and saw to it that one of their own people would be able to carry on the work. I wanted no cultural clashes to prevent the people - the elders especially - from getting the medication or treatment they might need.
In 1983 my brother Jamie moved to Dallas. He set up housekeeping in an apartment not far from my small house and since he was a paramedic with the fire department we saw quite a bit of each other while we were working as well as when we weren’t. He and Washo hit if off at once. Personally I think they hit it off too good. I suspect Washo talked Jamie into moving to Dallas so I had family close by. They both deny worrying about me that much.
Washo is a good friend and a man of many talents and some idiosyncrasies. Sent to Mexico to retrieve some fugitives he tells the Border Guard who stops him on the way back that he’s “taking out the garbage”. When he and Jimmy first met he deliberately mispronounced Trivette so that it came out “trivet”. (Jimmy like Gary is an easy target for someone who likes to tease and I have to admit that I’ve rubbed it in about being the better chess player sometimes when I’ve played Jimmy. Gary gets teased about his looks.) Given a cell phone to use to summon help in case of an emergency he throws it out with the comment “dang thing don’t work” when the battery goes dead. I’d love to know how much money he cost the Rangers with that little stunt. He frustrated the heck out of Jimmy with that attitude. He’s a high level black belt in the martial arts - which he teaches to friends and school kids alike. He’s an ex-Marine. (Pardon me brother Marines I forget myself – there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine. Once a Marine always a Marine so they tell me.) He’s half Cherokee and half white. He knew what I was going through when Jonathan was murdered because his parents were murdered – in front of his eyes- when he was no more than ten or twelve years old.
Washo’s very quiet spoken but he’s dangerous when he’s riled. Somehow we took to each other right off. I love the stories I hear about him. I hear he and Alex didn’t exactly hit it off on their first meeting. She was prosecuting a case (I don’t remember what it was about) and he was so nonchalant on the witness stand about how he brought those guys in on his own – and there were four or five of them sitting there in the courtroom – she didn’t believe he’d brought them, in on his own. She believed he was making it up. However, the guys she was prosecuting admitted somewhat shamefacedly I’d say, that he and he alone brought them in.
Even more entertaining to me are the stories C.D. Parker tells. C.D. is a retired (sort of) Ranger who owns a small bar and grill in Fort Worth. It’s a hang out for the Rangers when they’re off duty. C.D. is an older guy, probably in his fifties, who’s supposed to be retired but he usually manages to get involved in whatever the Rangers are working on in one way or another. The thing is through that C.D. – and Jimmy both – have a tendency to exaggerate their importance and involvement in the cases they work or worked on. Washo has a difficult time to restrain himself when they start talking. Not me – I laugh my head off. When Washo starts teasing them
Or setting them up for the fall nobody can keep from laughing. That’s the one of the reasons I love those guys so much. They’re a lot of fun.
After Gary’s graduation from High School I lost touch with him. He was never a great letter writer and he got worse as he got older. His Mom Lois would write or keep my parents up to date so I had a little bit of news now and then. But it would be fifteen years before I would see him again and it would be under rather strange and extremely dangerous circumstances that brought us back together.
Always restless and wanting to travel I finally left Texas a few years after Jon’s death. I was in need of a change of scenery. A letter from a friend in Kentucky told of a need for a doctor who could stand up to stubborn hillbillies, miners and mine owners. So off I went leaving my brother and most of my friends behind. The one friend I didn’t leave behind was Samuel Adams Delaney my new nurse. I met Sam at St. Matthew’s. A darn good Registered Nurse who could handle the most difficult patients without losing his temper or his patience Sam is also a Golden Gloves Boxing champion. We became good friends in just a short space of time. He liked working with inner city and other underprivileged kids whether it be breaking up the gang fights, treating the sick and injured or teaching kids at a youth center how to box. Sam was invaluable to me in my work at the reservation. The children adored him but I must admit it could be confusing if I yelled Sam. He and Sam Coyote never knew which one I was calling unless I used their full names. Best of all Sam had the urge to travel too and the challenges that lay ahead of us in Kentucky were exactly what he liked. I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday before we left. Washo and Alex gave me a silver and turquoise ring which I still wear. I suspect he got it from someone on the reservation. Uncle Ray gave me a beautiful concha belt. The children on the reservation gave me homemade gifts and toys to distribute to the miners’ children. I was ready to bawl my eyes out and was having second thoughts about leaving but Uncle Ray told me to follow my heart and my heart was yearning to reach out to the children in the hills of Kentucky. They’re not all as poor as singer Loretta Lynn’s family was when she was growing up but Appalachia is filled with needy families in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia and I would bounce around the region for several years before spending two solid years in one place in Kentucky not far from where I grew up.
The one thing I got very tired of while I was in Kentucky was seeing half starved or poorly clothed children and treating knife wounds. Some of the cantankerous, irritable ant tempered mountain men I met thought that the only way to settle a dispute was with a knife. There were many times I was grateful for the martial arts lessons I’d had with Washo and that I had Sam whose boxing skills settled many a dispute in a hurry working by my side.
When Gary graduated from college it was my turn to miss out on a milestone. I came down with a case of pneumonia brought on, so Sam says, by spending too many hours in damp mines and poorly heated shacks that passed for houses in some areas. I was too sick to travel and Sam wouldn’t have let me go anyway. I had to settle for sending a card and some money. I was sorry to miss it. I was so proud of him. The only thing that confused me was why he would take a job at a brokerage firm. I knew he was receiving a degree in business management but I just couldn’t picture Gary wearing a suit and tie and happily trading in stocks and securities as his career.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard he’d gotten married a few years later. Apparently dreading his mother’s “take charge attitude” he and Marcia Roberts were hastily married in front of a handful of witnesses, including Chuck, at a little chapel in Chicago. No muss no fuss and that’s exactly what his marriage turned out to be. About three years later Marcia out and out dumped him with no warning. Just locked him out of the house and tossed him a suitcase of clothes and other belongings from a second floor window. No warning signs whatsoever. My heart ached for him because I knew he had to be hurting. He’d always wanted a wife and kids but apparently his wife, the hotshot up and coming lawyer, didn’t. I wanted to be there for him but I’d left the country to work in Scotland for a few years. But our paths would soon cross again.
As much as Sam and I enjoyed our work in Appalachia we both wanted to see one of their own take over just as we had in Oklahoma at the reservation. When I got the letter from Uncle Angus describing the poverty of the people in his area I had the urge to pack up and move to my ancestral homeland. Sam didn’t have to come with me. He could have found work anywhere seeing as he is an excellent nurse but he chose to stick with me. He didn’t “want to break in a new doctor’ to his way of doing things. Personally I think he spent too much time talking to Washo and Jamie and they talked him into staying with me because they thought I needed him to keep me out of trouble. Like I’m the one with the temper! Not hard – that’s Jamie’s problem for all he’s a blond and not a redhead like our brother Alan or cousin Andrew.
Leaving the states and my immediate family behind we packed our clothes and some other personal belongings and headed for Scotland where for the next three years we would minister to the people of the Highlands.
Cold, windy and wet best describes the weather when Sam and I arrived in Scotland. Big, fat heavy snowflakes were falling from the sky soaking our hair, feet and pant legs and the boxes we were trying to load in to Uncle Angus’ truck. Cardboard does not hold up well when it gets wet. Fortunately it was clothes and not books or something else that fell out of the box that disintegrated.
It didn’t take Sam and me long to find places to live or a place to set up our clinic. I felt like I had stepped into the setting of a James Herriot book or a Scottish history book. The area we were in was wild and rugged with narrow, winding roads just like Herriot described. But we were in the Highlands not Yorkshire. A good Highlander would have probably laugh or sneer at a Yorkshireman’s idea of a mountain. Sam and I, alone or together, loved to tramp the moors in a Scotch mist when the heather was in bloom. Thoroughly soaked and chilled but exuberant, with our batteries recharged, and our spirits lifted, we’d head back to one of our flats (that’s an apartment to the uninitiated) and make ourselves some tea or hot chocolate.
Visiting the isolated farms could be enjoyable if we were there for pleasure. Emergencies on the other hand could be disastrous and a nightmare if they occurred far from running water and electricity or a decent road to transport the victims over. It was during those trips that I missed my paramedic brother Jamie but was glad that Sam was equal to just about any emergency. I often tease him these days that he reminds of Shiloh Irons from the Cheney Duvall books by Lynn and Gilbert Morris. Those books take place in the years immediately following the Civil War. Cheney Duvall is a lady doctor in her twenties from a well to do family in New York whose roots, on her mother’s side are in the south – New Orleans to be exact. Shiloh, her nurse, is a young man searching, throughout most of the books, for his family history. He’s also a former professional boxer who fought under the nickname of The Iron Man. Sam may be several inches shorter and several years older but they have several things in common – their hair color, their hobby and their profession. And a love of children and youth. Shiloh got his experience on the battlefields of the Civil War while Sam went to a good nursing school.
We spent three years in Scotland where we visited Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave site (his tombstone reads “A MacGregor in spite of them” – long story), the battlefield at Culloden and many other sites when we had time. Then a letter came from Jamie who was working in Chicago. There was need of a change in staff at a clinic in one of the poorer areas of the city. The doctor who ran the Halsted Street Clinic was not popular with the people and he thought that it was a perfect opportunity for Sam and me. We could get work at County General to earn our living expenses.
My partner and I, for Sam was more than my nurse and friend at this point in time, talked it over between us and with Uncle Angus. The opportunity was too good to pass up provided we could find a good replacement for our work here. Enter my cousin Duncan. He’d spent the last three years working in a hospital in Edinburgh and he was anxious to be away from the city. Nothing could have pleased me more than to have him take over our work there in the Highlands. I knew Duncan to be kind, generous and completely dedicated to his profession and, stubborn streak against stubborn streak, I’d match him against the most difficult patients I had.
Once again Sam and I packed our things, arranged to have them shipped ahead of us and said goodbye to part of my family at the airport. I sold my truck to Duncan while Sam sold his to Duncan’s brother Douglas.
Jamie and Alan met us at O’Hare airport. Both had settled in the Chicago area. In fact Jamie was sharing a house with Alan and his family. Jamie could move into one of the bedrooms that were currently used as a guest room while I would get the old-fashioned in-law apartment. Apparently the original owners had either been Dutch or Amish. The furnishings were study and plain yet comfortable enough for me. The kitchen was common to both parts of the house but I would have my own sitting room as well as a bedroom separate from the main house. I fell in love with it on sight. Sam would be our guest until he found a place of his own which didn’t take long.
Much as I enjoy traveling it’s always nice to come home again. I don’t know whether I nearly squeezed my brothers breathless or they squeezed me breathless but we were soon laughing at ourselves. They were happy to see Sam as well. I could hardly wait to see Kim and the kids. They would have changed so much since I last saw them. The twins, Ethan and Tim, were twenty-one now. With their red hair and green eyes they were the spitting image of their great-grandfather – my beloved Grandpa Mac. Tim was studying medicine with an eye toward pediatrics while Ethan was looking toward a career in Veterinary Medicine.
First thing on the Monday morning after we returned to the states Sam and I presented ourselves to the director of Human Resources at County General who in turn introduced us to the Chief of Emergency Medicine and his head nurse. We were hired on the spot. Next on the agenda was to see the people at the clinic. My brothers, Sam and I would be equal partners in the ownership of the clinic. Alan handled all the legal paperwork (it’s handy to have a lawyer in the family). Within a month of the settlement Sam and I had moved in and completely cleaned out and reorganized the clinic. Then we paid visits to the area clergy of all faiths, plus schools, clubs and youth centers to let the people know that the clinic was open again and we were now in charge. It didn’t take long for word to get out about the new ownership. We soon had the curious and the truly needy coming to check us out.
It was kind of a rough neighborhood and Sam being Sam wouldn’t let me stay late if he could stay with me. Then came the night I forgot something and my little brother came back into my life.
It had been a busy day and I was tired. Consequently I forgot the paperwork I was going to bring home with me. Sam walked back with me so I wouldn’t have to walk alone. Imagine our surprise when we found the front door wide open and a struggle going on. Broken glass was everywhere along with newspaper, books and files. Two men were menacing a third – a young man with dark brown hair wearing a leather jacket. We were all surprised when the lights I’d switched on illuminated the mess and the struggle that was occurring.
One of the two men ran for the door when he saw us. He never made it. Sam delivered a one-two combination that knocked him cold. The other man who was wielding a knife paid us no mind but slashed at the young man slicing right through the leather of his jacket and leaving a deep gash in his right forearm. In the time it took me to react and grab a heavy vase for a weapon of my own the leather clad young man had stepped on a bottle that rolled under his foot causing him to lose his balance and his head quite hard on the wall behind him. He was an easy target now for this attacker except that I now recovered from my shock and knocked the guy cold with the vase.
From the looks of the young man I knew I’d better act fast to get the bleeding stopped. At my request Sam got some towels from a supply cabinet in the back and we set to work tending to him. I did manage to get his first name from him as I thanked him for stopping the burglary before he passed out.
Thank goodness for Sam. Though our Good Samaritan was a good inch taller than he was he picked him up as though he were merely a child and carried him into the back room. While I tended to the arm wound and tried to determine if he had a concussion Sam looked in our patient’s wallet for the name of someone to notify. He found a business card for a pub called McGinty’s that had the same address as our victim so he called and explained to the person who answered just what had happened. He came back a couple of minutes later as the police arrived to take our statements. I didn’t understand at the time why Detective Crumb was so interested in my patient whom I wouldn’t allow him to see until the next night.
About an hour later my patient started coming around. He was groggy and confused at first. He tried to sit up and promptly lost the ice pack we’d put on his head. Sam caught him and the ice pack and helped him sit up. Now that he was conscious I checked his pulse and blood pressure. I wasn’t thrilled with the way his eyes reacted but at least they weren’t unequally dilated or anything. About the time I finished checking him out a man and a woman arrived. The man was Caucasian, about five-eight with brown hair and blue eyes. The young woman with him was about the same height, African-American and apparently blind as she had a guide dog by her side. These were Gary’s friends Chuck and Marissa. Now I hadn’t seen or heard of Chuck since he and Gary graduated from High School more than 15 years ago. If I’d heard his name that night I wouldn’t have been left to wonder why Gary’s name was so familiar. I wouldn’t realize why until I paid a house call the next night.
Gary wasn’t feeling well – not that he’d admit it – and he fought the idea of my having to see him again the next night but when his friends gently chided him he gave and went meekly out the door with my jacket on to guard against the chill of the night air. I threw his jacket out after we made sure there was nothing in the pockets. Sam and I agreed that night that we would replace it since his interference had prevented the thieves from getting into our drug cabinet. We thought it was the least we could do. As I watched the trio leave I told Sam that Gary and Chuck were familiar but I just couldn’t place them right off. While Sam and I cleaned up the mess I thought about my Gary Hobson but dismissed the notion that the young man who had just left could be him. That Gary, in my mind, was still an eighteen-year-old youth. I hadn’t seen Gary, or a picture of him, since 1983.
When the last patient was gone the next night I still had my house call to make. Sam knew I was tired with a long commute to Oakdale still ahead of me. He shooed me out the door saying he’d finish the filing and lock up so I got into my truck and drove off to see my patient.
When I walked in a young woman employee took me to the office to see Marissa who would take me up to Gary’s loft to give him his check up. As Marissa went downstairs I noted with approval and pleasure how comfortable at ease she was in these surroundings and with her disability. She almost didn’t seem to need her cane here in this building.
Upon entering the room I found my patient, still quite pale, sitting up in bed looking bored and cranky. It was apparent to me that he hated being an invalid. Talking all the while I took off my jacket and placed it on the back of the armchair. Then I took my bag that I had placed on the seat of the chair and walked over to his bedside. I had gotten a quick briefing from Marissa about his night. The fact that he had been nauseous and then sick to his stomach didn’t alarm me too much. He’d sustained a mild concussion so it was to be expected. As long as it didn’t linger and wasn’t serious it would be ok.
I checked his vitals and his temperature and fielded his questions and complaints about getting up. When I was through I got an apology from him for being grumpy. I teased him about it but told him that I heard worse from my dad when he was sick – which was true. Daddy hates to feel sick or be treated like an invalid.
As I got ready to leave I told Gary I’d be back the next day sometime to see about getting him up for a while. Crossing the room to the chair where I’d left my jacket I put my bag down and yawned briefly before reaching my for jacket. In the process of putting it on I accidentally knocked one of the pictures on his end table to the floor. With a sheepish smile and an “oops, sorry about that” I leaned over to pick it up and did a double take. The middle-aged couple in the picture was Bernie and Lois Hobson – my friends from Hickory. The young man in the picture was Gary – my “baby brother” whom I hadn’t seen in something like fifteen years.
Gary himself was stunned when I recognized him. He didn’t understand how I could at first. My cousins’ names that I mentioned as best friends with his parents didn’t strike any chords. I had to take him down memory lane asking him if he remembered being lost when he was four-years-old and almost getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Did he remember the big girl who had saved him and brought him back to his parents? It was when I showed him the necklace that he and his parents had given me when I graduated from High School with some memory prodding about how I’d cut off the head of the snake that he finally remembered me.
It was like watching the sun break out from behind dark clouds to see Gary’s dark eyes suddenly light up in recognition. I reached out to embrace him and started chattering like a squirrel or a magpie about how wonderful it was to see him and how silly and foolish I felt at not having recognized him the night before. I told him I should have recognized those muddy green eyes of his if nothing else. When I told him he was better looking than ever he turned beet red.
We sat reminiscing for a few minutes before there came a knock at the door. Marissa was there with Detective Crumb. As much as I may have wanted to spare him I knew that Gary should talk to the police. I gave Detective Crumb ten minutes. In those ten minutes I concluded that he and Gary had some sort of history or relationship that appeared to be a mixed blessing. The officer seemed somewhat cynical and was apparently skeptical about Gary’s answers. Ten minutes later I put a stop to the questions and sent the office on his way. Then I invited Marissa to have a seat while we told her the new about Gary and me.
We sat talking for about an hour before I noticed the time and said I needed to get going. My worrywart brothers would almost literally have an APB (all points bulletin) out on me if I didn’t show up or call soon.
I made Gary lie down and pulled the covers up to his chest. Then Marissa and I both kissed him good night and made our way out of the loft as Gary drifted off to sleep. On our way down the stairs we encountered Chuck. Now that I had figured out who Gary was I knew that his was “little” Chuck Fishman – Gary’s best friend and my nemesis since he moved to Hickory. Nemesis as in a Dennis The Menace type – not as in a true enemy though when he teases me about how Gary and I met and calls me “Snake Killer” I sure could strangle him – cheerfully.
Chuck asked about Gary whom we had just left drifting off to sleep. When he asked if he could go see him I got slightly irritated. I probably shouldn’t have gotten so upset about if, after Chuck was just concerned, but Gary was just falling asleep and I didn’t want him disturbed. So I told Chuck that Gary was asleep and he was going to stay that way. And if Chuck dared defy me and disturbed Gary I would pack him up, ship him off to Scotland and have Uncle Angus feed him to the Loch Ness Monster. Boy did that do the trick! Chuck’s blue eyes got round as saucers as he looked at Marissa and me in shock. That statement jogged his memory too – he knew exactly who I was and I’d used that threat a lot when I visited Hickory when he and Gary were growing up. I could sense that Marissa was imagining the look on his face by the way she tried not to giggle. We chatted for a few minutes and then I had to leave for home before my brothers started worrying.
The next day I went back and, after a quick examination allowed Gary to get up and dressed. He was exuberant. When he was a kid he hated having to stay in bed and I could see that whatever else had changed in fifteen years, that hadn’t. I waited on the stairs for him and then we walked arm in arm and I loudly announced his return to the “real world”. He blushed like crazy but I know how happy he was to be out of bed.
I spent about an hour chatting with Gary, Chuck and Marissa. It was a fun time of getting Marissa acquainted with me and filling her in on what we all did as kids in Hickory. Besides cooking disasters (very minor – too much coffee due to an unclear recipe note on a cupcake recipe), taking out bikes up to the steepest street in town and then coasting down at top speed before veering off onto a side street to slow down and stop and then start it all over again.
After a bit Gary got up to go do some errands. As he started to leave I warned him of the untold consequences if he didn’t take it easy for the next few days and he broke that wound in his arm open again.
Over the next couple of weeks Sam and I spoke to the police about the upcoming arraignment and grand jury hearing for the two men who had broken into the clinic. I found Detective Crumb to be so much like the Nyholm brothers back in Kentucky. Gruff, but with a heart of gold under the tough exterior. But I didn’t let him know that I knew. Better to let him keep thinking he has everyone buffaloed. Wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings or blow his tough guy image.
Then came the day Gary saved my life – literally. Sam and I were running a flu clinic at a local carpet warehouse and we were doing physicals too. I went over to set up the infirmary and start administering the flu shots. But first I wanted to have a talk with the foreman. I had concerns about one of his employees. I was sure he was drinking heavily and even while he was on the job. He was fast becoming a menace to himself, his family, his co-workers and anyone else he came into contact with. I was determined to do something about it.
I had my chat with the foreman and got his assurances that he intended to look into it. I was walking back to the infirmary lost in thought when something heavy hit me from behind propelling me forward and landed on me knocking the wind out of me. Five minutes later I woke up in the infirmary with Gary’s pale face looking down at me. The foreman was also nearby and explained to me that the man I had been concerned about had nearly dropped several hundred pounds of rolled up carpet on me. Gary had somehow heard that the guy was drinking that morning and managed to get past security in time to tackle me from behind pushing me out of the path of that load of carpet. Other than getting the wind knocked out of me my only injury was a scrape on my cheek. Gary wasn’t injured but he sure was shaken up. So much so that the foreman insisted on driving us back to the clinic where Sam administered a mild sedative and made him lie down. About the time we were ready to let him leave Chuck showed up. Apparently he’d been driving Gary to try and catch me at the clinic but he’d gotten stuck in traffic.
Somehow I wasn’t too surprised when Detective Crumb showed up on our doorstep the next morning. Apparently he’d heard through the grapevine about the incident at the warehouse and wanted to reassure himself that his “star witness” was really ok. I imagine he checked up on Gary as well.
Things went along smoothly for the next few days and then came the morning the police showed up on our doorstep at 7:30 in the morning. The Chief wanted me to come to the station and see if I could identify two men taken into custody after a routine traffic stop showed that they were out on bail stemming from an arrest for breaking and entering.
I left a note for the family, it seems to me Jamie was the only one home at that point, and went with the officer to the station. Imagine my shock when I saw the two men from the break in were the men in question. I nearly had a heart attack when the chief showed me Gary’s wallet that they had found on the men. I knew it was his even without the credit cards with his name on them because he had my college graduation portrait and a picture of his folks. The only thing missing was his driver’s license.
My fear grew stronger when I called McGinty’s and learned that nobody had seen Gary, or heard form him, since the afternoon before when Marissa had given him a message that Detective Crumb wanted to see him. Crumb hadn’t seen him nor had he sent for him. And nobody knew who the two “officers” were that had been seen taking someone who matched Gary’s description into custody outside of Crumb’s precinct building.
A house-to-house search yielded nothing so the search parties went to the store where the men in custody had been just before they were arrested and the woods where a van matching the description of the one they were driving had been seen.
I followed three sets of footprints to the side of a hill where I knew there was a cave. But now the cave entrance was blocked by rock and dirt. Sunlight flashing off something shiny caught my attention. When I picked it up I was even more worried. It was Gary’s driver’s license and furthermore there were only two sets of footprints leading away from the hillside. I had no doubt that Gary was trapped in that cave. Tom Fitzpatrick, the young office with me, had his doubts but I had a gut feeling that that was where Gary was. I turned on Tom and told him that if he didn’t call for some help I surely would. Faced with what mama calls my hot Highlander temper he was soon calling for help at our location. In the meantime I started moving what I could of the rocks.
Help arrived soon and so did Bernie, Chuck, Marissa and Spike. They had to stand by and watch helplessly as the rescue team worked to dig a hole big enough to let some air in and to allow someone to squeeze their way in. In spite of protests from the police and firefighters present I was the first one into the cave when that hole was dug. Besides the fact that he’s as close to me as my blood relations it was only logical that a full-fledged physician be the first to reach him if he needed medical assistance.
Taking the flashlight one of the rescue workers gave me I shone it around the cave looking for signs that Gary was in there. About fifteen feet from the entrance I found him - barely conscious and obviously hurt. He was having difficulty breathing, as was I briefly, because of the bad air in that cave. His hands were cuffed tightly behind him, his ankles were tied together and he was gagged as well. I was boiling mad when I saw his face. It was bloody and bruised, streaked with dirt where sweat had run down from the stuffy (to put it mildly) air. Swiftly taking my pocketknife out I cut the ropes that held his legs helpless and then I removed the gag. By now the hole at the entrance was large enough to let the paramedics through with a gurney and a drug box. I sent one of them back for bolt cutters to free Gary’s hands. When his hands were free we were able to gently roll him over and check for injuries. Even without x-rays I was pretty sure from his reaction that there were some cracked or broken ribs. The paramedics loaded him onto the gurney and we wrapped a couple of blankets around him. Then I went out to tell his father and friends that we’d found him and he was hurt but I wouldn’t know how badly until I got him to the hospital and ran some tests. I then arranged for a police escort to the hospital behind the ambulance and climbed in said vehicle to ride with my patient.
In the ambulance Gary came around again. He was weak and in a fair amount of pain. Looking at me he tried to speak but I told him to lie back and relax. I was going to take care of him just like I had when I found him in the mountains so many years ago. Still holding my hand he closed his eyes and tried to relax.
Upon arrival I ordered x-rays, blood tests, a CT scan and MRI. I wasn’t taking any chances of missing something. When all the tests came back clean except for a couple of cracked ribs I sent him to a private room, at my expense, and went to tell his parents and friends the good news. However they wouldn’t be allowed to see him until the next morning when the sedative I gave him wore off and he was aware of his surroundings. I sent them home and then I went home long enough to shower and change. Then it was back to the hospital for a bedside vigil.
Late the next morning Gary finally awoke as he cried out for me to help him. The trauma of his ordeal had caused him to have nightmares about snakes again. When I was sure he was awake and alert I asked him how me felt. Tough guy that he tries to be when he’s sick he admitted only to being sore. I ran a quick check of his vitals and found that his pulse, BP and temperature were normal. I checked his eyes and was happy to find that he didn’t appear to have a concussion. Then after asking him if he was up for some company I admitted his parents, Chuck and Marissa with Spike into the room to see him for a few minutes. I made them keep their visit short and I also made Detective Crumb keep his visit as short as he could. He had to speak to Gary but I didn’t want my patient getting worn out before he had a chance to begin his recovery. Surrounded by loved ones I knew he’d recover fairly quickly. But if he thought I was going to let him go back to the loft alone right away he had another thing coming! Doctor’s orders included at least two days at home in Hickory under the care of his folks or he’d stay in the hospital for those two days. Gary scowled at the thought of his Mom’s smothering but I didn’t care. His parents had almost lost their only child. I was looking out for their mental health as well as his physical well-being.
The weekend at home did him a lot of good. Lois put him to bed right away in his old room and gave him some soup. He spent the better part of the weekend eating soup and resting before I would allow him to go back to Chicago.
Not too long after that our families, Sam, Chuck and Marissa had dinner and a party at McGinty’s. It was right around Christmastime and boy did I get a surprise when Jamie walked in! I hadn’t heard that Gary had overexerted himself his first day out of bed after the burglary at the clinic. Consequently he had become rather faint after preventing an elderly man from being injured by a reckless cyclist. Jamie, off duty at the time, witnessed his heroics and went to the aid of the hero – helping him to a bench, getting him some water and arranging for a cabbie to take him home. In light of what he’d just been through I let it pass and didn’t let him see that I was perturbed with him.
Good food, talk among friends, good music – we had it all. Daddy talked with Bernie more than he danced but my brothers made sure Marissa didn’t feel left out because of her disability. Jamie almost literally swept her off her feet as he took her out to the dance floor to waltz with him. My first dance was with Gary.
Gary was soon part of the family again and mama gave him a big hug and a kiss for saving me from the guy on the forklift. I swear he blushed to the roots of his hair when she did that in front of everyone. I think, when he was little, he had kind of a crush on her like so many little kids get on grownups. Daddy shook his hand and hugged him too (Southerners and Texans are very huggy people – especially my family). I still say I told the best joke ‘cause I got Gary to smile and laugh when I told him that when you cross a snowman and a vampire you get frostbite. He told me it was ridiculous but I didn’t care.
After the party things went along pretty quietly for all concerned until Grandpa Mac’s rodeo rolled into town in the spring. Suddenly I was face to face with the one person I never thought I’d see again.
I remember the day that Grandpa Mac arrived quite well. He had called Mama and told her he was coming to Oak Park with the show and he was looking for a good staff to run the infirmary while he was there. Well who better than his grandchildren? And who else would I want for a nurse but Sam? It was a no brainer. If I’d known what was ahead I might hot have been so eager.
On a cool, but pleasant, spring day the MacGregor Rodeo and Wild West Show started rolling into town. Jamie, Sam and I had put our heads together and worked out a site map for them so they’d know where to set up in accordance with their needs for electricity and running water. Jamie and I hadn’t seen Grandpa Mac for a couple of years so it was a joyous reunion.
All morning long we directed trailers and trucks to their designated spaces. We put up our tent and set up shelves and put in desks and chairs and such so we had an office of sorts. We were strictly a triage unit. Serious injuries would be sent to one of the city hospitals. I sincerely hoped there would be none. Rodeos are thrilling for the audience but they can be dangerous for the participants.
Much to my shock and dismay my former brother-in-law, Mark Bradley, showed up on my doorstep so to speak at a time when Jamie happened to be in a different part of the fairgrounds. Mark and a friend came over to the infirmary pretending to have an injury. When I discovered that their “injury” was nothing that needed my attention I blasted their eardrums but good and told them not to come back unless they had legitimate business with me.
As they were leaving a trio of men approached from the opposite direction. The one in the middle, obviously favoring his right leg, looked familiar. When they drew close enough to recognize I realized that Jamie and one of the cowboys from the show were supporting Gary who apparently was unable to walk unassisted.
Directing the guys to put him in one of the chairs I turned my attention to the business at hand. And that was to find out what had happened and how badly he was hurt. Jamie’s assessment was right – it was only sprained but it was a bad one and he wouldn’t be walking on it for a while.
Jamie went looking for some crutches and Gary and I had a little “discussion” about taking care of himself. Actually I was proud of him for helping that youngster and grateful too since Grandpa Mac’s insurance rates would have gone up and there could have been a lawsuit as well. People go to court these days over everything it seems.
When Jamie returned Grandpa Mac was with him. You’d never know it to look at him but he was eighty years old and as tall and straight and strong as he was when Mama and her siblings were growing up. Grandpa Mac was introduced to Gary and thanked him profusely for his help. Gary was a little embarrassed so I cub Grandpa Mac off before he went any further.
By now it was lunchtime and Gary needed a ride home, some lunch and to get that injured ankle elevated. We piled into my truck and drove to McGinty’s.
When we walked in the door Chuck and Marissa were sitting there. Chuck got sort of a panic stricken look on his face when he saw Gary hobbling in slowly on crutches. His yelling startled poor Marissa. She may not be able to see but she’s got great insight into people’s hearts and souls and reads emotion in people’s voices like I read books. (I’ve never known her to be wrong in the short time that I’ve known her.) So naturally when Chuck yelled she knew something was wrong by the concern in his voice. Gary tried to head him off but it was too late so I slid into the seat next to her and told her about Gary’s ankle.
When Jamie asked her when they were going dancing again she giggled, called him “handsome” and told him she was waiting for him to ask. This set both of us off and made Grandpa Mac ask what the joke was so we had to stop laughing long enough to explain how Jamie had almost literally swept her off her feet and out onto the dance floor at our party a few months earlier. Then we introduced Grandpa Mac to Chuck and Marissa. He shook hands vigorously with Chuck but, like always when he is with a lady, he was very gentle. I think Chuck called me “Snake Killer” just to be even with me for calling him the “little guy” with the worried look on his face when I introduced him to Grandpa Mac – but then again he’s delighted in tormenting me with that stupid nickname ever since he found out how Gary and I met. This time I told him if he called me that again I was going to knock him into the middle of the next county. He just grinned at me insolently and told me that that’s why he does it – because it annoys me. He was saved from whatever I might have contemplated doing to him and Gary from breaking up what was warming up to be one of our legendary fights when Crumb came over to take our orders. Crumb had recently retired and gone to work at McGinty’s as a bartender. It benefited both parties because he got to work at something he was good at and Gary got a bartender who not only knew what he was doing (ask him about Chuck as a bartender) but would manage the rowdiest drunk – not that McGinty’s is that kind of place but there’s always on idiot.
Crumb, being Crumb, couldn’t resist giving “the kid” a hard time when he saw us come in. I mean, he’s had sort of a rocky relationship with Gary from what I understand. I hear Gary even caused him to lose part of his staff once when they first met. How I don’t know but apparently Gary kind of got in his way a lot at first.
We ordered cokes and meals and then Jamie just had to go make a wisecrack about how I’d been swapping recipes with the cook – Tony. I love my brother dearly but I could cheerfully strangle him as well as Chuck when he starts making wisecracks about my cooking ‘cause now Grandpa Mac had to throw his two cents worth in. He’s proud of my education and my skill as a physician but he likes to see my domestic side as well.
We spent a little time eating and chatting before finding that we really needed to get back to the fairgrounds. But I wasn’t going to go back until I had Gary safely settled up I the loft with his injured ankle elevated. Of course I got an argument from him. He thought he could rest downstairs in the office but with Jamie to back me up he didn’t really stand much chance of winning the argument.
Once he was settled we got ready to leave. I was almost at the door with Jamie when Gary called me back. He was curious about Mark and his friend. Now there was no way that I wanted him involved in any trouble so I tried to evade the question. Jamie took my warning look as an excuse to leave and rescue Chuck and Marissa from Grandpa Mac’s tall tales. That left me to try and sidetrack Gary to a safer topic of conversation. It wasn’t easy but when I left I was pretty sure it had worked. You see, somehow in all the confusion of his illness at the time of my wedding, we’d never told him about it and didn’t see any reason why we should tell him now. There wasn’t anything he could do about what had happened less than a year later.
When we got back to the fairgrounds we dropped Grandpa Mac off at the office and continued on to the infirmary. Sam had gone to lunch himself and wouldn’t be back for a while. Jamie asked me why I didn’t just tell Gary the truth since I had nothing to be ashamed of. Now I know that but I just can’t help myself – I always feel like I have to protect Gary. If that included keeping Mark’s identity and relationship to me a secret then so be it. Besides, with two older brothers, cousins soon to arrive, my grandfather, a boxing champ and long-time rodeo staff members I didn’t see the need for another bodyguard.
About noontime the next day Jamie called me to come out of the tent where we were putting the finishing touches on our infirmary. When I got outside seven voices of varying tone, gender and age greeted me. It seemed that some of the MacGregor clan had arrived. Chris, Rob, Alex, Andrew, Hannah, Anne and Rebecca brothers, sisters and cousins to each other and favorite cousins to their Fairfax relatives and MacGregors alike. I marveled at how tall Andrew had gotten. I hadn’t seen him since he was something like a junior in High School. He was the easiest of the bunch to tease since he has the shortest fuse. He’s what we like to call our half-hearted Scotsman because his mom is Irish.
The first order of business was to have them check in with Grandpa Mac. Chris is the oldest of this group and Andrew, at twenty, was the youngest. They have other siblings and cousins but this was the group that was with Grandpa Mac’s show right now. Over the course of the next three weeks I would be happy to have my Texas relatives get to know – and treat like a member of the family – their surrogate cousin. It would be the first time they all met though the MacGregor’s had heard me talk about Gary for years.
Checking in with Grandpa Mac didn’t take long and we were all pleased to see that Grandma Phoebe was there as well. After the usual questions about whether they had taken care of their animals it was the usual about keeping out young hothead, Andrew, out of trouble. Then we were free to pile into vehicles and to get lunch. And where else would that hungry horde be steered for good food and plenty of it but McGinty’s. All right, so I’m prejudiced and Jamie is too, but the fact is that Gary’s got a good staff and a friendly, informal atmosphere. It was the perfect place for the gang to go. Besides we’d been corresponding for a year over when and where to throw a big surprise party for our grandparents sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. The family had taken turns since their twenty-fifth hosting a party for them. This year we wanted it to be extra special. We were planning a huge barbecue for after the awards ceremony at the end of the rodeo’s stay and were even hiring a minister to perform the wedding ceremony so Grandpa Mac and Grandma Phoebe could renew their vows in front of family and friends. McGinty’s would be a good place for us to met after the day’s events and plan and organize things.
We crowded in and introductions were made all around. Chuck was thrilled at having several attractive women around. Unfortunately for him they weren’t buying into his nonsense because Jamie and I, as well as Alan and Kim, had told them what to expect. Marissa, bless her heart, should have been overwhelmed at having seven new voices at once to try and keep straight. But she continues to amaze me – she had them all figured out in less than five minutes!
After we ordered I went upstairs to check on my patient. Now it was my turn to scowl at him. His ankle, which should have looked a little better, was every bit as swollen, if not more so, than when he injured it the day before. Gary hates needles and, trust me, he was not too happy to see me pull a hypodermic out of my bag. The half empty Tylenol bottle was a good indication that the ankle was paining him – probably because he had not stayed off of it like he should have. And that particular dart hit the mark – I could tell by the way he squirmed when I asked him about it. Now hypodermics of anti-inflammatory medication may be somewhat old fashioned but there are times when the old methods are the best methods. Our pioneer ancestors learned a lot from the Native Americans in regard to herbal medicine and I, in turn, learned from White Eagle and used those methods in my practice wherever I could.
When that was done I sat down to talk business with him. On the way over we had talked the “planning committee”, meaning the cousins who had just arrived, into hiring McGinty’s to cater the party. I told him what was up and immediately Gary’s generous, but not so logical at times, heart wanted to cater the party for free. Now there was no way on earth we were going to let him do that. The family members alone would constitute a big crowd. My grandparents had nine children and each of them had at least three kids and there were ten great-grandchildren at the time. Now there are fifteen grandchildren. My brother Alan has five and our cousins Ken, Beth and Will are responsible for the other ten. We weren’t out to drive anyone into bankruptcy, which may be a slight exaggeration, but it would have been a pretty heavy dent in his supplies and cash flow if we’d allowed it – which we didn’t. I told him he could give us a discount but absolutely no freebies. Then I packed my bag and impishly mussed his hair before rejoining the troops downstairs. A few days later Gary was walking without the crutches again although he still limped some. But he was back to normal by the end of the week.
During that time Mark kept up his campaign of subtle harassment – careful not to be seen by my brothers, cousins, Sam or anybody else. After a couple of days of this I’d had it! I could handle anything that jerk threw my way except implied threats to my family and friends. And those guys he was hanging out with gave me the creeps. I was sure they were up to no good. You may ask why I didn’t go to Crumb or one of my friends on the Chicago Police Department. Well I’ll tell you why – what most of those guys know about horses in general wouldn’t fill two pieces of paper and they know even less about rodeos. No, there was someone I knew that would fit right in and I intended to send for him. So when I got to my hotel room that third night I sent a telegram to Texas. Addressed to a certain party it read “ga-ri-yo-gi” and “a-li-s-de-lv-di”. He’d know what it meant.
A few days later Gary showed up at the fairgrounds while Jamie and I were watching the calf roping practice. Something, or someone, had told him that Alex was in danger. If he took his practice run his horse was going to throw a shoe, stumble and fall on him causing some fairly serious injuries. I think we both looked at him like he’d lost his mind at first but the earnest “please believe me” look that we’d seen so often convinced us we’d better look into it.
Sure enough, when we checked Comanche’s shoe it was loose and Alex could have been seriously hurt. I don’t know how he does it and it doesn’t matter but once again Gary saved someone from harm. Now wouldn’t you know it? Mark showed up and started taunting Alex with talk of being afraid of a little competition. One of the judges happened to be there and he told Mark that if they found any proof that he was responsible he’d be barred from this and all future competitions – in any legitimate show anyway. Alex was ready to fight it out but we managed to keep it verbal between them.
Jamie almost came to blows with him though when he asked me about going out for a drink. There’s just something about Mark’s tone of voice and attitude that really sets Jamie off. It wasn’t easy but I kept him from doing something he’d regret (not that he’d admit he regretted it if he socked him one). Then Mark saw Gary who was hovering nearby and wanted to know who the “pretty boy” was. Not that it was any of his business but I told him Gary was a friend. Apparently Mark read more into that word than he should have because he told Gary, who’d decided he needed to protect me and had moved forward pulling me behind him, to stay out of it – it was none of his business.
About the time things would have turned into a free-for-all Grandpa Mac, Sam and one of the Security Guards arrived on the scene. If there’s one person in our family that you don’t argue with it’s Grandpa Mac. So when he told the crowds to break it up and Alex to get his horse over to the farrier for new shoes it happened. Grandpa Mac’s eyes were blazing with green fire and Sam’s fists were cocked and ready should his considerable boxing skill be needed to enforce the order to disperse. Fortunately, at that time, they weren’t.
Hugging me before he left Grandpa Mac headed back to the office. Jamie and Sam fell into step with me as we started back to the infirmary. A few seconds later Gary was calling for me to wait up. He was curious about Mark. I knew that even though I didn’t say anything at first to the questions in his eyes. As I told Jamie and Sam to go on I said I’d catch up with them later.
Gary wanted to know all about what had just happened and who that guy was we’d just tangled with. I tried real hard to give him the brush off and dismiss it as unimportant. However, if Gary is anything, he’s persistent. When he was little I used to tease him about being a pest. There was no way I was going to be able to ignore him this time though. Sighing I took him by the hand and led him to a quiet place where there was a tree and a bench. There we would sit and I would tell him everything. I think you could have knocked him over with a feather when I told him my “secret” about how I’d been married and then widowed in such a short period of time. He didn’t even really remember much about the few guys I’d dated back home in Hickory. Of course, he was only eight when I started dating seriously. By the time I was through explaining everything I was bawling my eyes out. Gary, for his part, listened closely and held me in his arms when I started crying. “The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglae” as the poet said. (I’m not sure I’m spelling this right and Mama would shoot me for not knowing my Scottish poets, so I hope she doesn’t read this, but I think it was Robert Burns.) I had, for years, kept all this a secret from Gary. After all a fourteen-year-old kid doesn’t need all this emotional baggage dumped on him like a ton of bricks. Especially if they’re as sensitive to people’s needs as Gary is. When I finally calmed down I also had to tell him that the reason he didn’t remember any of this was because he’d fallen ill just before the wedding and his parents couldn’t and wouldn’t leave him. If I knew Gary, like I thought I did, he’d be calling his mother for all the details I was leaving out. It had been as much her decision as mine anyway.
When we were through talking I kidded Gary about “big sister’s prerogative” to worry about and protect him as much as possible. That really makes him mad when I tell him that so it’s a lot of fun. But he wasn’t to get any bright ideas about hanging around and playing bodyguard or I’d kick his butt all the way back to Hickory! Then I went back to the infirmary while Gary went on his way.
Those two rats, otherwise known as Jamie and Sam, were waiting for me. They knew what had just transpired and wanted to make sure I’d told him everything about Mark and Jon and their parents.
The day of the Grand Opening Parade as we like to call it dawned bright and clear. The fairgrounds were abuzz with activity that morning as all the participants that had arrived ran back and forth between their tents or campers and stabling areas. Getting their mounts tacked up with their show saddles and bridles, many of them trimmed with silver. Besides that they had to get their parade clothes on. I was to wear a red divided riding skirt embroidered in yellow with a matching blouse and a white flat-crowned Stetson on my head. I wore my long black hair in a single braid down the middle of my back this time.
To say the least I was not happy when I saw Gary that morning. I hadn’t invited him and I was pretty sure Jamie hadn’t invited him out for a visit. Our cousins hadn’t even met him yet so I knew they hadn’t and I was pretty sure Grandpa Mac hadn’t. My suspicions that he was there to try and play bodyguard were pretty well borne out when he blushed and stuttered his way through his explanation of how he had helped a lost trucker find his way here with a load of horses. Gary’s lived in Chicago for over ten years. I highly doubted he had to show the guy how to get to the fairgrounds. He could just as easily have given him detailed directions complete with mileage and landmarks. As fate would have it, or luck if you prefer, Grandpa Mac, Jamie and Chris came along just as I was all set to give Gary a piece of my mind. Chris stood there grinning while Jamie greeted Gary. That little weasel knew I was mad about something and when Grandpa Mac offered to let Gary ride in the parade as a way of thanking him for his help the first day I was furious that Gary took him up on it.
My attempt to get rid of him was thwarted when he assured Grandpa Mac that his partners could handle things without him for a while. The decision to let Gary stay was then taken out of my hands and he was turned over to Chris who was to lend him a costume and find him a suitable mount. But I wasn’t through with him – not by a long shot.
I’m not sure how I got through that parade I was so mad. Just because he’s grown up now and an inch taller than I am he thinks he can get away with ignoring my wishes. The girls, Anne, Hannah and Rebecca knew I was mad but they didn’t try to interfere – not at that point. I’ll bet their brothers and cousins got an earful later on though just because by taking Gary’s side they had made me mad. When the parade was over I went looking for Gary. I was determined to give him a piece of my mind.
I caught up with him as he and Chris exited the tent Chris was sharing with his brother. Chris came in for his share of the eardrum blasting tongue-lashing I was about to give Gary. I didn’t need my brother or my nitwitted cousins encouraging him to hang around. I wanted Gary out of “the line of fire” – the danger zone. Help was on the way. I was sure of it but I still didn’t want Gary thinking he was going to be a bodyguard. If he kept making me mad it would be his body that would need guarding!
After Chris left us I dragged Gary off to the same quiet corner where we’d sat a few days ago and started to ream him out for interfering after I’d told him to stay away. (Well, maybe it wasn’t interfering really but I was too mad to care right then.) And once again I bawled my eyes out – this time as I relived the time I found him half dead in that cave six months ago after seeing the guys from the burglary in a jail cell in Oakdale.
As Gary was holding me while I cried myself out again Jamie found us. (He always seems to know where I am. Years of practice at hunting me down I guess.) He had some paperwork, entry forms for the saddle bronc and bull riding competition. When I saw the name I knew help was on the way. I felt that it would be safe for me to lift my edict on Gary’s coming to the rodeo. So, at Jamie’s suggestion, I invited Gary to be my escort to the dance the next night.
The next day Gary arrived at the fairgrounds as the calf roping competition was winding down for the day. Alex had just beaten Chris by 3/10 of a second. Chris spotted him as the crowd was dispersing I guess and invited him to stick around. Chris had come to like Gary very much in their brief association so he kind of took him under his wing so to speak. Next thing Jamie and I knew (we were watching from a distance) Chris was trying to teach Gary some trick riding.
It didn’t go very well at first for all Gary’s being a pretty good athlete. I kept shaking my head as I watched him try to master the “Pony Express” mount where you grab hold of the saddle horn, run with the horse and vault into the saddle. Poor guy just couldn’t seem to get the timing right no matter how hard he tried so I decided it was time for me to step in.
The look on Gary’s face was priceless! He had no idea that I knew how to do any of that kind of stuff. I swear his jaw dropped to the ground when I not only successfully performed the “Pony Express” but vaulted out of the saddle to either side, back and forth a few times, rode like a Comanche clinging to one side of the horse and virtually invisible and stood behind the saddle as the horse galloped around the arena before dropping back down into the saddle and gradually bringing my mount to a walk. When I rode up to the two guys Gary looked stunned and Chris called me a show off to which I replied that he was just jealous.
By this time the dance was only a couple of hours away and we all had things we had to do before it started. Chris had to take care of his horse, eat and clean up. I needed to go back to my hotel room I had taken for the duration and change and Gary, well, he was a mess. He’d fallen in the dust so much that afternoon that his jeans were extremely dusty as was his shirt. His face was streak with dirty here and there and there was a slight rip in his right sleeve.
Gary and I started walking back toward the infirmary. I needed to get my purse and let Jamie know that I was leaving. He’d opted for dinner and a show with our parents and grandparents in lieu of the dance, which would leave me the senior member of the family in attendance. Gary felt funny about his “date” driving him so after some teasing I gave him the keys to my truck and let him drive me to my hotel to shower and change while he went home to do the same. He’d pick up about in about an hour or so. I couldn’t resist a little dig about the green and gold parade costume he’d worn the other day. I asked him if he wanted to borrow Chris’s costume again or wear his own regular clothes. I was very satisfied to see the blush on his face when I kidded him about that. If I’d had any idea what was going to happen that night, especially to Gary I’d have found a way to keep him away - even if it meant slipping him a Mickey Finn. He’d have been mad at me but at least he’d have been safe.
When I got to the hotel I had an answer to my telegram. Washo had arrived with his partner Jimmy Trivette in tow. I was so happy to see them I almost started crying right then and there in the lobby of the hotel. But I managed to keep myself under control until we were safely away from prying eyes in my room.
I showered quickly and changed into slacks, shirt and loafers. While I combed and dried my hair I told my two Ranger friends everything that had happened since Mark had arrived. The loose shoe on Alex’s horse could have been a coincidence and it could have been the result of another jealous cowboy’s actions or maybe Alex was careless and overlooked the loose shoe. All I knew for certain was that there were too many implied threats to my family and friends coming from Mark’s mouth and I was sick of running into him or one of his so-called friends every time I turned around.
The whole things took about half an hour including giving them directions to the fairgrounds and suggesting a place for them to set up their campsite. I’d find a way to meet with them when necessary or get word to them.
They weren’t gone five minutes when Gary arrived to escort me to the dance. He noticed I’d been crying again and asked me about it. I told him I’d been watching some sappy old TV show before he came and that was why I was crying. I don’t know for sure if he believed me but I wasn’t going to trust even him with the knowledge of Washo’s arrival in Chicago. Only Jamie and Sam would know that.
Things got crazy when we got to the dance. First thing was having to deal with an argument between several of my cousins over whether or not the boy’s were going to sing that night. Their sisters/cousins had made an agreement with them that if they sang the “boys” would too. As senior member of the family and the one in charge of things that night my word was law. If such an arrangement had been made then all parties would be expected to hold up their end of the bargain. One thing I hadn’t bargained on though was the cousins all deciding that I had to sing.
Without further incident we got to the dance floor where Rob was currently acting as DJ. I got up and made Grandpa Mac’s usual announcements. No smoking, no drinking, no fighting or suffer the consequences. As a general rule that meant disqualification and forfeiture of prize money and half their entry fees.
Apparently my cousins had gotten their heads together because as I started to go back to the table where Gary and I were sitting Rob announced that I was going to sing “Crazy”. I was ready to kill him. I’d already told the girls that I had no intention of making a fool of myself but I was forced into it by the applause that rang out after the announcement. Revenge is sweet though – they were going to have to sing two of my favorite Statler Brothers songs to make it up to me.
The guys and the girls all got up to sing as agreed upon. Gary was just seating me at our table again when Chris, Rob and Alex surrounded us and dragged Gary off with them. I tried to find out what they were up to and was barely able to hear Gary say they wanted him to sing with them before Chris pushed me back to my seat and told me to stay there.
Poor Gary! Being considered part of the Fairfax Family hadn’t prepared him for what his surrogate cousins had in mind. They wanted him to sing with them all right but nobody was prepared for the hilarity that was about to come. Rob, the practical joker, had gotten himself a braided wig and a bandana and was doing his best Willie Nelson impression as they sang “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”. Poor Gary. I don’t know how many different colors his face turned before they were through. I tried not to let it show for his sake, but I was laughing so hard my eyes were watering. He had a difficult time getting through the crowd to get back to our table what with all the guys whistling, cheering and pounding him on the back and the women blowing him kisses and whistling.
He was seated, catching his breath and having a cold drink after we’d had a dance together when Chris came up and asked if he and the others were forgiven for their little stunt. Gary did of course, he’s very forgiving and, after all it wasn’t like any real harm had been done, he’d just been embarrassed. My new nurse Elena Prescott had arrived after that was all over. She was a pretty thing with light brown hair and aquamarine eyes. I could see that Gary was attracted to her though he didn’t really say it aloud. To me it was obvious by the way he stuttered when they were introduced. Chris hadn’t been at our table for more than a few minutes when Rob came running up to tell Chris and Alex, who’d come with Chris, that there was a problem at their stabling area. They’d hardly left when someone came up to me and said there’d been an accident on the other side of the fairgrounds. Now it was my turn to get up and leave. Gary started to go with me but I told him to stay and enjoy himself while Elena and I took care of the emergency. Within a half hour I would have cause to regret not allowing him to come with me.
Continue to Installment 2
Email the author: Janet.E.Brayden@nae02.usace.army.mil