Friday, January 29, 2016

A Grizzly Discovery

She didn’t think it would happen, but it was finally morning. The sun was rising. Its warming orange fingers spread across the horizon. She was alive and thankful. The long cold night had been terrifying.
She became separated from her hiking partners yesterday and began to follow a faint trail. She was worried, knowing that the wilderness area was home to multiple carnivores; bears, cougars, wolves, and even wolverines. Planning for a short hike, she carried no survival gear except a water bottle. She followed the faint trail; each sound causing her to jump. Searching, she found a broken branch with a sharp end that she could use as a walking staff and a spear if necessary. It was protection of sort and made her feel safer.
Along the path were blueberry bushes. She ate the few lingering berries that remained. They did little more than to whet her appetite. She drank deeply from a crystal clear freshet, then refilled her water bottle, before moving on.
Afraid that she would be forced spend the night she probed every overhang, cave, brush pile, and overturned tree looking for a haven from the animals and the cold. When the sun dropped over the horizon, the temperatures would drop as well. She needed to find a dry, secure place to spend the night.
As long tendril shadows reached over the land, she found a deep, dry crevice between two leaning rocks. This would have to be it. It would be her den of safety. She gathered and hauled leaves into the cave. It would insulate her from the cold ground and cover her to trap the heat. Intertwining branches, she narrowed the opening to keep larger animals outside. Pushing her pointed staff through the opening as a deterrent, it would impale any creature that tried to enter.
Barely settled, the darkness fell like a heavy, black blanket. It arrived with furtive unidentifiable noises from the outside. Although she tried to stay awake, she nodded off occasionally.
As the first rays of the rising sun pried the reluctant fingers of darkness from the distant horizon, she rejoiced. She had outlasted the night and was safe to face the new day.
            From the depths of the den at her back came the sounds of snuffing and the shambling footpads of a grizzly bear.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nun of Your Business

One evening when Bill and I were working in the emergency department, three nuns were brought in from an automobile accident. The ambulance crew delivered them one after another. The nuns were of the old order and were dressed in the long, black full-length robes. They wore chains, ropes, head piece, mantles, etc.
Let me say this. Anyone who would decide to rape a nun either has no idea of what he was getting into or has all the time in the world to achieve his goal. I could not believe the amount of clothing these women donned everyday of their lives, until I started to undress them and get them into hospital issue gowns. It was a full fifteen minutes before I saw any kind of bare flesh.
It was peeling an onion, but it didn’t make me cry, layer after layer. Underneath the robes were folds of binders, tee shirts, ropes, and safety pins galore. It was crazy. After much diligence, they were out of their habits and into our gowns for examination by our doctor.
One of the registration clerks was offended that men were undressing and doing a cursory examination of the nuns. I told her, “I am a professional” and that I could “undress and examine a woman without me seeing anymore than if she was wearing a bathing suit.”
I would loosen and undress down to the top of the patient’s chest Place the hospital gown over her and then finish removing the blouse, brazier, etc. I would slip the gown on then start the examination to the top of the thighs. I would fold a blanket or sheet across her middle to examine her chest, abdomen, and pelvis. I would remove the slacks and skirt. It was up to the physician to finish the evaluation. The woman was covered at all times and I would preserve her dignity.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

When I was a child, it seemed like there were many winters that we had huge drifts that accumulated over many snowfalls. The snow came down fast and thick over two days laying down twenty-two inches in my driveway, daring me to remove it. I started the challenge, carving a pathway out from my basement to the woodpile and beyond. From my basement door to the roadway, it is about one hundred feet. Slowly, and as I later found out painfully, I shoveled an open path wide enough to roll my empty wheelbarrow out to the stack of wood and wheel a loaded one back inside.
Next, I shoveled around my car to free it from the snowy grip holding it in place by the sheer weight of billions of fluffy flakes. I extended the cleared runway up my walkway to the stairs from my porch. Standing on my porch, my spirits were flagging as I studied what I had accomplished and what I had to do yet. Out at the roadside where the snowplows deposited the gleanings, the snow was piled almost three feet high. I knew from past experiences that it would be packed solidly, doubling the exertion needed to move it.
I stepped down from the porch to renew the attempt to complete the Herculean task. I had barely started when my neighbor started up the road with his tractor with a large, wide scoop bucket on the front. Stopping, he asked if he could help. I quickly said “yes” and he spun the tractor into my drive, using the bucket to scrape heavy loads of the snow into my side yard, each scoop would have made thirty or more of my snow filled shovel.
I slipped inside of my house while he was pushing the thick blanket of snow into tall mounds. When he finished, I asked him, “What do I owe you?” He tried to refuse and money, but I convinced him to take something for fuel and said, “I may need you again.” He laughed, and drove away to help other neighbors.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Charity Starts at Home

I gathered everything that I thought I would need to weather the impending storm, milk, bread, tea bags, and the tank of my car is filled with gasoline. From earlier posts on Facebook, you should already know that I have a huge stockpile of toilet paper. The stockpiling started when the kids were young and my wife, Cindy and I would buy when there was a sale or we had coupons that were too enticing to ignore. But the best laid plans of mice and men….

Last evening, I was summoned from the shower by the ringing of the telephone. It was my eldest. She needed someone to watch my granddaughter Hannah. The normal babysitter’s son was sick with vomiting and Amanda wanted to know if I could watch, take Hannah to preschool and pick her up.
How can a grandpa say no to visiting with a granddaughter? So, I am at her house and she is in preschool. I am later in posting a blogspot, but it will get there. While I am out, I may pick up some “D” cell batteries for the flashlights.

I do have several kerosene lamps and their reservoirs are still filled with kerosene. There have been times that we have had to use the lamps or candles. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
I can remember as a child going to my Grandmother Miner’s home if there was a power outage and deep snows. They had a coal furnace, a coal fired cook stove, but to get water, she would have to walk to the springhouse and lug the water back to the house. It was a practical solution. Dad would let the water drip at our home to keep the pipes from freezing. We would be safe and warm at Grandma’s and we would carry the water.
We would gather around her dining room table, lit by a kerosene lamp and play games of “Muggins” dominoes or Sorry. They both were extremely effective ways to teach children how to count. I certainly miss those simpler days, the closeness, the bonding, and those happy times

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not for the Faint of Heart
I wrote on my blog about the different characters that I met in my life. This is one.
An unusual incident that occurred in my days of student training, I have kept it a secret for all these years. It happened while I was in my obstetrics rotation. One of the doctors decided to do a saddle block on a young woman in labor. The other student nurse who was with me was in her early forties while I was twenty-three.

The doctor eased a long, thin metal tube into place, inside the woman’s vaginal canal, it’s end touching the tip of her cervix. Next, he picked up a syringe with a long needle attached to the tip. The needle was at least ten inches in length. As he inserted needle into the tube, it made the rasping, grating sound of metal on metal.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. The sound was too much for the nurse standing beside me and caused her to faint. Fortunately, she was standing between me and a nearby wall. As her knees began to buckle, I leaned my weight, hardly moving at all, against her, pressing her tightly against the wall and keeping her upright.

When in nurses’ training, there was little that as more embarrassing than for a student nurse to faint. It was a bane to a student’s name to have “passed out’. It’s not a black mark against your training, but you can be certain you will be teased about it for a long, long time.

I turned my attention back to the procedure at hand and watched as the doctor completed the block. He had just removed the needle and the metal tube, when I felt a stirring of the weight on my shoulder. The wilted nursing student began to rouse. She shook her head, once, twice and then reclaimed her weight. As she straightened up, I leaned away from her as she stood back onto her feet.

A few seconds later, she leaned close to me and whispered into my ear, “Thank you.”

I can’t remember her name, so your secret is still safe with me.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What’s for Breakfast

As I was trying to decide what I would make for breakfast this morning, I began to think of the ones that I’ve eaten in the past. One that immediately came to mind was the ones that I had in basic training for the Navy. I know the cooks knew how to prepare the food. I sampled it when I had in service week and spent the time on night shift in the “spud locker” where we helped to ready the food for the next day. For a country boy who was used to having fresh sausage, the links they served were spiced so heavily that I couldn’t taste the meat and it took several years after my discharge to eat sausage again.

Another round of breakfast memories came from my home and my mom Sybil. When my dad, Carl was home, breakfast was usually hot cakes, fried eggs, and some kind of meat. Often Dad went out hunting early in the morning. The meat we ate was fried squirrel and gravy made from the drippings. Other times it could be liver pudding or sausage. Dad would fuss if Mom didn’t pour the sausage grease onto the meat platter. When all of the meat was gone, Dad would sop his pancakes in the grease and eat them. He lived to be ninety, so the theory of high cholesterol didn’t apply to him.

In high school, I didn’t want a full breakfast and would fix a cup of tea and toast. Sometimes the toast would have cinnamon sugar, or some kind of jam. If I really felt ambitious, I would eat hot, cooked oatmeal.

Now that I am living alone, I eat whatever I want. Many times it’s not “breakfast food.” It may be a slice of pizza, leftover spaghetti, or some other food that catches my eye. I think some of my writing shows my eclectic tastes.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Character Selection
When I sit down to write, I have to decide what subject to write about and which characters I should choose from. Hundreds and maybe thousands have passed through my life as a child and an adult. While in school, working at Walworth in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, college at several campuses at Penn State University, and while I worked as a nurse at Frick Hospital in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Some were relatives, some were friends, and some were just ships passing in the night.
Some of the people were those that I worked with for years and years, some were patients, some were physicians, and then there were the many patients that I met. Some patients I met only once and for brief instances, like those who came to the emergency department while I worked there for five years. Others, I took care of them night after night as I worked the eleven to seven shift. The turnover of patients came faster and usually it was of shorter in duration as I was a nursing supervisor. That position lasted for twenty-six years. I can’t understand how I handled the stresses involved for so long.
I’ve shared many of their stories before in my posts and I hope to share many more. I have joyful tales with happy ending and ones that ones that still sting and hurt when they come to mind. I do have some memoirs written and I hope to pull them all together, edit them, and publish them in a book. It is a daunting task, not only writing them, but the actual placing them in some kind of order. Once the order of the stories have been established, then comes the reading and rereading to look for misspellings, misplaced punctuation, and correct wording.
With my other books, I had to read each short story at least seven or eight times, then when the order was settled, I read my books a minimal of two times before my editor would allow them to go to be printed. I may go to my archives and release a few more tales of the hospital or my years in the Navy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Horsing Around

I saw a photo post this morning of a beautiful coal black Percheron horse. The people holding its reins at its head were dwarfed by its size. He stood nineteen hands high. Thinking that a person could almost walk under the chest and stomach of this grand specimen of equine flesh caused me to think of a story told to me by my mom, Sybil Miner Beck.
The incident happened at my grandparent Miner’s farm. I was a toddler yet. Somehow I managed to slip away from their watchful eyes and escape outside. Near the stairs leading to the back porch of the old farmhouse, there was a cherry tree. Granddad would often tie his horse to it when he would come in from the fields to do some work in the chicken coop or one of the outbuildings.
At this point, I need to say that the horse was a stallion. He hadn’t been gelded and only granddad could touch and ride him. He would shy away from anyone else who approached and would often rear up onto his hind legs to discourage anyone from approaching.
By this time, my kin noticed that I was missing and a frantic search ensued. Once the house was upended, they moved outdoors, only to discover me beneath that stallion, standing on wobbly legs, and trying to reach up and stroke the underside of this temperamental and fearsome beast. The horse had its head turned toward me and was watching my every move.
They were at a loss of what to do. Maternal instincts spoke to them and said to snatch me away from this dangerous situation, but reason prevailed. If they approached, the stallion would either shy away and move those massive feet or it might rear up and put me into a more dangerous situation.
Grandma Rebecca sent my mom to find my granddad Ray and fetch him to save me from this predicament. While she was gone, grandma sat and in a soft voice tried to lure me to her and away from the horse. When Granddad heard what was happening, he ran into the yard and began to talk to the stallion in his normal voice and slowly approached. The horse would shift its view from me to Granddad and back.
Needless to say, Granddad rescued me or I wouldn’t be here writing this today.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quit Growling

            The other day, while I was watching the Bengals self destruct, I kept hearing a noise. I thought it was coming from outside of my house. When I’d mute the television, I wouldn’t hear it. Intermittently the noise would reappear and I’d mute the set. Eventually, I figured that the sound wasn’t coming from outside, but inside, and just not inside of the house, but inside of me. It was the growling and gurgling inside of my intestines. There was no feeling of the rumblings; just the noise and I didn’t associate the noise to me.

            That started me down another memory lane. One Sunday when the kids were still at home, we took them to church. Three kids divided by two parents usually don’t cause a problem, but for some reason, they were doing their best to cause trouble. They were doing nothing bad, but mischievous. My wife Cindy had just scolded them about talking and disrupting the service with their antics. She had just shushed them for about the third time when her stomach made a loud, whining, growling sound that could be heard several pews away.
            Of course, this made the kids snicker and squirm. While she tried to compose herself, I shushed the kids, having to turn my head occasionally not to let them see that I was on the verge of snickering too. Each and every time, I thought the kids were settled, Cindy would start to smile and I’d have t turn away to keep from laughing myself. Occasionally, I’d hear her snort to cover a snicker and she’d bounce with silent laughter, hearing herself snort and that would set the kids off, snickering. For about ten to fifteen minutes, I felt like a fireman putting out small fires to prevent a complete conflagration from erupting and disrupting the service. I can’t remember the message that the Pastor preached on, but the service was definitely memorable.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Right Sort


            Yesterday, as I sat on my couch with a basket of freshly laundered and dried clothing in front of me, my thoughts wandered back to a time when my three children were young and still living at home. It was the sorting of socks that sent my mind wandering down memory lane. Sorting the laundry, even then, was fairly simple until it came to the mountain of socks. Sorting socks was often difficult, matching sizes, colors, designs and even the thickness and textures. Kids can run through a lot of socks.

            At the end of each sock sorting episode, there always seemed to be leftovers, stray socks without mates. They were still in good condition and their mate might show up in the next washing or two, so they were saved in a bag, box, or basket, sometimes hoping beyond reason that the lost sole might miraculously appear.
            After quite a few washings, I would empty the vagrant sock hotel onto the floor in front of me and slowly surround myself with socks sorted by color into small piles. Once they were separated, I would begin the laborious task of matching the sizes and textures. The socks I hated the worst were the colors of Navy blue and black. Most times they were the same brands, but the color lots or rib patterns were the only thing separating them. Often in frustration, if they were nearly the same, I would unite them. Who was going to get close enough to know?
            I rarely knew how long a single stocking remained in the dark, lonely isolation chamber and how often they were returned to a life of seclusion. It was only when one of the kids outgrew a certain size, could I actually allow myself to throw the incarcerated to be incinerated. Occasionally, when a certain patterned sock passed in front of me so often that I recognized it immediately and knew that there had been no match in any recent washings, I would reluctantly allow it to slip into eternity as well.

            I remembered as I sorted this laundry load of socks that I would soon have to party hearty. There was a basket near the bottom of my bed with socks waiting to party with me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Silently Waiting

            She’d visited before, but she never stayed so long during the many years. She now stood in front of my living room window dark and foreboding, waiting to see what I would do. It wasn’t actually her that was foreboding, but the task that was at hand. I knew what lay ahead and what needed done. I dreaded thinking of it, but it must be done.
            She was left over from happier times in my life. With a quick flip of a switch, she would instantly light up, beautiful and sparkling. The many past memories of her well shaped form, her lovely limbs, and her slender torso trunk crowded into my mind. Clad in a full green skirt cinched with a slender white belt, she certainly drew my attention from the drabness of the rest of my room. Bright bangles dangled from her full and shapely limbs. She wore then in wild abandon; silver, gold, and a multitude of rainbow hues giving her a rich and elegant appearance. Her quiet beauty made me think that she’d been born under a lucky star.
            I sighed. We both knew that her presence couldn’t last forever, and truthfully, I’d grown quite tired of her. I knew what I had to do, but I was reluctant to start. It wasn’t going to be an easy job and I knew that once I started, it would be a formidable task. It was time to start. I had put it off for as long as I could.
            She remained mute as I began to strip her of her baubles and bangles, leaving her limbs bare and oddly misshapen. Unloosening her white belt, I unwound it and tossed it aside. She no longer sparkled in my eyes. Lifting and twisting, I pulled her limbs apart and began to tie them together with a thick cord.
            Earlier, I’d placed a large plastic container nearby. I tossed the bundles of her limbs inside. Bit by bit, I threw her into the plastic chest. With her tucked entirely inside, I sealed the lid, tightly. The sturdy plastic chest was extremely heavy and I struggled as I dragged the burden up the stairs and into my unheated attic. It was the best that I could do for now. She would have to remain in the darkness and cold.
            I hurried back downstairs to the living room and began to sweep, vacuum, and to remove all traces that she had ever been here. I paid special attention to the area of the carpet where I’d dismembered her. At last, nothing remained of her and I sat down to relax.
            There was a knock at my front door. In a panic, I glanced around, examining the room for any remaining telltale signs of her presence. Pushing my hair back, I opened the door. It was my daughters. “Hi, Dad, we’re here to help you take down the Christmas tree.”