Saturday, July 29, 2006

War Stories

So long, boys, you can take my place,
I got my papers, I got my pay,
So pack my bags and I'll be on my way,
to Yellow River.....
("Yellow River", 1970, Christie)

Ah, I can see that I'm moody again if I'm singing War Songs like "Yellow River". That song always did bring tears to my eyes. Maybe I'm melancholy because an Old Friend and I spent the day telling War Stories. (However, I have no idea what caused my mood yesterday when I was singing an old Burger King jingle.)

Anyway, I had coffee with an Old Friend. She's a Road Nurse like me but is now running her own company. Lucky stiff--she put in her years on the streets and has finally achieved that nirvana state that every hard-working Road Nurse dreams of: laying down the stethoscope and working the desk job. I was surprised to receive her sudden phone call because I hadn't seen her in awhile. Small towns being as they are, I figured that she must have "heard something" about me taking a sabbatical from my job. But I was less than 48 hours into the sabbatical and was somewhat surprised that the gossip had spread that quickly, since her small town is 40 miles away from my small town. Let's see....I think that there's an old algebra problem that can assist in solving this issue....

"If gossip leaving Small Town A is traveling on the Interstate towards Small Town B at 32 miles an hour, and some even better gossip from Small Town B is traveling up the Interstate towards Small Town A at 45 miles an hour-- and Lutie-June Hodgkins skips a WMU meeting on Wednesday night--- but Elsie Mae Troodle makes an extra trip to Walmart because she forgot to buy "Nilla" Vanilla Wafers for her banana puddin'... At WHAT POINT does the gossip meet on the Interstate? (Assuming, of course, that only 30 % of the population of truckers chose Meat Loaf Day at one of the 2 truck stop cafes on the Interstate.)

Well, the correct answer is "FAST", of course! Around here it's approximately 20 miles per day, so my Old Friend was right on time in calling me to inquire about "what was I doing?" on my sabbatical.

"Come down for coffee! We can talk about old times!" she lured. And so I went. We settled into the leather chairs of her cushy office for a nice little chat and some coffee. I knew the real reason she wanted to see me, of course--it had something to do with employment-- but we danced around awhile at first.

Not having seen each other for a long time called for a discussion of old times and mutual acquaintances. We also discussed our amazement that we, ourselves, are "still standing"-- as this particular field of employment has been known to chew up and spit out less hardy souls. Personally, many of us believe that one has to be slightly crazy (okay, maybe a lot crazy) to enter this field in the first place. To survive it on a daily basis requires even more lunacy.

And most people are in no doubt about the state of my own mental health because I entered this field after years of working in Emergency Rooms--which is a definite sign of clinical insanity in itself.

So we talked and chatted for hours, reminiscing and laughing about our job and all the other Road Nurses we've known, worked with, or simply heard about. Which then progressed into the inevitable War Stories about certain Road Nurses...the memorable ones...those whose adventures became part of The Legend and Lore of Road Nurses.....

Although I firmly believe that it definitely takes a "strong personality" to function as a Road Nurse in any state of the country-- since this is a job whereby a nurse has to be a jack-of-all-trades with the ability to make decisions independently in sometimes very strange and unusual circumstances-- there's definitely another factor about it here. Because, after all, this is Texas. And I've got to say that I've practiced my profession just about everywhere, but the population here in Texas is just completely different than in any of the other states that I've ever nursed in. The people here simply haven't changed very much since the days of Mr. Bowie and Mr. Houston.

People here still call ladies or women older than them "Ma'am". People here still say the blessing before they eat their meal-- even if they're in McDonalds. And the bootlegger is the most important guy in town. (Except for the preacher, of course, but that's a given--and I hear he's the bootlegger's best customer...)

I've heard of many a local court-room drama in which a criminal who was attempting a plea-bargain would rather betray his own grandmother before he'd give up the name of his bootlegger--no matter HOW MUCH jail time it would save him.

("But Your Honor! If I tell on my bootlegger he'll never sell to me again! And then what would I do???")

(And of course the Judge and the District Attorney completely understand, and so they don't hold it against him in the plea bargain-- because they're also among the bootlegger's best customers and they would never give his name up either....)

What was I talking about? Oh yes, Texas!

Yes, this is Texas. There are still shoot-outs, cowboys, sheriffs, posses, and hound dogs called "Ole Blue" here. People here still "Swing Your Pardner!"

Thus, Road Nursing around here can be an interesting business. And I've known some interesting Road Nurses, a variety of characters who chose to take on this lifestyle with their own particular brand of Texan-ness. And sometimes you just have to admire some of them....those whose unique skills and abilities live on in Road Nurse Lore for generations....

Many of their stories are told and retold, whispered about with awe... in hushed tones.....

Legendary Texan Road Nurses..... Jenny-Lou: Who was on a traffic-jammed Interstate one day, spotted a suicidal pregnant woman on an overpass who was trying to climb over the railings to jump to her death--and actually pulled over on an Interstate. She clawed her way up the steep embankment to the overpass, climbed onto the walkway, and talked the woman into not jumping until the police could arrive and take over the situation. The whole episode was on the news that night and her best friend saw it and thought: "Oh that's where she was. I wondered why she didn't answer her cell phone." Sally-Ann: Who once went on a visit to a patient's home which was so filthy and infested with vermin that cockroaches and ants actually crawled up her legs while she was performing wound care for her patient. When she was finished with the visit, she simply drove to a Walmart, bought new clothes and soap, stripped nekkid in the bathroom to clean up and change clothing, threw her roach and ant-infested clothing into the trash bin-- and continued on her way..... Jo-Jo: Who always went on her patient visits in a huge pick-up truck sporting a gunrack (with shot-guns) and a big sign which declared: "In Texas We Don't Call 911"... Marve-Ann: Who was once in a car accident in dangerous gang territory in a large Texan city, her vehicle having been rammed accidentally by some drunk, gun-toting gang members who had run a red light. She got out of her car to exchange insurance information. And she lived.

Lynnie-Jane: Who was married to a tattoo-covered biker man, and whose desk in the office sported a framed 8 X 10 picture of him waving a machete while sitting on a motorcycle painted with coffins and skeletons ---and she was never once offended when her boss would turn that picture face-down during office inspections by the big shots.

Wendy Sue: Who once got lost in a corn field. She kept taking various wrong turns which always returned her to the exact same starting point. Every time she turned a corner and realized that she was right back to where she had started from it spooked her. Finally, she became so frightened that she started bawling and called the office on her cell phone. A secretary answered and Wendy Sue exclaimed: "Oh Lord, I think I'm in the 'Children of the Corn' movie!" To which the non-plussed secretary replied: "Just keep going straight until you get to a town. If there's a bunch of kids and no adults there, you're screwed. Otherwise, you definitely need to take a few days off from work."

Lu-Lu: Who knew the exact location of every single convenience store bathroom in the State of Texas. One day she accidentally dropped her beeper into the toilet at the filthiest bathroom of them all. And she reached in to retrieve it. She cleaned it off, dried it off, clipped it back onto her belt-- and it beeped. And her first thought was "Thank God it still works--Lynnie Jane is going to beep me when it's time to meet for a drink at Chili's." Ellie-Jo: Who couldn't stop nagging a stubborn patient about taking their medicine so that they could avoid medical problems. She nagged and nagged yet the patient still wouldn't listen to her. When that patient finally DID get into a problem and was rushed to the Emergency Room by ambulance-- Ellie Jo then drove 15 miles to the hospital, strode into the Emergency Room, entered that patient's cubicle and declared: "I told you so." Puddin'-Malloy: Who once desperately four-wheeled it during a rainstorm through miles of cow pastures, dodging wet cows, fording rain-swollen creeks, getting stuck repeatedly in the mud, and then finally slogged it through one last muddy field to reach the ranch house. When she triumphantly climbed down out of her vehicle she was confronted by an angry rancher in overalls who yelled: "You jest ran over Maw's garden!" To which she replied strongly: "I'm your nurse and I'm here to draw your blood!"

To which the rancher replied (as any self-respecting Texan would) to her accidental use of the gun-fight challenging use of the word "draw": "DRAW? What are you gonna do--shoot me? I'd like to see you try."

To which (as the legend is told) Puddin' then took a Clint Eastwood-like stance, gripped her nurse pack at her hip like a six-shooter pistol, gritted her eyes, spit, and then yelled: "FINE! Now if you'll just let me come in outta this rain to get your blood, it would certainly MAKE MY DAY!"

(I'm not sure about the spitting part. It's part of the legend-- but Road Nurses have been known to exaggerate for effect. However, it was a Texan nurse after all, and one never knows.....)

Sugar James: Who always had a terrible fear of insects. One day she knocked on the door of a farmer's house, but as the farmer opened the door to let her in, suddenly the largest bumble-bee Sugar'd ever seen swooped down near her head. They say she broke the local record for the 100-yard dash as she tore ass away from that bumble-bee. For ever afterward, the only thing that farmer would say to her, every time she ever went to see him, was: "Nurse, you shore can move....."


Dandy-Lee WinBaker: Who could do the "Cotton Eye Joe" dance better than anybody in the State of Texas-- but always stubbornly refused to yell "Bull Shit!" at the right times during the dance, yelling "Bull Puckey!" instead. (But this abhorent behavior was tolerated because her mother is from South Carolina, and it is a well known fact that no True Lady in South Carolina has ever said the word "Bull Shit" in her entire life.) (And also Dandy-Lee was afraid that if her mother had ever heard that she'd said it in public she'd have driven the entire distance from South Carolina to Texas to whup her butt.)

The list goes on and on.....

What was I talking about?

Oh yes, my coffee chat with my Old Friend.

After we chatted awhile, soon enough the real topic for her invitation came up. There was no dilly-dallying around once she got to it because we both knew she wanted me to come work for her company. And we both knew that I was looking for a lower stress level these days, having become somewhat exhausted with the frantic and soul-sapping pace of my current company.

She simply stated: "I'll give you $2.00 more per hour than you're already making-- and you only have to take on-call every 4 weeks."

As I considered this inviting proposal, she threw in the clincher: "And just think, you'll be back in your same old territory which means that you could hang out and have your secret gossip-breaks at Taco Bell with your buddies from your old company just like you used to do."

"I'll take it," I said. And the deal was done.

As I was leaving town to return home, I congratulated myself on the fact that since I'd only been in the "downtown" area on this trip, I had not had to encounter any nasty bulls or livestock.

I pulled into a local drugstore to buy a Pepsi for the return drive back up the Interstate. And then a large truck towing a livestock trailer pulled into the drugstore's parking lot right next to me.....

Cannon fire lingers in my mind,

I'm so glad that I'm still alive,

And I've been gone for such a long time

from Yellow River....

Yellow River, Yellow River,

is in my mind and in my eyes,

Yellow River, Yellow River,

is in my blood, it's the place I love......

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **


Unknown said...

You go girl! Congratulations. When you do start?

Anonymous said...

Congrats-you deserve it!

Anonymous said...

I do declare that you are close to becoming a Road Nurse of L & L yourself! So good that you are recruited right off sabbatical...This sounds like an improvement all around. Oh sweetie, those bulls are everywhere (duh, it's Texas). Make your peace with them....

Anonymous said...

Uh oh--I guess I'm not a true South Carolina lady...I have used that term (although not in the last 30 minutes--does that count?)
I do enjoy reading your blog--it's the only one I read regularly. Good luck on the new job!