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Monday, July 26, 2010

No Cryin’ on Bob’s Shoulder…Not for Awhile Anyway….

Sargent Bob

This a far different post than I had intended to write about my friend Bob, a fellow Valley walker and cycler. Most of our meetings, Bob was afoot, and I was on Gladys;  our walking routes did not overlap. I called him “Sargent Bob” because he lived somewhere up Sargent Road north of the Loop Road. If I hadn’t seen him in a while, I would stop for an update, chat about the Valley happenings. Whenever I was on Gladys, Bob would give me advice about bicycle safety: “You need to get a helmet and wear it!” he warned. Bob felt free to share other advice with me,too: how I needed to adjust Gladys’s seat so I wouldn’t “blow my knees out”; how to trim my food intake (I had complained about all the Christmas baked goods…) so I could shed some weight. “You have the rest of your life, you know,” Bob would say. “At our ages we need to do what we can to insure quality of life. I eat to live,” he’d say, “not the other way around.”

I only have one photo of Bob because for some reason he was camera shy. I snapped the shutter quickly one day when we met at Frohning Road. He had stopped to investigate a bike someone had dumped or discarded in the weeds along side the road (turned out it was Timmy Lee Frohning’s transportation to and from the bus stop on school days). For all I know, the above photo may be the only one taken of Bob. Like the Sioux chief Crazy Horse perhaps he thought the camera might steal his spirit. All I know is he was pretty strong-willed about a lot of things.

I hadn’t seen Bob in the Valley for quite some time. But through a bizarre intercession of Fate, we met yesterday morning. A beautiful morning it was, too: clear blue skies, lots of sunshine melting away the Valley mist. A good morning to share with Gladys before the day heated up.

As I rounded the corner headed south, Mt. Ranier loomed ahead like a huge ice cream sundae. “What a great photo opportunity,” I thought, and planned to extend my ride past the old Honor Farm and Werkhovens’ digester to my favorite prospect of the mountain. I believe it was this decision and at this point where Fate started building its case against Bob and me.

Just as I reached my photo station, Fate stepped up the pace and drew in my environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L. She was on her way to Church this Sunday morning. When she saw me,  Nancy pulled off on the shoulder to chat for a minute or two. We had hardly exchanged greetings, when she said, “Here comes a bicycle” and she edged her car forward a bit further onto the shoulder. I looked up in time to see a cyclist tooling toward us, going flat out. I told Nancy L he better not make sport of Gladys. At that moment I realized he was heading straight for us on a collision course. And here Fate dealt the coup-de-grace. In disbelief I thought: “He’s looking down at the road. HE DOES NOT SEE US!” I didn’t even have enough time to shout a warning. I thought the cyclist at the last moment would swing to the left around Nancy’s car, but instead he plowed between us on the right, narrowly missing me (and the back of Nancy’s car; Fate momentarily blinked) and sent Gladys flying into the weeds. And then just beyond Nancy’s car there was the eerie sound of scraping metal, the awful thud of body on pavement. I rushed to the scene and lying among the tangle of metal, Spandex, shattered water bottles I am shocked to find Sargent Bob. The Sarge is down in the dust and not moving.

By this time Nancy L is out of her car and beside us. A pick-up stops and the driver asks if he should call for aid. Bob sits up. He is dazed, doesn’t know what’s going on until he hears “aid/hospital/emergency room.” That seems to bring him around some. Bob whispers he can’t go, doesn’t have insurance. Another motorist stops to render assistance. He seems to know first responder procedure, moves his finger back and forth in front of Bob’s eyes, asks him to follow his finger. We note Bob has an unusual knob protruding from his left shoulder about two inches left of his neck. That cinches it. Its the ER for Sarge.(“You have the rest of your life, remember?”) Nancy L drives me home for the truck while the Good Samaritan first responder stays behind with Bob. I return with the truck. We load the bikes in the back, and Bob, amid protests of no insurance, in the front, and head for the ER in Monroe.

At the ER a nurse checks Bob’s vitals. Except for that shoulder, he is in tip top shape( all that exercise and the “I eat to live” philosophy paying dividends). Then x-rays of the shoulder and a visit from the on-call orthopedist. The x-ray shows a broken clavicle. It’s a bad break, the bone has snapped near his neck, thrust upwards, and the longer section compressed under the shorter. As the bone has penetrated flesh and tissue, surgery will be required to disinfect the wound. Then the break must be plated and and the collarbone pinned—perhaps wired-- back together. Bob repeats his oft-used litany of the morning: “Well, this day sucks!” I stay with him until he’s prepped for surgery, leave my phone number so he can contact me later. At this point he seems to have no one to assist him but me. I am glad to do so. Can’t help but feel I was in some way Fate’s helpmate in his plight.

Around three o’clock in the afternoon Bob calls. The operation is over; he is in recovery, thinks he will be released that evening. That’s highly unlikely I thought. But I was wrong. Bob was released at 7:30 last evening. I meet him at the nurses’ station in the ER. His arm is in a sling. A big wad of dressing like a football player’s shoulder pad bulges at the point of surgery. He can’t wait to leave. We walk to the truck. “Well, this day sucks!” he reiterates. It’s about 8:15 when I deliver him to his camper at Three Rivers Mobile Home park. I help him dump a bag of ice into his refrigerator, tell him to take the ibuprofen every four hours as the Dr. advised until he can pick up the pain medicine prescribed him. I wish him good-luck and tell him his bike will be safely secured in our garage until he’s ready to retrieve it.

I haven’t heard from the Sarge this morning. I can only imagine that last night “sucked” for him, as well. As I reflect on yesterday’s incident, I am bewildered at the irony of it all: how three people who know each other from the Valley (Nancy L, like me, has seen Bob on his Valley walks countless time), can meet at the same time and place with such dire consequences. But Fate plays no favorites, is relentless.Yesterday it showed no regard for metal or flesh and bone. Bob’s hi-tech bike has a warped front wheel; Gladys suffered a bent rear fender(she’s one tough cookie and most certainly will roll again); Bob’s summer of cycling the Valley has come to an abrupt end and Nancy L and I are bit shaken emotionally. Yesterday’s incident reminds me it’s high time I visited the local bike shop. If I may borrow my hapless friend’s phraseology: “Fate sucks.” Why tempt it more by not wearing a helmet?

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