The old ranch house was still able to provide
shelter for them, although it was fast slipping in a bad way as far as
needing repairs was concerned. It wanted paint on the outside,
but the inside was all right. The old house still maintained her dignity,
only now with signs of being neglected, if not yet abused. This would come
later. There was still an aura of genteel grace about her.
Growing up in this same place still brought
pleasant memories of family and love all about to this young woman who was
pregnant and expecting her first child. Presently, she wasn't
worrying about reality; although, this fact was definitely real. It was
simply that the place was sixty miles from a hospital. However, this was
still a time of freedom for them. This was a time before the country had
become so embroiled in medical possibilities. It was a closer time to the
earlier days. Life had been lived differently then. One was eternally
aware that death could come at an instant with just a moment of
carelessness. She paid no attention to the warning the old house was
haunted. She had grown up with that foolishness. The fact was the danger
stood more living and it was real, not some shadow like substance one
could not see. Care was something to be practiced at all costs. Careful
driving habits, work habits, and any other way of living so as not to
bring about an accident. Driving, if some one was there to drive, at break
neck speed for medical treatment could be a very life threatening
situation. This life style did not hover over one with a constant anxiety.
It was rather just something one learned in daily living until it became
as second nature as brushing one's teeth.
The elderly rancher who dropped in on her
with a pleasant promise of conversation must have been observing her and
evidently was satisfied with her ability to function in this out of the
way place. It was true she was young in years, had not lived in the area
for a time, but the things she had learned as a child stayed with her and,
there were no worries about anything.
Rattlesnakes were common, but folks didn't
walk through places without first having prepared it over a period of
days. There was a light lawn mower to mow a low grass path to walk
over. "Just let 'em strike this machine. Guaranteed, the machine
wins, every time," and it was a joke. Heavy tall boots were an
accepted rule too. Her Dad always said, "they ring a bell before they
get you, and if you are watching and listening, well then, you have a
chance to avoid them."
A small dog with a brave heart was as much
a necessity as anything one could think about having. When she was a child
they were always led around the chain link fence so as to sniff what might
be one of the little prairie rattlers out of its hiding place there. The
running about the grounds and the noisy yapping usually gave the unwelcome
reptiles a message they were not welcome. Her uncle had brought her just
one of those little dogs and he met his job with everything to be expected
She kept to the habit of retiring early at
night. Accidents seem to choose those who are tired and not thinking
sharp thoughts through a sleepy haze. This was no problem, since the
quietness and isolation of the place gave them no extra stimulus as to
excitement. The nights were quiet with only cricket or an occasional howl
from a distant coyote to break the silence.
The young woman was not totally unaware of
the danger of her situation, and she had been a little uneasy as to the
possibilities of what could happen during a pregnancy.
The aging old rancher was sitting on the
rock bannister of the porch. August heat had brought her out where the
breezes off the prairie gave them a break from it. He had a gentle way
about him which reminded her of her own father, too, a product of this
country. They visited about everything and nothing while they
enjoyed each other's company.
"Mr. Fulsom," she began,
"you know, I've been thinking a little about my time as it is just
another couple of weeks away."
"I know," the elderly
gentleman looked at her with a loving concern showing in his face. "I
have had this on my mind too. This is what I want you to do. If something
should happen you need help, being as you don't have a telephone, if
something should happen, I want you to promise me you will signal
"But how," she was
As if to let her know he knew what she was
thinking, he said, "I want you to hang out a bright red rag on this
wire I am going to put up here. I will keep a check on the place. I can
see up here easily from my place. If I see that rag, I will be with you in
just a little bit."
There was never a need to summon the caring
old gentleman. When her time came it was during the night and they made
almost a leisurely drive to the hospital.
Sometimes, over the years, she would
remember the old gentleman, when for such a short time of her life she had
been gifted with a happening to help her walk back over a bridge to
another time. A time when a neighbor knew her problems, but even
more a time when they could solve a very real possibility of a life
threatening situation. If it was the knowledge of his stable protection to
give her security and calm, to enable having fear lifted from her;
or, whether it was his teaching her about taking responsibility before
hand for safety; she would not ever know the answer. All she would
remember was his wrinkled brow and caring eyes as he told her, "Just
hang out a bright red rag."