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Sweeter Than Elderberry Wine
The Doctor Was Riding Double With Him


“It’s Jim. He’s dead.” John came to the point quickly as he spoke to his wife.

“Oh no! I can’t believe it. What on earth happened? An accident?” Zona was shocked.

“I’m not sure. They said he went to sleep and fell off his wagon and the wheel ran over him.” It didn’t seem real to John, either.

“His wife? She’s so sick, John. I don’t think she’s going to make it. She needs a doctor.” Zona felt frightened and unsure of what to do.

“I’ll just grab me a cup of coffee, and I will turn right around and head back to town.” John made a decision in an instant.

The sounds of the woman’s breathing filled the house. Zona had been up practically all night trying to keep her comfortable. She took soft rags, heated them on the stove and put them on the woman’s chest when she complained she was so cold. A kettle for moisture was on the stove. When the woman’s temperature shot up, Zona put cool wet rags on her forehead, arms and legs to bring it down. Occasionally the mother asked for her child. Another time she wanted to see her husband.

John wasn’t gone that long when he came tearing in on his horse at breakneck speed. The doctor was riding double with him and hanging on for dear life. They had not even taken time to harness and hook up the doctor’s horse to his buggy.

“How’s she doin’?” John asked as he came through the door with the doctor.

“Not good, John. Not good.” Zona had a strained, worried look about her.

The doctor took one look at the woman and said, “Pneumonia.”

“Is it that bad?” Zona asked.

“It is bad.” He told her, “if she has any relatives you had better see if they can get in touch with them.”

“She doesn’t. She’s from Kansas and I’m not even sure where in Kansas. Her husband was killed last night. What are we going to do about this poor baby?” Zona was aware of the ominous reality of what was happening. She was now sitting up, dozing beside the woman’s bed, and when she woke from her light sleep intuition made her feel the stillness of the house rather than hear it, and she knew.

“Doctor?” She softly spoke to the man across from her.

“It’s over for the poor girl.” He shook his head.

Zona got up and wanted to walk, to run, anything to get away. Her little daughter was standing beside her. She knew the girl was a tender-hearted little person who was wise beyond her years.

“Mommy!” The little girl wept.

Zona reached over to her, held the child to her breast and they wept together. The high pitched, thin wail of the baby pulled her away from its mother’s death and back to reality.

‘The doctor was another arrangement the federal government had made for the 10,000 people who had settled in this town of Guthrie, Oklahoma which had been established overnight by the land run. It was this man, the doctor’s, destiny to tend to the traumas and tragedies of these who were settlers. And this he did, often in a solitary way. Softly he closed the door of John and Zona’s home. He knew his work was finished here and others in town would surely be needing him.

After the doctor left Zona had to get out of the house.

She stepped into the wintry blast. Everywhere was nothing but the evidence of winter. Trees along the creek were bare and some even creaked as the wind tugged at heavy trunks and lighter branches. The woman was in a kind of shock and now she screamed aloud but no one heard her over the moaning of the wind and she knew they wouldn’t.

“I best get inside, or I’ll be in the same situation as that poor woman in there,” Zona spoke aloud to no one.


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