March 13, 2013

Crab-Apples and the Cry for Help

Do you ever have those memories that come back at random times? Those experiences that at the time you said to yourself, or even to others, that you would “never forget that,” and then over the years it is shoved back onto one of the cobweb filled shelves of our minds?  And BAM! It is there, wanting to be remembered, no warning, no reason, just there.

It happens to me all the time.

Call it day dreaming if you want…a smell, a photo, or an object can trigger the memory. Sometimes it is not appropriate for the situation—for example when a funny story comes to mind during a boring business meeting and I start to snicker. The person next to me will ask me what is funny because they too want a reprieve from the monotony…Or when I am thinking to myself and say out loud something like, “that was dumb...” Lady will enquire about what seemed to her to be a random comment and I will try to share with her the memory and then explain how my thoughts had bounced from one topic to another and to finally arrive at the memory.

Yesterday I had one of those memories. I am not sure what triggered it, but I thought I could share. (so if it seems kind of random, you now know what Lady goes through daily! HAHA)

When we were young we were raised to work. Growing up on a farm there really was no other option. Out unspoken motto was “Work hard. THEN play hard.” One year, when I was about 11 years old and my younger brother Trevor would have been 8, he decided that he wanted to do the “All-American thing” and get a paper route. Of course being as young as he was the paper route became a family affair. For almost ten years we delivered papers to our community. At one point we covered 3/4ths of our town.

Sometimes Madre would drive us in the car, especially during the winter, and we would jump in and out of the back seats with the papers. As we grew older, Trevor and I decided we wanted to use our go-cart to deliver the papers. Since it is dark still when we delivered, we fastened two flashlights onto the front of the go cart with bailing wire and off we went. (If you have ever heard a go-cart, I am sure that the entire town was dismayed that we were out at 0600 hours rattling their windows with a muffler-less motor. But nobody complained—haha, at least to us directly)

One crisp Fall morning Trevor and I were out, about half way done with our route. I had jumped out with a handful of papers and ran down the street; Trevor drove down a block and was waiting for me there. As I ran around the corner, the noise of the go-cart faded and I could hear a screeching sound. At first I ignored it. There are all kinds of noises in the dark of the early morning. I heard it again and thought it was a cat. But when I heard it the third time, more strenuous and fretful, I decided to look.

The sound was coming from an old house across the street. This old house has not changed for years—even now—it has been surrounded by a store, a chapel and parking lots for the school football field. Dying ivy wound its way up the weather beaten walls. In the dark, tall gnarled trees cast menacing shadows everywhere. I ran across the parking lot towards the house. Adrenaline peaked as I neared and the noise became more apparent. I slowed in apprehension, and then stopped completely when something dark was hurled away from the house into the parking lot.
I stood breathing, short adrenaline infused breaths willing Trevor to come back. I almost turned back when I heard the sound again, this time there was no mistaking it, the sound was a piteously hoarse cry, “Help!” It was a PERSON!
I did a Google search and randomly found a photo of the house! It is still there today.

The realization spurred me to action. I ran around the house, ducking branches and found an elderly lady lying awkwardly in the grass. Just as I round the last tree, she yelled again and tried to throw again. From her position, it did not go very far. I realized it was a crab-apple as it bounced a few feet away. She was trying to get an apple to the catch the attention of an early morning shopper at the grocery store fifty yards away. The apple stopped bouncing a few feet from where she laid.
“Hello?” I carefully said. She gasped and startled, the noise was a mix of relief and fear. Only one distant light reflected on both our faces. Now I think about it, she may have thought my floating, glowing head was a ghost to come take her Home.
“Are you, alright?” I continued to talk and walked closer to her. She explained that she had fallen and could not get up. She had come out to change the water in her house. “Ok, we will help you, it will be alright.” I knew from having a mother as an EMT that the first thing you do is calm and reassure—then silently assess the situation. I prayed Trevor would notice I had gone and come find me.

I looked up at the dark, haunting house, “someone lives in there?” I had no idea. “Scary place to live…” again, not something that I voiced to her. She was dressed in her night coat, complete with bright retro flowers. She wanted me to try and help her up. Her leg was twisted in the wrong direction and I knew moving her may not be a good idea (again an EMT mother) I tried to make small talk and told her that once Trevor came we would see if she could stand.

Sure enough a few minutes later I heard the go-cart getting close. To this day I never asked Trevor how he knew where I was. When he got there, he silently looked at us and knew better than ask questions. “She wants to see if she can stand, come help me,” I commanded him.

We both took her by the shoulders and began to lift; she let out a wild shriek of pain that jarred me to the core. I feared we had mad her worse. “Let’s put her down,” I said, trying to keep the fear out of my voice. Trevor, of course, did not need to be told twice…it must have scared him too.

We set a plan: I went into the dark haunted house to call 911 while Trevor bravely cradled the old lady’s head in the dark yard. (What a cool kid, huh?)

I half ran, half cautiously approached the wide front porch the creaked angrily under my weight. The door was open and a little dog started to bark. “Great, a stupid dog to deal with,” the last thing I wanted was to get bitten. When I entered, the dog must have sensed the urgency and just followed me like a lost child as I looked around the dark room full of musty furniture for the phone.

I found it on the wall of the mustard yellow kitchen. I called 911 and had a call that must have seemed like a prank to the operator (minus the early hour, who does a prank at SIX A.M.?!). It went something like this:

         “911 how may I help you?”
         “There is an old Lady that has fallen in her yard, she needs help.”
         “Can I have your name?”
         “OK, Dustin, is the lady where you can see her?”
         “No, she is in the yard.” And I am in the house, DUH! Who hires these people anyway?
         “At 0600?”
         “Yes,” I answered, probably more curt than I meant it, but I was getting frustrated that they just did not send an ambulance and let me get out of the dark claustrophobic house.
         “Why was she out there? What is her name?”
         “I have no idea why she is out here and what her name is. I just found her this morning.” This is getting ridiculous.
        “OK, where are you?” I can still hear the disbelief in her voice and I wonder why she has not used the fancy tracking device they show in the movies to find me already.
       “I am across from the football field in the old scary house behind the church. I have no idea what her name is, or why she was out this early. I was delivering papers and heard her yelling for help. Can you just send an ambulance?”

After being reassured help was coming, I hung up and called Grandma Ginger, who lived a few blocks away to get this Lady’s neighbors to help.

Trevor and I sat with the Lady as the sunrise showed over the peaks of the mountains until the EMT’s came. Once it looked like we were no longer needed, we slipped through the trees and took our go-cart to finish the paper route. I never drive past that house, or see crab-apples that I don’t think of that morning.

I often ponder the ‘moral of the story’, for example, what if there was too much worldly noise (go-cart) and I never heard her cry for help? What if I had just ignored it? What if I had been too scared to cross my comfort zone to see who was calling out? How did Trevor know where to find me? What would have happened to her if we had not taken the go-cart that day? Or worse, if we had not helped her, how long would she have been there? The list of questions and life lessons can stream on forever.

I am just thankful that we had heard the cry for help.

Now, as I typed this memory a flood of other memories started to connect (Lady asked me what I was thinking so hard about). One of them was when Kell hit a black cow as we were driving at night and moments after the wreck, while he was making sure everyone was alright, I jumped out of the car and burst uninvited into one of the nearby farmer’s homes to call 911. I was lucky that night on two accounts: 1-they leave their doors unlocked. 2-(and maybe more serious) Is that when he showed up in the kitchen to see what the noise was in his home, he did not have his gun with him! But that is another story, for another day.


  1. I share the same memories of that old is pretty scary looking, and I always hated trying to step around all the squished crab apples on the sidewalk when I'd walk home from school, and that dog was the yappiest thing ever!! Thanks for stirring up some of my own memories!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. Shad was in the same class as her twin boys, was missionary companions , roommates...and he was even Shad's Best Man. She had us in for dinner, and we had her come to dinner several times. What an awesome story!

  3. That house was always so scary, lol!