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The Dust Cloud

In old western movies if you saw a cloud of dust on the horizon you knew it was one of two things. Making all of that dust was either a troop of cavalry coming to rescue the settlers under attack by evil villains, or a pack of evil villains coming to attack. Either way, it was a bunch of people riding horses. And headed in your direction quickly.

That was old westerns. In my back yard a cloud of dust means my dog is playing fetch. She’s not like that kid Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons who travels around inside his own personal dust cloud, created by his less than civilized personal hygiene habits. She stays pretty clean, although she does shed a lot of hair. All the time and everywhere she goes. No, the dust cloud is exactly that- a cloud of dust created by her rambunctious play.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, this year has been the hottest and driest on record where I live. It’s five days before Thanksgiving and for the first time since May the temperature has dropped below 80 degrees. And no, I don’t live in Hawaii, or California, or Florida. And with all that heat, we’ve also been the fortunate recipients of a fifteen inch rainfall deficit. The water level in the local lakes is down by several feet and the green green grass of home looks more like tumbleweed blowing across the desert.

Back to the dog. She likes to exercise, as any puppy would. Since she is a German Sheppard, she likes to play a lot, and strenuously. Fetch is good. I find a small log in the woods, something maybe eighteen inches long and three or four inches in diameter, and I throw it as hard as I can. As soon as she sees me starting to wind up she takes off at full sprint speed. I think she could take a cheetah in a hundred yard dash.

Since I broke my shoulder a couple of years ago my throwing arm isn’t like it was when I pitched for the sandlot sluggers. The dog is well past where the stick will land by the time it sails through the air. But she happily comes back for it, grabs it with her teeth and brings it back for another toss. I prefer a smaller tree branch to the tree trunks she likes so sometimes we compromise. She will bring a six foot long branch to me which is only two inches across. The damn things are so heavy and cumbersome I can barely throw them but she’s got the thing in her mouth running around with two inches on one side and the rest unbalanced, but firmly held.

Another game she likes to play is biting at my hands and feet. Sometimes it hurts so I’m glad she is just playing. She could probably bite either of my appendages off quite easily. But ten or fifteen tosses of the stick usually satisfies her.

And the dust cloud? As she thunders across the dry grass in the yard she will slam on her brakes when she knows it’s time to catch or pick up the falling stick. She slides across the yard and tears up the grass and stirs up the dust. There are now places in the yard where the loose and bare soil is about three inches deep. When she hits that patch of dirt at full speed and puts on the brakes, a huge cloud of dust erupts. I’m sure the neighbors see the cloud rising above the fence and think I’m using a bulldozer to dig a hole to the center of the Earth.

Oddly enough, having her chase the stick also allows me to give the arid lawn some water. She gets so excited chasing that stupid stick that starts to foam at the mouth. The slobber gets all over the stick, which then gets covered with dust that turns to mud. Globs of slob fly out of her mouth as she runs. Her fur gets covered with the stuff, as does the ground. And the stick. Sometimes that stick is so slobbery that when I throw it I loose my grip and it slips out of my hands. Bad throw daddy she barks. And brings it again.

The cloud of dust makes me laugh. She is silly. And loyal. And playful. But we really do need some rain.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com


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The Fall

Fall, used as a verb, doesn’t usually have a good connotation.  Take the Fall of the Roman Empire.  Pretty big deal in history.  Maybe if you were a Roman slave you thought that was a pretty good event, but we don’t generally associate the beginning of the Dark Ages with a high point in human history. 

Falling usually brings to mind something like an uncontrolled event.  For the Romans it was a series of events they couldn’t stop.  It’s not like a jump, or a hop.  Those things are deliberate, mostly controlled.  A change in elevation or location.   A fall is a change in location and elevation, but without the control.

I remember moving my foot down, through the air, thinking that I had it lined up with it’s next location.  Thinking I had it made, I let go.  Damn, my foot was out of place and I missed the target.  The next landing point was twelve feet down.  And yes, it was uncontrolled. 

The last thing I saw was my feet, now above my head.  I was falling, headfirst, down toward the ground below.  That was the last thing I saw, but I sure did have a lot of thoughts.  I guess I knew I wasn’t going to die, or the rumor is not true, because my life didn’t flash before my eyes.  I kept thinking, how will I land, what’s going to hit, how much will it hurt?  What will the damage be, and, yes, will I die?  All that in a matter of maybe two seconds.

All my questions were soon answered.  I landed on the back of my shoulder.  As I hit, I told myself, OK, the head will be next, and sure enough, my head thumped into the ground.  I rolled over and was lying on the ground.  Not dead.  A good start.  But man, oh man, did it hurt!  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it HURT.  Didn’t take long to figure out it was my shoulder.  It hurt, I couldn’t breathe.  Couldn’t move.  I hollered for help, knowing no one inside the house could hear.

I must have somehow hit my phone along the way, and I heard it asking me if I wanted something.  It was in my right pocket.  My right arm wouldn’t, and couldn’t move.  My fingers were twitching, but the arm was useless.  I somehow got the phone out of the pocket with my left hand.  It was new and I wasn’t real familiar with its operation.  I kept yelling at it to call for help.  Silence.  Now I knew I was going to die a lonely death lying in my yard.

Finally I got a grip and called the house.  Hello?  Oh, hi, I fell down and I think I broke my shoulder.  WHATTTTT????  Panic.   I had to remain calm.  Get me up.  I can walk.  Let’s go to the emergency room.  It hurts.

Three hours later, after x-rays on head, shoulder, neck and elbow, and cat scans on all of the above, they told me that my scapula was broken.  Not cracked, broken in two.  Quick anatomy lesson – scapula is the shoulder blade.  A big bone that works a lot of body parts.  They told me that it’s the hardest bone in the body to break.  Usually associated with motorcycle crashes.  Never do anything small I say.

They gave me delauded to chill me out a little.  At one point I wanted to pound the ER nurse who kept moving my arm around.  I would never, but I felt like it.  They put on a neck brace and arm sling and let me lay around for a while for the drugs to kick in.  A second dose.  Even the strongest painkillers don’t really kill the pain.  You just don’t care about it as much.

Final tally of the damage?  Broken scapula.  Couple days off from work.  Arm splint six weeks, maybe more.  Seven thousand dollar emergency room bill.  As my daughter would say, life experience.  Not all experiences are good.  This is certainly one I will never forget!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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