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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Maalox Moment

By Jackie Harrison

Like most newly-wed, medical student families, our money was scarce. The only home we could afford was an austere apartment in a former Army barrack. Every sound penetrated the paper-thin walls. The medical families living there called the place Mudville, an appropriate name for the muddy road and barren yards.

When my husband graduated from medical school and began his internship, we moved to a duplex apartment at Emory University. It was unfurnished so we purchased used furniture for the absolute necessities.

There was no furniture in the living room. One evening we spotted a sofa left for trash beside a fraternity house. We took it home, placing bricks under the spots where legs once fitted, and covered it with my homemade slipcover to hide the bricks.

Our basic income consisted of my salary and a meager salary for Will. (If he had been single, he could have had free meals and lodging.) Will often sold his blood for extra money. He also brought home a formaldehyde leg and knee joint that he dissected on the front porch to make a few more dollars.

At 6:00AM each day before my work as an operating room supervisor, I packed up our daughter, Josie, and her supplies and took her to a preacher's wife.

Our lives were very simple. Josie and I took our daily afternoon trips to the railroad track near the house. Josie loved to wave to the "choo choo" man standing on the red caboose. He always waved back.

We marched around the house banging pots with spoons and singing the letters M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E each day during the Mickey Mouse Club show on TV.

There were a few occasions when our simple lives were shaken like the time I found Josie in her backyard sandbox a few feet from a copperhead snake poised to strike.

During my husband's final year of residency, he was hired as the chief surgical resident at a teaching hospital. It was late opening so the hospital made arrangements for him to practice surgery in Jacksonville, Florida. We rented a furnished, two-story house in the historical district.

When the teaching hospital opened, all the apartments and houses in this town were rented forcing us to find a place outside of town.

Will, Josie and I settled in an old farmhouse with no neighbors for a mile in any direction. A skeleton key could open all the doors to the house. The only telephone we had was a party-line phone, which was always busy.

The screened-in back porch was filled with spider webs and big black spiders with red bellies. A prison camp, where prisoners were reported to escape periodically, was not far away. If a car came down the road, I didn't know whether to run out with open arms and greet the folks or run with Josie and hide.

It was here that I mastered the use of an inherited 12-gauge shotgun. (This skill came in handy a few years later at Rotary-sponsored turkey shoots when the men, especially those slightly intoxicated, wanted "that woman" to shoot for them.)

We finally settled permanently in Florida and made a ridiculous offer for a house on the river. The owners accepted it. I had hope now for a quiet, uneventful life. However, this hope was soon to be shattered.

The lot for the house was 350 feet deep, about 200 feet deep by the river behind our house. We could not afford a sprinkler system. We joined several hoses together with a revolving sprinkler-head attached at the end to water the backyard.

When the hoses were not in use, they were stored, still connected, in the garage by my small, red convertible Fiat.

One day, I backed out of the garage and proceeded up the hill to the main street. As I drove down the street, people began to pass me and wave. I thought, "How friendly these people are!"

As I approached the bridge to go west, a fire truck appeared from behind with its lights flashing. I pulled over to let it go by but it didn't go by. Instead it stopped directly behind me.

A fireman came over to my car and said, "Lady, did you know you are dragging a 200 foot garden hose behind you? It is whipping from side to side over the street."

At least I didn't make the headlines in this small town and I wasn't fined. It was just a Maalox moment.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh my gosh...that was funny! It reminded me of the time the floor of my VW bug rusted out and the car battery had fallen through the hole and was being dragged down the street under the backseat. Thanks for the chuckle!

Ah, the trials of the young marrieds. A funny story about one of them. Thanks for a morning giggle.

Great narrative leading up to what I thought was going to be totally something else...especially when the firetruck became involved...great, great chuckle for the day...thanks...

The spiders didn't get you, the prisoners didn't harm you, but a silly hose was your undoing. Really a funny story.

Funny story. Nowadays it's RVs dragging their electric cords!

Great story, well told.

Oh Jackie, I just love your zany stories. Can you imagine what would have happened if you overtook a car ahead of you? Knowing your love of speed, I am glad that fire truck appeared just on time before that garden hose could ensnare others. Lucky you!

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