In Answer to the Call
Is there anything more annoying than being awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call? Is it worse if it’s a wrong number? Do you end up staring at the ceiling, your anger just under the surface, simmering at the injustice of it all? What if you actually gave your phone number out to everyone, and said, “Listen, if you get into a jam tonight, and need a hand, just call me...?”
That is exactly what volunteer fire department personnel do. That night, back in 1985, when I called 9-1-1, because my chimney pipe was shooting flames twenty feet into the air, and Annie was carrying one infant, one toddler, and literally dragging a sleepy third toddler out the back door, I raged internally at my ridiculous lack of experience, which could result in such a terrifying situation.
On December 13, 1991, when I turned my anterior cruciate ligament into spaghetti, and was lying out on the blacktop, I heard that siren go off, that used to be attached to the Firehall, and wondered idly who it was for. When those EMT’s showed up, and whisked me, suffering from shock, down to Howard, for a preliminary appointment, with the venerable Dr. William Bowen, I was extremely grateful. My original suggestion had been for Annie to bring the Subaru around to the blacktop, since it was after school, and just drive me down to Emergency.
When my esteemed father, Robert, suffered a fatal heart attack, on October 16, 1996, in the wee hours of the early morning, it was a crew of Laytonville’s finest, who met Pauline at the bottom of Bell Springs Road, to take what measures could be done, while rushing him down to the hospital. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
Or do they? What if no one volunteered to volunteer for this critical element of our very rural population? We take it for granted, that when sirens are going off in our minds, as we watch some personal catastrophe, involving loved ones and/or property, that someone will do something, anything, to help ensure damage control. However, there have to be people filling those boots, men and women, who leave jobs and families during the day, and warm beds at night, to venture out, in answer to the call.
There have to be people, for whom a phone call in the night, means something more than inconvenience and missed sleep. These phone calls mean someone is in pain, a carload of people has been involved in a wreck, or an elder on a ridge has a medical emergency. Everyone knows someone, who has needed help, and gotten it. All I want to do is acknowledge that the help we have received, the assistance that I and mine have received, has come from folks who didn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night, to hook a brother up with a helping hand.
So I want to give a hand, a round of applause to people, who do something for which I have a lot of admiration and respect. Besides being willing to do the task in the first place, these men and women, also have to be prepared to handle the emergencies that they encounter. That means enrolling in classes at local colleges, or volunteering in local arenas, in order to gain the required experience, and all so that they can be awakened in the middle of the night, to go out into the icy night, because Mark let the creosote build up, on the inside of his stove pipe.
Heavens to Murgatroyd! Writing a few words, does not balance the scale, but it does give me the opportunity to say that I can’t do it, but I’m awfully grateful that you folks can, and do. It is a key component to existence in a paradise on Earth. But even Paradise has pitfalls, so you need a Volunteer Fire Department. Without you, we’d be up Paradise without a paddle, subject to the whims of fate. With you, there’s someone on the other end of the phone, when my heart is pounding and my face is flushed with adrenaline, and I’m having trouble breathing, because there’s a lump in my throat, threatening to cause some longterm damage.
You answer the call, you take up the challenge, and I thank you.