Fortunately, the reason was that I’d just run uphill from a trail where a rider had fallen off his horse and was in bad shape. I didn’t want the 911 operator to think that this was some sort of heavy breathing crank call. So Laurel did the talking and I gasped out the details.
“Guy. Fell off horse. Woman is with him. Can’t move. Lots of pain. Conscious. Looks to be in his 60s.”
This morning I’d heard yelling through an open window. At first I figured it was kids playing on the trail easement that runs along the lower part of our ten acres. But the more I listened, the less the sounds appeared to be playful. Painful was more like it.
I decided to walk down to the trail and see what was going on. First I saw two horses tied to a fence. Then I came upon a man lying on his side, moaning. It was Raul, a neighbor. Debi was kneeling beside him. Their young chocolate Lab was licking Raul’s face.
Debi asked Raul if he could stand up. “I can’t even move,” he said. “It hurts too much.” I said that it probably would be best if he didn’t move. I offered to call 911. There wasn’t much hesitation on Debi’s part. “OK, go ahead.”
That led to my dash back to the house. Along the way I thought that it’d be weird if I had a heart attack while running to call 911, because I hadn’t warmed up and my heart was pounding.
After handling the phoning, Laurel took a blanket and pillow down to Raul and Debi. I waited for the ambulance. Since we live six miles from the Salem city limits, and about the same distance from Jefferson, I figured it’d be a while.
But a pre-first responder drove up in just a few minutes. A Jefferson Fire Department volunteer, I assumed. He was walkie-talkie equipped. I took him down to the trail, where he advised the ambulance folks about what they’d find after they arrived.
I walked back to the house to meet the ambulance. Fast, but not running. Didn’t want to stretch my luck on the heart attack front. I’d started the timer on my watch after the first guy arrived. Ten minutes later the ambulance pulled up. Pretty darn good for the country.
I took them down to the accident scene. Then went back to the house to meet a second ambulance that was bringing a different stretcher. Raul had been given morphine. Yet every time someone touched his back, he told them “That hurts. Stop it.”
Raul had been a cop for over twenty years. He was no weenie. I hoped that carrying him out on the stretcher wasn’t going to be too painful. Laurel and I tried to figure out the best way of getting Raul to the ambulance.
Our trail was narrow, steep, and crossed the creek over some narrow boards. Driving around Spring Lake risked getting the ambulance stuck. Finally it dawned on us that carrying Raul further down the riding trail to a neighbor’s house would be best, if they were home and could open their gate.
They were. We aren’t on the closest terms with these neighbors—a dispute over whether coyotes should be killed created some bad blood (we said “no,” they said “yes”)—but when I hopped their fence and told them what had happened, we were on the same page.
Crises bring people together. We forget our differences when life and limb (or a back) is on the line. It’s too bad we can’t always focus more on our commonalities and less on what divides us. Today, helping an injured rider brought us together.
Living out in the boonies like we do, I’d wondered what level of competence would turn up if we needed emergency medical assistance ourselves. I’m not going to worry anymore. And the next time I send in a check to the Marion County Tax Assessor, I’m going to feel that I’m getting darn good value for the relative pittance that goes to the Jefferson Fire District.
Recently they tried to pass a bond levy that would fund some needed improvements. If I recall correctly, it failed. I only wish those who voted “no” had been able to watch their tax dollars in action like I was able to today. Next time, Jefferson area voters, make that a “yes.”