There have been times in my life when I have felt as if I was under attack by A formative foe known as Mother Nature. In the two years I lived in the woods on the Russian River, I woke every day to the splendor of Nature when I opened my door and was cordially greeted by her. I also was aware that in my wonder of my time living in this magnificent area of Thoreau-ean majesty, Nature was secretly plotting against me. There had been hints, broadcasting warnings, not to take things for granted, because with the serenity of the soul soothing scenery, there was A dark side to all this that comes to you when Nature attacks.
One such instance did not occur when I was in my sanctuary in my cabin in the woods, instead it happened while I was on the job one evening at R-House.
Since becoming A counselor, ohe of my duties was to transport the boys to local Alcohol Anonymous meetings in the local area in Santa Rosa. Once I got them there, I would sit and monitor behavior to make sure they conducted themselves in socially appropriate behavior. Since these meetings had A diverse group of adults with A long history of alcohol abuse, the boys were usually too intimidated by the attendees to misbehave. The end result, as far as I was concerned, was I became quite familiar with the Twelve Step program of AA even though I did not drink.
I did smoke, however at this time, so I would step outside during the break, and join most of the other attendees. The only problem was the boys I accompanied were not allowed to smoke and therefore supervision became A problem and since most of the boys were smokers, they voiced their jealousy of my privilege. This made me feel guilty, but not enough to prevent me from joining attendees as long as there was another counselor with me. It was part of the deal of transporting the boys to the meeting, you had to have A counselor there to monitor them.
When I was able to go to the smoking area, I would listen to some of their stories these people had to tell. Most of their stories were filled with woe and grief and made me grateful for the blessings I was given, even if I was struggling between the pressure of working at R-House and attending classes at Santa Rosa Community College.
But I digress, since this is A story about when Nature attacked me directly. I received no warning, but the damage I incurred was enough to make me aware of how sudden this could happen and how unprepared I wss for the assault.
"Who is driving the van tonight?" The shift supervisor asked during dinner. I raised my hand and Rachel responded, "Good. You will have to go alone since we are short staffed, but we only have six boys going."
I nodded that I understood my mission meaning I would not be smoking at the break during the meeting and the boys I'd be taking were all top of the house which meant they had been in the program the longest. I knew them well and figured this would all be routine.
The six filed out the front door as I started the big white van. Pulling the van near the front door where they were waiting, I got out and opened the door so they could climb aboard.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I turned on the radio. In our best out of tune voices we sang along to the music.
Located in Rincon Valley, R-House was only about A five minute drive into the main part of Santa Rosa where the meeting place was. The conversation rising out from our awful warbling, centered around some of the events of the day ranging from the on-site school they all attended to the politics of the house and the parts and alliances they were all involved in. Since I was part of the community, I engaged in the discussion while keeping my eyes on the road.
As we came to the main hospital, I saw there was road construction. As this was late summer, there was all sorts of construction taking place on the city roads. One of the lanes was closed, blocked by barriers with yellow blinkers so drivers would see them in the dark. When I drove up to them, it was approaching twilight. The purpose, besides making sure you were warned about road construction, was to also let you know that you were supposed to reduce your speed. Being A conscious driver, I slowed the van down. I also had my left hand resting on the rearview mirror on the driver's door. I encourage you not to tattle on me since this is not textbook driving with both hands on the steering wheel.
This is the moment when Nature decided to attack me. As I carefully navigated through the construction zone, there was A savage bang. It was then followed by an excruciating pain of feeling like my arm bone was being brutally forced into my shoulder and my elbow was on fire. To my amazement the mirror where my hand was resting moments before, was gone, torn off as if Surgically removed.
Not knowing what to do next, I pulled the van to the side of the road. There was complete silence in the van. Getting out after putting it into park, I saw what had caused everything. Expecting to find I had accidentally hit one of the blinking barriers, instead I saw A deer, not much older than A yearling sitting in the road shaking his partially antlered head before coming to his feet and running into A copse of trees across the road from the hospital.
You have got to be kidding me.
Some young buck charged the van, taking off the mirror which now lay in the road and injuring my left arm.
"You're bleeding." One of the boys informed me.
I put my hand over the wound and felt the blood. It was bleeding pretty heavily. I figured we'd be late which was frowned upon during these AA meetings. So, I decided to bring my group back to the facility. I felt A tug at my stomach from my loss of blood, but I did manage to retrieve the broken mirror. Seven years of bad luck, but it seemed my bad luck started right away.
Rachel was surprised to see us return early, "Why are you back?"
I showed her my left elbow.
"Holy shit, you need to go to the hospital!" Her face turned white. I did not want to look, because the last time I got stitches, I did pass out. "Do you need A ride?"
"No, I think I can manage." I said walking out the door. I got in my car and drove back to the scene of the crime.
The admitting nurse took my information as I held an ice pack over the wound to slow the bleeding. She took me into one of the rooms, saying, "The doctor will see you shortly."
"Sounds great." I spoke to her shadow on the way out.
In my mind I went over the entire incident, because I knew they would have fill out A report. Accidents that involve injuries while driving A company vehicle would require documentation. My injured elbow was evidence that I did not run into the deer rather the beast charged the van. I could see him shake his head before running to shelter.
"What do we have here?" A long haired doctor with A beard and glasses walked into the room.
"I got hit by A deer." I stated.
"You mean you hit A deer?" He smiled.
"No, he charged the van I was driving." I repeated somewhat put off his assumption.
“Really.” He began to poke at my elbow.
“Yes really…ouch.” I jumped as he tapped the center of the wound.
“Hmm, looks like he got you with his antler.” He nodded. “I think a few stitches will be needed to close that up before you go home.”
I did not tell him that I would not be going home, but I did not feel as if he really needed to know.
“Where do you work?” He asked as he jabbed the needle in my arm.
“R-House.” I grunted in pain.
“Really? I treated a couple of kids there. This will numb you up before I get out my needle and thread.” He pulled the needle out. “I’m not a very good seamstress, but I should have it done as soon as that area is numb.”
He left me with a nurse to babysit me in case I developed any notions of escaping, but I was content with completing the treatment.
The nurse pulled out a drawer and began adjusting the instruments. When the doctor comes back, he picks up a needle and thread from the open drawer. He then walked over to me and jabbed a flap of skin and began to sew up the wound. I did not dare look since this would have made me pass out. I just can’t tolerate seeing this type of procedure. The last time I had stitches, I passed out and did not feel a thing.
Not looking was the key. I did not feel anything and it was over before I knew it.
"So, where were you attacked?" He asked as he sewed up my wound.
"Right out here, across the street." I answered.
"Really?" He continued sewing.
"Yes, I thought I had hit one of those barriers, but when I looked I saw the deer." I grimaced thinking I had felt something, but I was just being A coward. "He took off the mirror I had my hand resting on."
"Lucky that you didn't lose your fingers." He did not look up from his task.
"I guess you're right. There is always something to be grateful for, I suppose." I mused.
"Done here." He was putting A large bandage over the stitches.
"Are you going home?" He asked as he put some information on A piece of paper.
"No, I'm going back to R-House." I answered.
"Okay, here are some do's and don'ts." He handed the paper he had written on, "You are free to go. Be careful, Nature is waiting to get you again."
I felt A chill go down my spine. It was true, Nature could be A real bitch. Living in the woods, I had seen plenty of evidence of just how cruel Nature could be. I was just surprised Nature would boobey trap me in the middle of Santa Rosa, across from the hospital, but this was A warnung. I would heed it.
I drove back to the facility. The boys were preparing for lights out.
"How are you?" Rachel asked when I walked into the main house. I just lifted my elbow so she could see.
"I survived the trauma." I said as I went to check on the nighttime routine.
"Good." She nodded as I walked past.
"Hey there, Deerkiller." One of the boys greeted me after he left the bathroom with his teeth brushed and ready for bed.
"Are you okay?" One of the boys asked who had been in the van when the deer charged.
"I'm fine." I assured him.
"That was scary." He confessed.
"Yeah." I was finally able to admit and with that, I took A deep breath.
After all the boys were in bed after lights out, the night shift filtered in. I told the crew of three all about what happened.
"Holy shit, are you alright?" Kevin asked inspecting my elbow, the wound covered by the bandage.
"Yeah, I was lucky." I answered. I was lucky. Things could have gone much worse. The mirror could have still had my fingers wrapped around it or I could have lost control of the van. A dozen stitches was A small price to pay for the unprovoked attack by Mother Nature.
I got into my car, took A moment to reflect on my ordeal before my twenty mile journey to my cabin in the woods. I had the windows open, the satin night sky with A near full moon hung lazily up there, the perfect nightlight for the commute home. I heard crickets as I drove on the twisted ribbon known as River Road where the sequoia redwoods lined the horizon like shadowed Sentinels. River Road, true to its name, winds along the banks of the Russian River which I could hear, but could not see in the darkness. In the trickle of water over the rocks, I could hear Mother Nature speak to me in A private conversation.
"Sorry, but just keep in mind that I may be beautiful at times, I can bite you in the ass at other times."
This was A good object lesson, because in just two years I would be in Alaska where Mother Nature has domain. Every time I walked out my door, I would have to acknowledge her.
I walked into my cabin where I was greeted by Jordan. She had sensed something wasn't right, but we got on the couch and spent some quality time together as I listened to music. The music stopped playing. I fell asleep with her still next to me as my music was replaced by listening to the music of the night.
I am seeing the state I used to call home become devastated with rain and flooding. The day I arrived at my new station, Beale, AFB, CA, February 12, 1985, the levee to the Feather River gave way to the water flooding Linda and Yuba City small communities out the front gate. Driving on Highway 5, I felt like Moses with water on both sides of the highway.
We did not have cell phones back then or I would have taken a picture to show this troubling drive.
Once we got to base, the streets of Linda were finally being cleared and people were returning home from temporary (gym) shelters on Beale. The brand new mall was ruined. Brand new cars on display before the levee broke had been pushed against the glass entrance doors. The cars were a total loss and it took nearly three years to reopen the mall, but far fewer vendors decided to call the mall their home.
After leaving the Air Force for civilian life in the woods near Guerneville, I moved into a cabin just as the winter rains began in the redwoods. Driving to the coast, I passed a Quonset hut that was a movie theater. It was quaint and cute and reminded me of seeing movies in similar surroundings.
The rain continued to fall. The water in the Russian River began to rise. I was to learn this was expected every other winter. The rain fell and the water breeched the banks flooding the low-lying areas near the river. A trailers park in Guerneville had to be moved to higher ground along the sides of River Road.
But the crème de la crème was driving by that Quonset hut totally flooded with muddy river water. On the marquee the title of the next feature was proudly displayed, "A River Runs Through It."
God, I wish I had a cell phone at the time.
Now, my prayers are once again with this community as it struggles through the 2023 flooding.