An ox is a creature with moxie. The ability of an ox to face difficulty with spirit and courage is underrated. We usually see an ox as a stupid animal to accomplish tasks of burdens for the human race. Society had placed a moniker of ox to Jed Wilson. Jed was a human ox.
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Jed Wilson was a large man with big hands, big feet and boyish looks. Through High School he had been the defensive lineman protecting the line of skirmish and the offensive tackle protecting the quarterback. Jed had received a scholarship to a state college, but after a year of struggle with his studies, he returned home to his family’s farm.
Jed was not a stupid man but society had placed him in a category; learning disabled. Jed had a challenge with written words but his common sense and universal understanding was mature and wise. His parents Nancy and Bill Wilson worried about Jed’s position, but they enjoyed his help and work on the family farm.
His full name was Jedediah Jayson Wilson. Jedediah meant friend of God and Jayson meant Healer. His mother and father may have had great hope and promise for their new born son. Maybe they had thought that he would be a son of deep soul and a benefit of mankind. Nancy and Bill though had accepted the simple character of their son. Jed though had doubts he warranted such a special name they had chosen so carefully.
Jedediah Jayson Wilson was about to prove that he was indeed a friend of God and a Healer. Jedediah was an old soul, but God had not put his talents to use yet. He waited for his calling slipping between impatience and peace as the years of solitude on the farm passed for Jedediah Jayson’s time to fulfill his purpose in God’s plan.
I woke to the sounds and smells of my mother cooking breakfast. The sun was shining into my eyes through the window of my room. The room still sports my football awards and the letter of scholarship my mother had framed with so much pride. The letter and awards now had a different meaning to me. They were a constant reminder of the promise and direction of my life 12 years earlier and the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams and a weak mind.
My parents and I knew I was not a great scholar that I would never be a Rhodes Scholar or be accepted at an Ivey League School. My inhibited ability to learn and memorize facts overshadowed my ability to look at things with a philosophical perspective. I did not have the ability to eloquently put my thoughts to paper and share them in an organized or easily understood written format.
I had given my athletic scholarship my best effort, but my weaknesses had placed a road block in my path that I could not get around. Twelve years ago I could have chosen to leave school and not return to my hometown or my parent’s farm. My heart told me to come home first. I returned to my parent’s and took a life a solitude only going to town for church activities and occasional supplies with my family. I allowed myself to take the position of an ox in our small town and the family farm.
I was content. I did not want for anything and I felt this was my place in life. I did not feel unfulfilled or cast aside. I did not feel shame. I just took my place in society and rode the life I had been given. This morning though as I woke up to the reminders of what was not meant to be a feeling of failure and desire filled me. Confusing my mind with such a strange mixture of emotion, my mother called that breakfast was ready and I a thirty-year-old man responded as I did every morning.
I ducked my head to get through my bedroom door and continued to hunch as I passed through the hallway and down the stairs to my parent’s kitchen.
My mothers attention is drawn from stirring eggs in the cast iron skillet, the stairs creaked in protest at her oldest sons massive size as he made his way into the kitchen. My father is sitting at the head of the table ignoring my entrance. I pause as I reach the kitchen doorway. I am standing here looking at my mother, my face in a slant as though his neck is broken. This is my routine every morning. I take my place at the table just left of my father.
My father is not a giant of a man. I had been born at home so there was no possibility of a hospital mix up. I was just a big man. I am not disappointed that I am thirty and still at home. I have been here to save the farm and family in times of turmoil and struggle. My younger brother had gone to college done well and moved on to his own family in the distant city. My little sister the middle child had patiently waited for her younger brother to get established in the city and then left to live with him and make her own way. Carrie was the wife of a wealthy man and was raising her family in the city but with the same moral and religious back ground she had been taught on the farm.
My mother had hoped that all my children would stay here in our small town, but their individual hopes and dreams had taken directions of their own. I am thirty and alone although my presence is a comfort to my parents. I have not looked for a mate. Twelve years have gone by since he returned quietly from college. Twelve years of quiet patient plodding as life has loped by.
Mother takes the eggs off the stove and places them before my father and me. My mother then takes her place to the right of my father. She takes my fathers right hand in her left and I place my fathers’ left hand. I then reach my left hand across the table to take my mothers’ right hand. We pray in a united circle of family of love.
I raise my head from our prayer and release the hand’s of my parents. The kitchen window alerts me of a fast approaching storm. Half of the picture framed by the window is full of light sunshine bathing it in golden rays. The other half of this picture is dark. The clouds are encroaching and angry. To me it is a scene of good versus evil.
I return to my breakfast and make my mental list of things to be done for today. I then realize the magnitude of the window scene. A roar angry and mean in sound fills our ears. I shout at my parents through the deafening roar, “Cellar now, let’s go.” We run out the back of the house and turn directly to our right to the storm cellar hidden underneath our house. I usher my parents into the cellar and they huddle deep in the protective shadows of the cellar. I stay near the storm cellar door listening watching waiting. I want to make certain the door holds so I hold it closed. My diligence is rewarded as the storm passes and we are safe.
I open the doors of the cellar and a quick inventory tells me the tornado missed our farm. Relief fills me followed by panic. The tornado was headed directly for town. I turn and help my folks from the cellar. My father and I lock eyes. I do not have time to analyze it now, but something passes between us. He nods his head and I go to our old truck and head for town.
I push the old engine and transmission to the edge of self destruction. I bounce about ceiling to bench seat. From the outside looking in it probably looks like an animal is caught inside feverishly banging its head against the roof of the truck in an attempt to get out. I am following the angry storm with my eye. My minds eye envisions the destruction that may have been left by the tornado.
The drive to the main road is complete and I fish tail the truck onto the pavement towards town. I am still following the storm as close as I dare. Hale and rain is battering the truck. I am barely an eighth of a mile up the road and the destruction is everywhere. Our cows that were on the pasture are moving around dazed some lie dead. The neighbors horse hobble feebly among the dead and living cows. An apparent survivor of the ordeal of being picked up by the tornado and deposited among the cows, I continue pushing the truck to its limit.
I am only three fourths of a mile from town. My drive into the path of destruction seems to take forever. I am forced to dodge downed trees and power lines. I observe that the town has been cut from all electricity and telephone communication. It is possible that the lack of electricity is a good thing the risk of electrocution removed.
I finally enter my home town. My fears are confirmed my home town resembles a box of tooth picks dumped and scatter haphazardly. None of the buildings had survived. The small town consisting of a bank, gas station, church and a diner was now in shambles. I stepped out of my pickup and listened. My town was quiet and then the chorus of survivors began.
The storm had developed so suddenly. The tornado warning system had not been activated and the town was hit hard. The usual morning crowd had filled Mazzie’s Diner. The parking lot had the regular patrons cars piled flipped and setting everywhere. It resembled a stack of hot wheels a child had abandoned. A few of the men moved debris from around them and stood up. Jed gathered the men as a duck gathers ducklings. Helping each one reorient themselves with what had happened.
The church looked like a pile of discarded lumber. These clapboard buildings were old and did not withstand a tornado. The gas station was still standing but the attendant was peeking out of the brick building like a little boy playing hide-n-seek. Wanting to know what was going on afraid of the consequences. There was no sign of life at the bank either. I could see the safe sitting in the back of the building looking naked.
I began to organize the survivors and begin the rescue of those still trapped. I sent Sam to check on the minister. Tom Toler our minister was retiring and the new minister and his family had planned to be here with in the next few days. What a mess to come into.
“Jeff go check out all of the gas mains, make sure everything is shut off.” I said. “Jerry go check on the gas station and help the Martin kid make sure none of those pumps are leaking.” I said. “Okay rule #1 until we know there are no gas fumes, no one gets to smoke, no lighters, no matches.” I ordered. The group looked to me a little bewildered and still lost trying to get a grip on it.
I had to get this group moving, precious time was being lost. The other survivors could perish if we did not move quickly and carefully enough. I looked over the pile of boards and listened for the sound of a survivors calls. Sam returned and stated, “The minister did not make it, Jed. Still in his pajama’s so I doubt anyone else would have been there.” I agree one less building to search. Jeff returned soon after “All mains are turned off and the town butane tank is still secure and I shut off the main valve on it too.” Jerry came back next with Joe Martin. Jerry said, “The gas station looks alright to us. I do not see or smell anything wrong.” Shut off gas main and emergency shut off to gas tanks just in case though.” Joe added.
I turned to my rescue squad. “Okay men, safe to smoke if you need to.” Those that smoked looked for cigarettes and lighters. Lighting old friends and breathing in the poison that their individual addiction loved. I then began to set the others to work. I started them on the edges, listening lifting carefully. Working in teams of two, the tedious task of the search began.
The two waitresses were found alive. Both looked beaten up and bruised. I directed them to go around get things needed for first aid and create a triage center. My parents arrived as I was getting the crew to begin another search. Doc arrived from his place as well. I updated him on what the girls were doing. He and my mother went help assemble the triage with the supplies he had brought with him.
My father I sent to the next town to see if they could send help. The closest town was in the same path that the tornado had taken. I assumed my father’s journey would have obstacles. I decided to send Jeff with him. I continued to help and direct the rescue.
Mary Smith was pulled from the destroyed diner next. Her little brother Ben and the baby Carol were next. Mary said, “My mom and dad are they still in there, Jed?” “Do you remember what happened?” I asked. “We were at the table waiting for our food. The whole room just exploded. Our table was in the middle of the room. I grabbed the baby and Ben just as the center beam in the diner came down.” She said through a trembling chin. Holding her sister close to her bosom and Ben hanging on a leg seeking comfort, poor Mary was being as strong as a 14 year old could be in such a terrible situation.
I had just turned from her, when shouts came from the rescuers. Mary’s father Jim was found hurt bad but alive. Doc came from the triage and guided his extrication his right leg was broken and his right shoulder was hyper-extended. He was conscience but barely coherent. The crew created a backboard out of the scraps around and lifted him gingerly from the destruction. His wife Marilyn was not so lucky they found her a few moments later. Her lifeless body was pulled out and laid to the side with a scrap of curtain covering her body.
My crew and I could not stop to mourn or cry. I figured we were still missing the cook and Mazzie. I conferred with the others took a quick inventory of those present and in triage or dead. I was sure they were the last two. I shared my thoughts with the others and we went to work in the direction of the kitchen. The work was slow; everyman had to be careful not to shift the broken building onto a survivor. The center beams to the building were heavy and we knew there was a weight-bearing wall between the kitchen and the common are. The cross section, of these beams, was designed to carry the weight of the building. These beams were supposed to hold up the building making it a safe sturdy building for those inside. The tornado had made a mockery of the design. The cross beams had spelled death for Mary’s mother and left her father broken, now those very beams could be hiding the cook and Mazzie.
Twelve hours had passed. Removing those two big beams was difficult, Jerry had run back to his place and brought back some tools; chain saw, two good floor jacks, a couple of axes and some sledges. Work was still slow stopping listening for the song of a survivor. Mazzie was found under that wall. Work stopped upon the discovery. Fleet on his feet Jerry glanced at her and ran for Doc. Mazzie was alive.
Mazzies’ left leg was pinned beneath the center beam about a quarter up her thigh. Her leg and foot were a sick blue. A deep gash was showing bone and tendons above her knee. Mazzies’ femoral artery was severed and stared at us ready to spew her life-blood. The center beam had pinned Mazzie but it was keeping her alive at this moment.
The site of her foot and leg, so blue made some of the rescuers ill. The limb was beyond saving after 12 hours of no blood flow. How to get her out of this situation without killing her had Jed perplexed. Doc approached he lost his bedside manner and composure for a moment. Mazzie laid out like that took him aback. “Doc do you have a suggestion? How should we proceed to get her out?” I asked him. Doc was in deep thought he reached down to her neck and felt her pulse. He also measured her breaths per minute. He felt her arms and down her body. Mazzie did not stir or respond, I know Mazzie really well and there is no way she would have let Doc or anyone else touch her like that in public. The thought of her demeanor and attitude about such rudeness made me giggle. Doc looked up at me as if I had cracked. I said, “Doc, you lucky she is out cold. You would be pulling back a bloody stump for a hand if she wasn’t.” Doc smiled at the thought, I hoped my humor took a little pressure out of the situation. The thought of her so wounded hurt both of us.
Mazzies’ leg was cold. Death had settled in the limb. Signs of shock had set in. “Get a blanket over here quick and bring me some water.” Doc ordered to no one in particular just anyone who could help. Two of the rescuers went running to triage and brought back the best blanket they had and water. Night was falling and I was waiting for suggestions on what we were going to do. We had stopped searching the rubble. The cook was still in there somewhere, but Mazzies’ condition and position made it impossible to continue.
My Dad and Jeff had been gone for eleven hours. This was a ridiculous amount of time. How had a forty-five minute drive taken them eleven hours? No other emergency services had been on scene. Jed thought that was strange it seemed the power company would have at least been out by now checking power lines or the phone company for that matter. If I had sent the opposite direction, the drive to a different town would have been two hours. I was worried and frustrated. My mother was sticking to her post. Tending to Marilyn and Jim’s children and minding the other folks in the triage area. I know she has to be worried about my father.
Doc covered Mazzie and told two of the younger smaller men to sit as close to her as possible with out sitting on her. I really did not understand what he was doing then it dawned on me. The smaller men could get closer to her in the small area of her entrapment. Their body heat would keep her warmer with the blanket. He instructed the men to build a tent over her. To keep that heat in there with them, dark was falling and everyone hurried to get it done. Doc needed light lots of light. As if a light bulb had struck him silly, Mark one of the rescuers went running, he came back with a battery operated flood lamp. He moved his truck as close as he could with the headlights lighting up the area and opened the hood. He connected the flood lamp and flooded Mazzies’ tent with light.
Doc and I breathed with relief and gave Mark the thumbs up sign. The engine was loud and the fumes were not healthy, but the light was a blessing. Doc said, “I need some good heavy thread or nylon stitch string. If I can tie off that artery, I would make a bet the second main artery at the back of the leg is still good just pinched shut by the weight of that beam. I am going to tie a tourniquet around the upper thigh and sew the artery shut at the exposed end. We should then be able to lift the beam and extricate her from this mess. Then you can continue the search for the cook Bob.”
I looked at Mazzie who had not stirred since we found her. “Doc do you thing she will make it after all of this is over?” I asked. Doc looked at me with tired eyes and a furrowed brow. “I do not know, we are doing our best.” He responded. One of the guy's came up with some fishing string and Doc used it to sew the artery. Then the tourniquet was applied to the upper thigh. I then wedged one of the jacks under the beam. We started the process of slowing lifting it off Mazzie. Quickly and slowly at the same time she was lifted and a make shift backboard was placed under her. The men lifted her out of the entrapment.
Mazzie was carried to the triage and the tent structure that had been place around her was moved to that location. I look around at the rest of diner to be searched. Bob was in there somewhere, logic said he would be in the kitchen area. The stove and freezer area stood out from the debris. No song of survival though came from the area. Far off the cries of despair from the loss of Marilyn as Jim and his children began to realize and accept her fate. I felt their pain deep inside, but I had to concern myself with the possibility that Bob was alive. I asked the rescuers to be quiet and listen for any sound that might lead us to him. Silence, stone cold silence was the return no sounds of life.
I again direct the rescuers to the kitchen and we begin to remove the loose debris first. Creating a pile that resembles broken twigs. Then the heavier stuff taking great care of where the load shifts, hoping to find Bob alive, and knowing he is probably not. After thirty minutes of digging so carefully, the grim discovery is made. Bob has been dead for a while. Rigor mortis has set in and removing his body is like moving one of the beams.
The head count of the patrons and employees in Mazzies Diner is complete. We have everyone accounted for. I am surprised we only have two dead. God had answered prayers in some cases, did what his plan determined to be right, and called two home. I do not understand why God had a tornado strike us. My Grandfather would have said that someone among us had brought the wrath of God upon us. That there was a grievous sinner among us; I choose not to believe this.
My mother comes to me, “Jed your dad is not back yet. Do you think he is all right?” she questions me. Her face is dirty and her hair is a mess, my mother looks her 50 years at this point and shows her age with her fear. I take my moms small body gently by the shoulders and hug her to my chest. I feel her shudder a cry. She only allows herself one. She pulls herself together quickly. “Mom I will go and find him. There is a reason no one has come and he has not come back. I will come back I promise.” I say to her.
I ask Joe and Jerry to come with me. We load up some tools and take off in my truck. We are about fifteen minutes into the forty-five minute drive. We are driving through the prairies long flat rolling ground. Fields of corn standing tall some obliterated some still standing like soldiers. The tornado had hit and missed here and there. The scene in the dark, illuminated by the moon looked like a war zone. Power and telephone poles standing tall as always no sign of the tornado, others broken, snapped off with splinters pointing towards the sky. I was dodging debris carefully.
Then at about thirty minutes of traveling, I see it. A milk tanker blocking the road my fathers’ car is parked neatly off the road. I draw a sigh of relief. I know he is okay. The cornfields around us are soaked and trying to get around this truck would be futile. Joe and Jerry hop out of the truck and head around the tanker. The sight is gruesome. The driver is so badly hurt, my father and Jeff are covered in blood. A sedan sits upside down on the highway before the tanker. A body hangs out the window with a blanket covering it. A man and a young woman sit next to my father trying to help with the truck driver.
Emergency services lights were glowing flashing before me. Stopping working their way around whatever obstacles’ they had found. I estimate they are about two miles down the road yet. I kneel next to my father who is comforting the driver keeping him quiet. My father looks up at me “you get the others out son.” He asks, “Yeah three dead, Bob and Marilyn, Mazzie life is in God’s hands Doc is doing his best.” I look up as the emergency lights begin to move again. “How long you been watching them get closer and closer?” I ask. “Long enough not to be hopeful every time they start to move.” My dad laughs. He adds, “Did you know Jeff doesn’t know how to drive and he is only 14?” “I knew he was young, just not that young.” I respond. My father adds, “he has done really well out here never flinch at seeing this carnage been a big help with everything.”
I now knew why my father had not returned. I did not know why my small community had been left abandoned. Mazzie needed an emergency room soon. The truck driver needed one also. The fire truck made it to our location. The firefighters went to evaluating injuries and tending to the victims. They started a drip line into the truck driver. The fire captain asked, “Anyone from the town up ahead?” I responded, “I am. I have a woman up there with a leg that needs attention, miscellaneous injuries three dead, search and rescue complete of all buildings.” I sounded more like a sergeant reporting to a general than a man caught in a tornado.
The fire captain looked at me. Shock in his eyes, he passed the information on over the radio. The radio dispatcher repeated the information and added “Governor Davis, has declared a state of emergency, National Guard has been deployed to help.” I could not tell if the dispatchers’ voice was annoyed that it took so long to get that done or just exhausted from the stream of constant crisis the tornado had created. The captain looked at me again, still that bewildered look in his eyes. “National Guard means Red Cross will soon follow. Should be able to get a helicopter in there soon.” He said. “Mazzie needs fluids been pouring small sips of water constantly into her mouth, I need to take one of those saline IVs with me back to town. Doc can administer it.” I said. The fire captain went to the truck and got to bags of saline, some plastic line and some needles. “Thanks I need to get these back to Doc.” I said.
The firefighter took over care for the truck driver. I loaded up with Jerry and Joe we started the journey back to town. I am exhausted it was almost midnight now. I pulled my truck up to the make shift tent and take the supplies to Doc. He was thankful for the respite the saline would give to him and the girls helping to care for Mazzie. My mom had gone home and taken Jim and his children with her. Doc said, “She is still worried about your Dad, but she still did what she had to do. Did you find your Dad?” Doc asked. “Yes he was 30 minutes up the road, he is safe. He and Jeff have been caring for a truck driver and a family injured by the tornado.” The fire department arrived there about 30 minutes after we did. Governor finally declared a state of emergency. National Guard being deployed, they know about Mazzies condition and will send a helicopter from the guard to get her as soon as possible.” I reported to Doc.
Finishing my report, my father pulled into town with the two shook up survivors. Everyone came forward to the tent. My father started the introductions, “This is our new minister, Rev. Smith and his daughter Kathy. Reverend, Miss Kathy this is Doc, my son Jed, Clara and Casey worked at Mazzies Diner before all this happened, our patient is Mazzie.” The minister nodded his head in Hello. Bowing his head, he immediately prayed for Mazzie, for all of us.
I was star struck, I had not noticed at the milk truck scene, but the Reverends daughter was beautiful. Her eyes were emerald green. She had red hair and fair milk like skin. Although she had been, crying and she showed stress in her body and face I though she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. My Dad took the Reverend and his daughter to our home.
I stayed with Doc, Mazzie and the two waitresses. Dawn begun to break and light poured over the remnants of the town. The chop, chop, chop, of helicopter blades were heard in the far distance and we welcomed the sound, as it got closer and louder. Doc loaded up with Mazzie into the helicopter and I drove each waitress home. Then it was my turn. I was the first to enter the town when the emergency began and I was the last to leave.
Jed Wilson the ox with moxie went home.