Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Still On The Road

A quick update. I expected to be home by now but a blizzard across the Eastern Colorado/Western Kansas plains has interrupted my travel plans. All roads out in that area were closed yesterday afternoon due to blowing snow. (that's bad) The TV news stations here in Denver had the usual story out of Limon, Colorado showing the truckers and holiday travelers stranded there. (that's amusing since it is not me) Interstate 70 is finally open from Denver all the way to the Kansas/Missouri boarder (that's good) but all of the roads intersecting with I-70 to about the center of Kansas are still closed.(that's bad) If they are not opened by noon Denver time we will be spending another day here. (that's good because if we do my sister and I will go see RENT)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Busy as A Bee

Busy as a beaver.

Busy as a cat on a hot tin roof.

Busy as a buzz saw in a pine knot.

Busy as a cross-eyed boy at a three-ring circus.

Busy as a one-armed paper hanger.

Busy as a three-headed cat at a fish market.

Busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

Busy as the piper's little finger (not).

Busier than a cat covering poop on a marble floor.

Me, the last few days and it's not going to end until after Thanksgiving.
Wishing all who celebrate, a Happy Thanksgiving Day.
I will be back next week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"I'm Looking For A Book, I Don't Remember The Title But I Think It's A Blue Book."

-said to me by a customer when I worked at Doubleday Bookstore

I worked at the library today and fielded a lot of phone calls from people asking if we had a specific book. One conversation went like this:

Me: "Public Library, this is Colleen."

Shaky voice on phone: "I'm wondering if you have this book. It's called Wicca For Dummies. I'm sure it's about making candles. Can you get it for me?"

Me: (silence) I am trying to think of a way to tell this old lady that the book she is asking for is not about making candles but about the Wiccan religion.

Non-shaky voice on phone: "Colleen, it's me," then laughter.

It's my sister. I start laughing too. She got me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

And I Almost Forgot This..

Kansas education board backs doubting Darwinism. As usually, cartoonist Mike Keefe of the Denver Post expressed my feelings exactly.

The Weather's Changing

The clouds collect until there's no sky.
-Philip Levine


Whenever I bruise my muscles by overwork I find I am a little sore the next day but that the real pain doesn't hit until another day later. I see the same thing happens when I "bruise" my brain. I could not stay asleep last night and keep waking up with my mind racing and images of what had happened down on the river playing over and over in my head. Yesterday was a day spent reading or talking about the accident.

First, our weekly paper came out a day early with a big photo of the overturned sprayer plastered across the front page and me misquoted in the article. A lot of people wanted to talk to me about it- not the quote, the accident. Second, it turns out that the police did not make up a report (just some notes) or take pictures of the accident scene so the insurance people for the CO-OP (owner of the sprayer and Gary's employer) and the man driving the truck wanted to talk to me. I did not want to talk to them as I do not trust insurance companies but after finding out the police did not have a report I make two copies of my blog entry and gave one to each side. One of them wanted me to sign the copy I gave to him but I refused. I really do not want to help these guys but I know both the man in the truck and the man at the CO-OP who asked me if I would be willing to talk to their insurance people. If there had been a full police report I would have stayed out of it.

The sprayer is still in the river and what was left in the holding tank has been pumped out. The thing is, something did leak into the river. I saw it when I climbed up to the roadway after the accident. I ask someone what it was and they said it was an unknown chemical. Which means it was either a herbicide, insecticide, or a fertilizer. Later the CO-OP said the tank did not leak and what people saw in the river was liquid soap that is used in the spray arms. We did find out that the tank contained two very powerful herbicides called Roundup and Atrozine. I don't know what leaked into the river but those two things kill anything they touch so we will find out soon enough.

Gary Brown's funeral is next week and at first I thought I would go but now I am not sure. The farther I get away from the accident emotionally the less connected I feel to him. As I said before, I did not know Gary or any of his family and so I don't think I really belong there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


This morning I found out Gary Brown had died in the helicopter on the way to Denver. People I have talked to are still reeling from this because no one thought he was hurt that badly. One of the firefighters who at been at the scene was stunned when he heard Gary had died because he had been talking to the man right up to the moment they put him into the ambulance. He was confidant that Gary would be OK. What none of us knew at the time is that Gary was bleeding internally as he lay in the cab. He had been given two units of blood at our small hospital before being airlifted out but they were racing against time. It was around 10:00 in the morning when he went off the bridge and the Flight For Life helicopter did not get to our town until 1:00 in the afternoon. The trip back to Denver would have taken about an hour and a half. All that time turned out to be time that Gary did not have.

I did not really think about what living out here in this little town meant before today. I do know we do not have to worry about crime here, as my husband says, it's not that we don't have crime it's just that we know who's doing it. We don't have to worry about air pollution or traffic jams either. We can be in the country just by walking five minutes when we step out our front door. We can keep the windows open at night in the summer, don't have to worry about noise or someone sneaking in. But now I see that any kind of serious accident, one that I would survive if I was in a big city, could kill me here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Small Town Life

I walked my dogs down at the River Walk this morning and was on my way back to my truck when I heard someone yelling for help. Moments before, just when I had reached the spot on the trail were I could see the parking area, I had watched through the trees as something big came around the bend in the road above me heading toward the small bridge that crosses the river. (The road out of town climbs as it reaches the bridge and the parking area for the River Walk is just below where the bridge starts.) I was annoyed when I saw how fast this thing was moving because everyone seems to come around that bend at an unsafe speed. This is dangerous because there are trees on the south side of the road that block your view of the bridge.

When I saw this vehicle coming I looked around for my dogs to make sure they were not up on or near the road. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a blur of motion up on the road near the bridge and heard the crash of metal on metal. It was the same kind of noise that a big empty trailer makes when it bounces up in the air and slams back down after hitting a bump. Next there was this long pause of absolute silence and for some reason I found that more disconcerting than the loud crash.

I again looked around for my dogs and found them sniffing around the trees surrounding the parking area. I then glanced back up to the road and saw a white truck pulling a flatbed trailer with a load of hay bales piled on it stopped on the south side of the road and just east of the bridge. A man riding a bike was heading in the direction of the bridge. For a second I thought maybe the truck had almost hit the man on the bicycle. By that time I had reached my truck and starting calling my dogs. I heard the sound of running feet up on the road and saw the man who I thought was riding a bike race back from the bridge and down the side road that leads to the parking area. He was shouting for help. He got half way down the side road and then turned around and started running back up to the main road. I yelled out to him and he stopped, turned around, and ran back down to the parking area asking for help and saying he or it was in the river. I turned and started running toward the river and stopped short when I saw what was there.

A sprayer had gone off the bridge and was now lying on its right side in and across the water. I could hear someone screaming inside the wreckage. It took me a few seconds to understand what I was actually seeing. Something about those huge tires looming in the air above me seemed alien in a way. As I stood there wondering what to do I heard the man who ran down from the road say they had already called the police.

I turned around and ran back to the parking lot and quickly put my dogs in their kennel and then raced back to the river bank. I could still hear the man screaming so I knew he was alive but I was worried that the cab was submerged in the water and that he was in danger of drowning. I wasn't sure how I was going to get across the river without wading into it but then noticed that the rig had taken all of the bridge guardrail with it as it went over and a long section of it stretched across from my side of the river to the sprayer. I used the guardrail as a balance beam and carefully walked across it to the other bank.

I made my way through the brush and around the sprayer arm to the cab and found the driver. He had been throw out of his seat and now lay on his back across what was left of the cab, his head and shoulder propped up on what had been the passenger side roof. The shape of the cab had been so distorted by the impact with the ground that it looked like both seats were now jammed toward the driver's side of the cab. He was badly hurt and in pain. He wasn't wearing a seatbelt when he went off the bridge but seeing how the dashboard of the cab was now about six inches away from the driver's seat this probably kept him from loosing his legs.

He had a smear of blood on his forehead and a bloody scrape on his left ear. He told me that his shoulder was killing him, that his right leg was numb, and that his hip hurt. He was trying to get up but I told him not to move. Help was coming and I would stay there until it arrived. I spent my time with him keeping him still, talking to him, and picking broken bits of the windshield off his face and out of his ears. I also put my hat, the one I am wearing in the photo below, over his face to keep more pieces of glass and other debris from falling onto his face. It seem to take forever but help finally arrived and I got out of the way as the fire department and the paramedics tended to him. It took about 20-30 minutes to remove him from the cab.

From what he and the men in the truck told me, something like this happened. The man in the sprayer, the one I thought was traveling too fast, came around the bend just when the men in the truck pulling the bales of hay were on the bridge. The man in the sprayer said he had no brakes and "there wasn't enough room for both of us there." The man driving the truck steered as far to the right as he could and the sprayer started passing him but then the driver side spray arm caught on two of the bales of hay, pulling them off the trailer. The driver of the truck watched in the side view mirror as the sprayer hit the guardrail and then fall off the bridge.

They airlifted the poor man in the sprayer to Denver Swedish Hospital and say his condition is serious. He has a broken clavicle, broken ribs, a dislocated hip and right knee, and maybe a punctured lung.

While typing the above sentence my phone rang and when I answered it I learned the man in the sprayer, Gary Brown, had died.

I feel like I should have done more but I am also glad I was there when he needed me.

I really did think he was going to make it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Life In The Big City

The flier said 10 p.m. sharp, but by 10 p.m. sharp last Friday, only a handful of pillow fighters had taken up positions on opposite sides of 13th Avenue at Washington Street, in front of Wax Trax. The trash-talking had begun in earnest, though, as the north-siders and south-siders prepared for battle. "They're just scared on the other side," said a man in a houndstooth jumpsuit who later identified himself as Wham-O the Magnificent. "Your mama was like, 'Oh, don't get hit by a pillow,'" he yelled across the street.

His taunt wasn't enough to deter the pillow-armed troops that were suddenly descending on the corner...

(the rest of the story)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I'm Home

And, God, I'm tired- emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Writing Love Letters In The Sand

Our mother and daughter reunion is winding down. Although our mother was not with us in body she definitely was with us in spirit. Sunday we sat around our sister's dining room table and wrote poems to her and then read what we had written out loud to each other. It was very healing, and sharing our poems seems to have brought us closer together.

Mom was like a bear because she was politically driven.
She is the color of the changing leaves in autumn,
She is like the wind as she breezes in.
She is the sound of the explosion of a cannon,
She smelled like the perfume smell of Liz Taylor,
She was as cold as ice.
She tasted like sweet coffee; lots of milk and sugar.
She was the daughter of struggle,
I wish I had been with her when she died.

My mother is like a humming bird,
flitting from one flower to another without staying long at any one.
My mother is the color of the undersides of storm clouds,
reflecting brilliant white one second and then swiftly changing to black the next.
My mother is like an earthquake who's ground I did not stand on securely. I never knew when that ground would crumble beneath me.
My mother is the sound of waves on the beach,
sometimes crashing over me and threatening to drown me;
other times gently massaging my toes.
My mother will always be the smell of Coty's Emeraude,
who's scent still brings back the feeling of pride I had whenever I saw her dressed to the nines.
My mother is the feeling of sadness and loss of a life lived in fear and regret.
My mother is like the texture of a rock smoothed by years of being tumbled over the sandy bottom of a raging river.
My mother is like the taste of cotton candy
who's flavor would disappear just as it was dissolved by the warmth of the inside of my mouth.
My mother is the daughter of Athena who's wisdom she was not able to pass on to her own daughters.
My mother is like the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred,"
A raisin in the sun,
Gone and never to return.

Mom was a wounded dog under the porch, survival it's only instinct.
She was the color of ink spreading thru the holy water
as an innocent catholic school girl runs giggling down the hallway.
She was the snow falling silently under the empty corner street light.
She was the ringing telephone nobody answers.
She was the smell of dirty ironed clothes and hairspray.
The taste of turkey TV dinners for Thanksgiving.
She was the daughter of broken hearts and the mother of unbroken daughters.
She was a dream I had as a child that took me decades to wake up from.
She was an emerald, brilliant, flawed, a tragic mess of perfection.

Mom is an ostrich,
too scared to see the world close around her. It's safer to hide.
Mom is brown, the complex mixture of colors and experiences overlapping.
Mom is the wind. Capable of moving things, changing them, bending them to her will. Yet you can't touch her.
Mom is hunger, always wanting more, but not quiet able to get her fill.
Mom is the sound of righteousness-
"Say it loud-we all should be proud."
Mom is the smell of coffee, hair spray, cigarettes, and Dippity-do. The smell of safeness to a sleeping child.
Mom is smooth like Teflon. Impenetrable on the surface but very delicate and easily hurt.
Mom is the taste of spices!
Complex, spicy, smooth, exotic, and never plain.
Mom is the daughter of her shame. Born in a time of blame;
an umbrella she could never step out from under.
Mom is the mother of love. Always there.
Always open. Always caring. Always proud. Always love.