Over White and Drifted Snow
Tugging the crisp linen over his face, the doctor pronounced him dead. The soft four-year- old skin was still warm below the whiteness...his gray-green eyes closed forever.
The year was 1928 and Ray was an active little boy growing up on a farm in Southeastern Wisconsin. Snow bedded the fields, offering protection from the cold March air. His father readied his blue/green Chrysler as large orange trucks with plows cleared the country roads. Ed had held a passion for driving ever since he was young man, with his first automobile ordered. Ed’s own father was strict...he liked the work to be done and the wood shed stacked high and neatly. His pa swore he'd cancel the order and have none of those machines on his yard, but
on a loving impulse he gave the deal a nod. A Studebaker was the first of many cars Ed would buy through the years.
Next to him, a bundled boy gazed across the road. Ed's youngest was often anxious to ride along, but today Ray had travels of his own sort on his mind. The neighbor kids were squealing as they steered their sleds down a steep embankment. The sun was beaming, and Ray begged permission to join them. No sooner than his own pa said yes, he'd slid his Hiawatha Flyer across the road and up the hill.
Little Phillip Liegle dove headfirst onto his sleigh, with Ray following close behind. They soared downward, cold wind washing over their stinging cheeks. A bump sent Phillip out of control, the sled jolting to a stop in a mound of snow. Ray--too close to steer away in time--plowed head first into the heap of snow, sleds, and little boys.
While the runners of Ray's sled glinted against the soft powder, the runners of the lead sled had poked up and out. Ray was nearly impaled...the runner had plunged into the boy's mouth and almost through the back of his neck. Racing to the hospital, Ed pushed his steel beast as fast as it would go. A cracked vertabrae and tears later, the doctor braced his parents for the very worst.
"He's gone," said a sister as Ray's mother reached for the sheet. Elsie scoffed in stubborn disbelief despite the woman of the cloth. She grasped the tiny arm and kneaded the motionless body, challenging God to a tug of war. The nun said his pulse had drifted and he was gone. Still, Elsie shook her head and rubbed frantically trying to find a sign that God had not yet taken him.
A tiny twitch of hope stirred below the sheet. "No!" she cried, and all hands near joined in - bringing him back to life. "He's alive," she sobbed, "he's alive..."
Now chuckling, Ray recalls a girl of 12 or 13-also hospitalized-who visited often to fuss over him and straighten his sheets. While recovering at home, a neighbor girl also tried to mother him. He disliked the attention from them, yet he remembers the comforting click, click, clicking of his mother's shoes in the hospital corridor.
As a result of the accident, Ray suffered with severe headaches throughout childhood. While the other children played, he often lay with a cold damp cloth across his forehead. His mother would close the curtains to provide some darkness and relief. He remembers a time at Sunday school when the pain had become too much. He left the lessons on his own to find relief at the doctor's office across the street.
Seventeen days after the accident, Ed chauffeured his wife and boy home. Ray enjoyed his fifth birthday, was seventy-seven when I originally wrote this story and is now 89 as I update the story! He married Victoria Kraus and they went on to have 10 children and more grandchildren and great grandchildren than I can seem to count.
The great Father of all creation had said yes to the prayers in the hospital that day. I now say a prayer of thanks, for God had saved my dad.
As of October 12, 2013
Ray is 89, many grandchildren and great grandchildren!