HIS LAST WORDS BEFORE HE HIT THE GROUND WERE _________________________!
Saturday was just a typical quiet midsummer weekend day at our house — I should say MY house because it’s been all mine for more than a week as Lillian traveled to the West Coast with her friend, Christine. I picked raspberries in the morning, stopped at the Bismarket and bought a peach pie from the Hutterite ladies to greet Lillian when she arrives home today and spent a few hours in the garden.
Early afternoon I thought Lillian might like some old-fashioned vanilla ice cream with her pie, so I jumped in the pickup and ran over to the store for some. On my way home, I heard the sirens of a fire truck behind me, so I pulled over and let it pass. Seeing that it was headed for my neighborhood, I followed, my old newsman curiousity instincts taking over. I didn’t have to follow far when I saw it pull over beside an ambulance parked at the end of the driveway of — OH, MY GOD! THAT’S DARRELL AND KATHY DORGAN’S HOUSE.
I pulled over, jumped out and followed the firemen around the back of the house. There I found Kathy pretty much in shock, with her hands cupped over her mouth, and Darrell lying on the hard cement under their deck, being attended to by a couple of EMTs from the ambulance.
The Dorgan house on Highland Acres Road sits level with the street in front, but the ground drops off swiftly as you go to the back, and so they have a wooden deck out their back door that sits about 10 feet in the air, with a cement patio underneath.
Backing up for a minute, here’s something a lot of you don’t know about my friend, Darrell. In spite of being a freaking liberal, with the last name Dorgan, he’s pretty entrepreneurial. Many years ago, he invested in some smaller, 8-to10-to-12- unit apartment buildings, and they are providing him a nice retirement income now. He has a handyman named Dave who does maintenance work for him.
Dave is a good carpenter, and Darrell had brought him over to the Highland Acres house to replace the old boards on the floor of the deck this past weekend. Dave and his partner had pulled some of the boards off, and were ready to replace them, when they decided to take a lunch break. As they left for lunch, Dave’s last words to Darrell and Kathy, were “Don’t go out the back door.”
Well, Kathy remembered, but Darrell’s old, like me, and he forgot. He opened the sliding door, to go out and check his garden, I think, took one step out into thin air, and went crashing to the cement patio 10 feet below. More about his last words before he hit the ground in a minute.
He’s not dead. There was a step ladder leaning up against a wood pile under the hole in the deck, and it kind of broke his fall before he hit the hard cement. But he was pretty banged up. He started hollering for Kathy, and it took her just a few seconds to figure out from where the hollering was coming. She managed to get down to him without falling through the hole and then managed to call 911.
Darrell couldn’t move, nor would she let him. He was pretty sure one leg was broken, and there was a little blood from cuts and scrapes, but he had somehow managed to avoid hitting his head on the cement. That could have led to a whole different outcome (although I might be willing to take bets on the winner of a collision between Darrell’s head and the cement).
The fire truck and I arrived not long after the ambulance, and Kathy and I held onto each other while they hoisted Darrell onto a stretcher and headed for the hospital. Kathy closed up the house and she and I weren’t far behind in my pickup. Actually, we somehow beat the ambulance to the emergency room at Sanford, and we saw the ambulance pull in just as we sat down in the waiting room.
They told us it might be a half-hour before they got him settled and they’d let us know when Kathy could get in to see him. By that time, Kathy had reached their daughter, Paige, who lives in Bismarck, on her cell phone, and Paige was en route.
I excused myself, thinking I might be able to save some of the ice cream, which by now was melting in the back seat of the pickup. Kathy’s a strong woman, and she’s put up with things like this for most of her 40-some years of marriage to Darrell. If you know Darrell, you know what I mean.
The ER doctors cleaned him up, put an air splint on his leg, which indeed was broken just below the knee, gave him a prescription for some good drugs, and somehow Paige and Kathy got him home. We talked on the phone Saturday night and again Sunday, and he said the drugs are keeping him mostly pain free, sleepy and happy. He goes in Tuesday for surgery to fix the leg.
And that’s the story of Darrell falling through a hole in the deck. It wasn’t pretty, but it could have been worse. Darrell will be laid up for a while. He’s about three weeks from digging potatoes in his first-ever potato patch in the back yard. He might need some help.
You can send Darrell some good wishes on e-mail, at email@example.com. (Yes, he’s the last man in America with an “aol” e-mail address.) Or you can send a card to him at 1121 W. Highland Acres Road, Bismarck ND 58501.
Meanwhile, Darrell is a man of more than a few words when things get interesting. Twenty-five or 30 years in the news media will do that. Darrell didn’t go through that hole in the deck quietly. He told me what he said on his way down. He didn’t have to. I could have guessed. So let’s do this: What do you think Darrell said on his way down? Fill in the blank in the headline above. Put your guess in the comments section below. (My blog technology is pretty old, kind of like Darrell’s e-mail, so it may take a few minutes for the comment to show up.)
My readers are mostly adults, so if you’re mostly an adult, it’s OK to use profanity, if you think Darrell used some on the way down. Hah! Ya think?
Whoever guesses correctly will win a prize. If we get more than one correct guess, well, we’ll have a drawing. The prize will be a couple of pounds of Darrell’s potatoes. But you might have to dig them yourself.
Oh, and the ice cream was just fine after a few hours in the freezer when I got home. Pretty hard to beat peach pie and vanilla ice cream on a quiet summer Saturday evening. Those Hutterite ladies know how to bake a pie. There’s a little bit left for Lillian. She arrives home this afternoon.