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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flat Stanley comes to Northern Utah

My nephew, Max, and his second grade class are doing a Flat Stanley project.  I feel very honored because Max choose to send his Stanley to visit me.  We had about a month of fun with Stanley during his stay.  Here are some of the highlights I wrote to Max in a letter included in the package I'm sending out to him tomorrow:

Dear Max,
          Thank you for sending Max to Pleasant View, Utah for a visit.  We enjoyed having him.  He was a good sport and seemed to enjoy the activities he participated in while he was here.

          It was still pretty warm when Stanley first arrived.  He wore shorts and a t-shirt when we visited Hill Air Force Museum in Clearfield, Utah.  He loved seeing the planes, helicopters, rockets and other displays, but his favorite thing was the Night Hawk Stealth Fighter.
         A week later we went out to Antelope Island which is in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.  They were doing their annual Buffalo Round Up when they gather the herd for the winter.  Stanley scared us when he got a little too close to a mother buffalo and her baby.  Luckily he was wearing his insulated camouflage suit so mamma buffalo didn't chase, trample, or gore him.

           The next week, we took Stanley with us to a Utah State University Basketball game in Logan, Utah (home of the Aggies).  Stanley wanted a USU T-Shirt so he could sit with in the student section to cheer. It was a great game.  Utah State won and the fans rushed the court to congratulate the team.  Stanley didn't get trampled here either.  Can you see him in this big crowd at the Spectrum?  Look really close.  Do you see him yet?  He was famous so his picture was on the Jumbo-Tron in the middle of the arena.  Yep, there he is!

          Yesterday was opening day of skiing at Snow Basin Ski Resort in Huntsville, Utah.  Stanley wore his snow pants, parka and beanie hat.  Snow Basin was the location of the Down Hill, Combined, and Super-G Olympic Events in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.  Stanley wanted to try out snowboarding.  He was pretty good at grinding the rails by the time we left last night.

           Stanley is bringing home a few things to you from Pleasant View, Utah.  He bought you a Utah State University T-shirt at the USU Bookstore, some salt water taffy from Antelope Island, and a little pin he picked out for you at the gift shop at Hill Air Force Museum.  He also is bringing a beanie in case you want to try out snowboarding or skiing on the Greatest Snow on Earth.
          Thank you for letting Stanley come for a visit in Pleasant View.  We hope he'll come back to Utah and bring you with him next time.  When you and  Stanley come, the clothes you should pack will depend on the time of year.  It gets as warm as the high 90s in the summer and it down to about 0 in the coldest part of the winter.  Spring and Fall are really nice and very beautiful here.  If you come in July, August, or September we'll hike Ben Lomond Mountain which is right behind our house.  It is a wonderful hike of 8.4 miles up.  We couldn't take Stanley hiking there in October or November because the trail is already covered in snow.
          If your family will drive you out to see us in Pleasant View, it is 397.2 miles from Parker, Colorado.  Utah is a pretty great state.  We like living here.  We hope you will bring Stanley, your parents, brother and sisters and come soon!
Aunt Georgia
P.S.  The pictures we took of Stanley are on the thumb drive in case you'd like to see them bigger.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Confessions of a New Grandma

Okay.  I've heard it so many times, it almost makes me crazy:  "Being a Grandma is the greatest thing EVER!"

I've rolled my eyes a thousand times and heaved a hundred sighs as I've heard this chant from all my friends who have experienced being a grandparent, many for several years.  When I attended my thirtieth high school class reunion three years ago, I was the ONLY one there who hadn't yet been a grandparent--no kidding!  All my fellow DHS classmates kept quoting the "Best thing EVER" grandparent thing and I kept thinking, "I love being a Mom and I can't imagine anything better than that!"

So, I have to admit that after one day of seeing, holding, smelling, and crying over my little grandson, Calvin Daniel, I'm firmly on board the grand-parenting band wagon.  I have joined the obnoxious minions of chanters saying, "ITS THE BEST THING EVER!"

Here are a few pictures of our only-hours-old, cute little grandson:

My son, Kevin, with his son, Calvin

Gramma Georgia

Proud Grandpa Rob

Sweet sleeper
Mommy and her little angel 
So all the jargon is true!  There is something completely remarkable, yet must be experienced to be believed, about seeing your child's child and immediately recognizing him or her as connected to you forever.  Even though I had nearly seven months to prepare for the birth of this baby, I was completely unprepared for how I would react to seeing him for the first time.  I'm now completely convinced that being a grandparent is the BEST thing ever!

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day Back

Today was the first day of Fall Semester at Utah State University.  After taking off the last two semesters, it was wonderful to be back in class today.  I have enrolled in some interesting classes:  19th Century British Literature, Literary Analysis, and Poetry Writing are the three I'm registered for.  I sat through three hours of 19th Century Brit Lit this evening with a sense of thrill at being back.  I also felt a touch of nerves worrying if I really have what it takes to do all that is required.  I started on the reading immediately because there is a paper due on Labor Day (what? isn't that a holiday??)

I expect to learn A LOT, work HARD, and read a BUNCH this semester.  I was hoping to get back to blogging, but I think I may be too busy studying, reading, and writing papers (and poems---yikes!).  Happy new semester and back-to-school, everyone!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Baby Steps back to Blogging

I've been a bad blogger for a long, long time.  I just haven't had the inclination or the words to work with the past several months.  It's time to get back on track and start living life again.

I'm trying to find a new normal.  My old normal is gone--never to return. It's like I've been swimming in a deep, dark lake and I can't tell which direction is the surface and which way to the muddy bottom.  I thought if I allowed myself to drift, I would eventually float to the top (or simply settle on the bottom), but it seems that I'm not going to get back on top of anything unless I dig in and swim.

I don't mean to sound like things are terrible, because they're not.  We actually had a tremendous summer!   Camille and Robbie were married July 13.   Dani and Kelly drove out from Baltimore to spend four weeks celebrating with us. (See her post about the trip here.)  We had other guests coming and going all summer too.  Mark and Nana brought their three boys from Singapore and were in the United States driving around in a big RV (See her post about the trip here).  They were at our house for awhile and we certainly enjoyed having them here.  Rob, Bryan, and Kevin had a fun few days in Arches National Park hiking and rappelling with the Shumways.  Nana was able to attend the Family Bridal Shower for Camille while she was here.  Ward members, Lisa, Laura, and Celia threw a Neighborhood Bridal Shower for Camille.  I know Cami and I both felt greatly loved after such kindness and generosity!
Shumways in Arches-  The Brave Crew getting ready to rappel 
Camille and I had a fun-packed day doing bridals shots.  Seven hours of strutting her stuff in her gorgeous dress was pretty entertaining.  I especially enjoyed when we moved to the Utah State Capitol Building for some shots and three busloads of Asians flooded into the building and thought they were watching a celebrity during a photo session and joined in by crowding around Camille and shooting their own photos and wanting her autograph.  Our photographers weren't happy, but I was highly amused by it and Camille just ate up the additional attention.

Asian Tourists butting into our photo session

July 13th turned out to be pretty spectacular.  The morning started with a gully-washing rain that cleaned the air and blew out leaving us a gorgeous day.  The sealing at the Brigham City Temple was perfectly beautiful.  The luncheon  at Maddox was delicious and fun.  The Johnson family tradition of clinking glasses to make the newlyweds kiss, brought lots of laughter, kisses, but little eating for the couple.  The reception at Hilton Garden Inn was well-attended and so fun.  Rob's brother, Kevin and his wife, Tanja came all the was from Tennessee for the event.  Rob's sister, Jody, came from Northern California for a week.  All four of my children and spouses were in the temple. Again, I felt so loved.

Beautiful couple outside BC Temple
When Robbie and Camille left on their honeymoon, I still had Dani, Kelly, my Mom, and Rob's sister, Jody here at the house to help sort through things and put stuff away.  We had a huge gift-opening party eight days later when the honeymooners were back.  I felt loads and loads of love then too.

We are anxiously awaiting the next big event.  Kevin and Lindsey are expecting a baby boy on September 1, but the doctor says Lindsey won't make it through August before this little one appears.  We are so excited to meet and love our new baby Crouch.

We've got some situating to do as we readjust here in the house to include my Mom as a resident.  She moved in the middle of May.  We are still trying to figure out a way to work the details of day-to-day living with her.  It is a lot different having a parent move in than it would be to have a child move back home.  The kids are gone and just when Rob and I expected to figure out that 'empty nest' thing, we are thinking about my mother, her belongings, and her health issues.  Hopefully a new normal will emerge soon and we can make her feel loved (because she is!)

I was released from my Relief Society President calling in May in anticipation of my mother moving in, the wedding to finish planning, all the company we had coming, and my on-going health concerns.  I was grateful for the time to devote to those things, but now we are on this side of some of the biggest ones, I've been a bit lost.  A few weeks ago I received a new calling to be a Primary Teacher to the five year olds.  What a blessing this has been!  Little children have a way of making a person feel whole and loved.

A Fist-Pump Kiss
Love These Two!
New and Improved Crouch Family

The Mob
The Sisters
The Brothers
The Mamas and the Papas

 (Rob is much happier about this wedding
than his face would indicate in this photos).

Sunday, April 21, 2013


As I turned my car toward home today, I was suddenly struck by a mighty surge of nostalgia.  It stabbed my heart.  My eyes watered.  The back of my throat throbbed.

Nostalgia is a Homeric word literally meaning 'pain or ache'.  That is certainly how it hit this afternoon—a physical hurting and longing for a time or place now gone.

Was it the way the sun slanted through the clouds? I wondered.  Maybe it was that hint of green at the tips of tree branches lining the street?  Or perhaps it was the song playing on the radio? I'm not sure...  But suddenly I was transported back to a moment I hadn't thought of in many years.

Abruptly I longed to be young.  I ached to be at my childhood home in a more innocent time of life.  The events of this past week may have triggered this reaction.  The bombings at the Boston Marathon occurred on Monday, April 15, 2013.  Another layer of naivety was stripped away from America as this act of horror took lives and maimed many.   Of course the original wound of 9/11 is barely scabbed over.  Shootings at schools rip at that injury.  Other callous acts rake across and reopen the gash. Will it ever heal?  Will we always long for that nearly forgotten time of innocence when people didn't set out to destroy and terrorize others?

I know one of the marathon racers running Monday.  She said the finish line was within sight when she heard the blast.  She assumed it was a celebratory cannon shot or firework.  Other racers reported thinking an electrical transformer had blown or a garbage truck had dropped a huge dumpster.  These are circumstances our minds imagine could be true.  They are the sorts of experiences we've had.  But now, when they hear any bang or explosion will we immediately think, “Oh, no! Another terrorist attack!”?   This is more of the injury perpetrated upon us: changing perceptions and beliefs, altering thought processes, and thrusting us into a state of constant suspicion and mistrust of others.

Rob and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on Monday, April 15.  Between a visit to Huntsman Cancer Institute in the morning and terrible news on the radio about Boston the rest of the day, it didn't seem like much of a celebration.  Perhaps that was the true source of the painful nostalgia which has gripped me recently. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

B.D. Boy

Today is Rob's birthday.  I just want to take a minute and a few lines to honor the man who has been my husband for nearly 30 years (our 30th anniversary is in two weeks!).

I didn't want Rob to go to work today.  I hoped he would stay here and allow us to celebrate the day together.  But today is a payroll day and too many people count on their paychecks appearing in their bank accounts, so he headed out the door for his long, daily drive to Bountiful.

About a week ago I asked Rob what he'd like for his birthday.  He has been mulling it over and finally last night he answered, "I can't think of a single thing I want."  When I pestered him about it again this morning he said, "I'd like a cherry pie."  When I finish typing this post, I'll mix up and roll out a pie crust, dump in a jar of home-bottled cherry pie filling, and make a lattice top sprinkled with sugar.  It will be cool when he comes home from work, but he has a home teaching appointment this evening, which he'll do as soon as he gets home.  Then he and I can have a leisurely dinner and a piece of pie for dessert.

Happy birthday, Rob!  I love you!  I feel so incredibly fortunate you are in my life.  Thank you for being so kind, loving, and thoughtful.  I am so blessed!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Looking Forward

It's been so long since I've written a blog post, I wasn't sure I could remember how to do it.  In the middle of the night, I determined that today I would write and post something.

I usually lie awake either in my bed or on the couch somewhere between the hours of 1:30-5:00 a.m.  I remember when I took sleep for granted.  When I loved bedtime.  When I could fall asleep almost instantly upon putting my head on the pillow.  Those were the days--I mean nights.

This morning when the numbers on my alarm clock read 3:26, I lie there looking at the inky splotches on my ceiling as the wind blew and shadows moved.  In my mind, I thought: "The burning in my abdomen should light up this room."  There is a constant smolder going on in my middle region, but at night it usually flares into a full-blown inferno.  I thought my belly should be generating a glow brighter than the alarm clock.  I pressed my hands across my stomach to smother the flames, expecting to get singed in the process.  But my fingers were uninjured, even poised right over the blaze.  I must have been awfully groggy to be having such strange thoughts.

I have seen 17 specialists since October.  I've decided I'm done with doctors and hospitals.  I had surgery in February which took care of some of the symptoms and problems I had been experiencing.  But the main issue that started me on this 'Medical Madness Tour' is still here.  The Tumor Board at McKay Dee Hospital took a look at my case last month.  They pulled all the previous records of mesenteric masses they could locate.  They discovered that it is extremely rare.  The three cases they found, didn't end positively.  As a result, they've decided to be completely 'hands-off' for fear of severing the mesentery artery or one of the many vessels branching off from it.

Here is a CT image of the Mesentery region in the small intestine (not mine). 

This illustrates how the main artery branches into dozens of smaller vessels 

which supply the digestive system. 

I can appreciate why doctors are reluctant to cut into that region.   

I'm very reluctant to allow any cutting in that spot myself, now.

Now for the good news:  My brother and his family from Singapore are going to spend the month of June in the states (a good portion of it in Utah--I hope!).  My daughter, Camille, is engaged and getting married July 13.  Dani and Kelly will travel from Baltimore and spend that month with us.  Kevin and Lindsey are expecting a baby on September 1--our first grandchild!   

I have a lot to look forward to!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Running the Maze

When I look back at the past few months and realize the number of doctors I've visited, I feel like I've been riding around and around on a roller coaster.  It just keeps flying past the point of disembarkment and making wild loops and lunges over and over.  The good thing about the on-going ride, is that I've become numbed to the sudden, jarring plunges.  I'm no longer shocked by the neck-wrenching turns.  I've come to recognize the places that took my breath away and am no longer surprised.

We went through another series of doctor visits and almost, but not quite, surgical stays.  I was supposed to attempt another biopsy, this time in the hospital under anaesthesia   I went in the day before for my pre-surgical appointment.  They drew blood, took vitals, and ran an EKG.  I left two hours later with several wrist bands and instructions not to eat or drink after midnight, what to wear the next day, and admonitions to not remove any of the plastic straps attached to me.

When I got home, there was a voice mail message telling me that the anaesthesiologist had viewed the EKG and cancelled the surgery.  He saw a strange heart rhythm (the one I've been telling doctors about for the past three weeks, that no one seemed concerned about).   I called back to question what he saw on the EKG and was referred to the doctor who was to do the surgery.  He tried to find out what was happening and if the surgery could be performed some other way.  In the end, everyone just advised me to get into a cardiologist.

The cardiologist was extremely kind--probably the nicest, most personable of all the docs I've seen since October.  He listened to my heart, hooked me up to run an EKG, and just visited with Rob and me about all these recent health issues.  He couldn't see anything wrong with my heart rate or rhythm at that moment, but decided to order some tests and a heart monitor.  We walked out to the waiting room to schedule the tests when suddenly my heart started doing that flip-floppy thing it does these days.  I told Rob and he called out to Dr. Crawford who rushed me back to the exam room and plastered me with sticky electrodes, connected them to the machine, and ran another EKG.  Sure enough.  There was the proof that I have a funny new heart rhythm that kicks in every once in awhile (usually when I'm trying to fall asleep at night).  Dr. Crawford called it a Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC) and didn't seem terribly concerned about it.

So, Tuesday was another long day, this time at Ogden Regional Hospital, having an echo cardiogram and the stress test.  Let me say, jogging on a treadmill in a hospital gown with seven people watching is not my idea of fun.  I hope I never get that opportunity again.

I'm wearing a monitor now that continually beeps and buzzes at me.  I better get used to the noise because it gets to be my little buddy until January 21.  I hope it considers me its buddy and gives the doctors good news so we can get this show on the road.

I've been comparing experience of the past few months to being in a giant maze that has no way out, no solution, or exit.  But that treadmill on Tuesday somehow seems more symbolic.  I'm just running in place, going nowhere, and getting exhausted to boot.

Monday, December 24, 2012


For anyone I haven't already seen and reported to, Friday's appointment at Huntsman was good.  I had to drink the nasty contrast stuff (again) and get an IV (again), but after the CT, the oncology team examined the images and came into my exam room with an attitude of celebration.  They were amazed to announce the mass has shrunk some more.  It started out the size of a small orange and is now smaller than a walnut.
I asked when I would feel better.  Dr. Scaffe said that the scar tissue that developed around the mass will take six to 12 months to heal and could cause some residual effects.  She was also concerned about an additional spot on my uterus and advised that we get that biopsied.  She signed me off to the gynaecological center where we were able to get that procedure scheduled for January 4.

So, overall, it was good news.  There are still a couple of questions to answer and some time needed to heal.  I've got another CT scheduled at Huntsman to verify that the tumor completely disappears. But I can tell I am feeling better.  I am eating better.  I've gained about five pounds back.  My legs aren't quite so shaky.  I'm so grateful for improvement!  Thank you for the prayers.  They are being answered!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The next day...

After a long and arduous day at U of U and Huntsman yesterday, Rob brought me home.  We received some good news, yet still felt some disappointment.

The good news:  the mass is a little smaller.  We don't know how much smaller, but the radiologist was so encouraged by that, he opted to not risk the planned biopsy.  Loops of bowel sit between my skin and the tumor.  The University of Utah doctor said the chance of nicking the bowel is high in my case and felt it would be expedient to check the size of the thing again in a couple of weeks.  He recommended getting started on some steroids immediately and sent us back to the oncologist at Huntsman.

As we walked down the hall towards Clinic 2E, I met a lady and her husband coming the other direction.  I recognized her and she recognized me.  We said each others' name as we met.  It was Lezlie Porter Smith.  We went to high school together.  We were on the tall flag team together my senior (her junior) year.  I've recently become Facebook friends with her.  It has been 34 years since we last saw each other.  She was there with her husband who has colon cancer than has metastasized to his liver.  They were there to attempt an experimental treatment, because five rounds of chemo have done nothing.  Talk about putting things into perspective for me!

We waited to visit with my doctors, who looked over images and reconsidered the radiologist's readings, but decided in the end to allow a two week window to see if in indeed the mass is shrinking.  My internist voted against the steroid idea.  Instead, I was given 2 large bottles of contrast to take home and rescheduled for yet another CT on December 21 at Huntsman (instead of the U).  We'll see what happens then.

I was hopeful that I would have a firm diagnosis and a treatment plan in place when I came home.  Patience is a virtue I need to learn.

Thanks for all the prayers.  Tumor shrinkage is an answer to prayers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

As Suggested (Requested)

Celia approached me very kindly yesterday and asked me to use my blog as a format to inform neighbors and ward members about my health issues, treatments, and prognosis.  Apparently, my poor presidency are taking calls concerning me.  Sorry, Jennie, Celia, and Ann!

I'm heading back to Huntsman Cancer Institute in the morning for a biopsy.  Yes, we have finally made it to step one.  I'm shocked at the time, money, and energy it has taken to get to this point.  But I'm determined not to curse the delay. The Lord must have good cause to wait.  Maybe I'll find out what the reason is.  Probably I won't.

I am still experiencing the burning pain in my abdomen, hot and cold flashes, and weakness in my legs, but my biggest complaint is lack of energy.  I have to force myself to get up and do stuff.  Then I do something and have to sit down and rest.  The pressure is increasing in my stomach region, but I'm also feeling it in my hips and pelvis.  It's the same sensation I remember experiencing when I was pregnant.  It seems to me the tumor is growing and getting heavier.  I'll ask tomorrow.  Perhaps it's all in my head.

Next Friday, December 14, we'll be back at at Huntsman for surgery if the news is good.  To me, surgery next week feels like the best-case scenario. The other options begin with chemo and radiation to shrink the mass before surgery.  I just want the thing out of there.

Thank you for all of your prayers, concern, and kind thoughts.  I have truly felt buoyed up by the love and faith of my friends and family.  Thank you so much!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Request for a Reading

I won't be able to make it to the remainder of my writing classes at Utah State University this semester. I have been diagnosed with a lymphoma and am scheduled at Huntsman Cancer Institute over the next two weeks.  For this reason, I am pleading for feedback on the following piece.  This is to be a part of my final portfolio for Non Fiction Writing.  Unfortunately, I won't have the opportunity to workshop the essay with my classmates.  So I am asking for feedback from anyone who happens to see this.  Please note any suggestions on grammar, punctuation, or content changes that would improve the piece before I submit it next week.

Please be brutally honest and give me constructive criticism to make this essay the best it can be.  Thank you!  

Over-Time Angel

              My dad used to say, "Georgia, you are the most accident-prone person I have ever known."  I believed him.  Good thing for Mike.  On a damp and chilly day in January 1969, a month before my seventh birthday, my family was visiting San Francisco.  I was riding in the camper shell on the back of dad's 1967 robin-egg-blue Ford pickup truck.  Dad had propped a kerosene heater in the corner to warm the camper.  A sudden bump in the road caused the heater to tip spilling kerosene across the plywood floor.  It instantly ignited.  Within seconds,  the camper filled with flames, smoke, and heat. Dad drove obliviously down another hill unaware his truck was on fire.  Pulling myself onto the bed at the front of the camper, I pounded on the window, my eyes and lungs burning.
                 It was a long-haired, bearded, denim-clad man in an orange Dodge Charger driving behind us who recognized my peril before dad did.  He drove alongside the truck forcing dad off the road.  He leapt from his car, pulled open our tailgate, and yanked the burning plywood onto the ground.  Mike peered into the smoke-filled camper shell and met the red-rimmed eyes of the little girl perched on the bed, who thought she was done for.
                Wrapped in a singed blanket, I huddled in mom's lap on the curb while dad cleaned out the camper.  My rescuer walked up and said, "Are you okay? I bet that was scary being in a fire."
                I only nodded; I was too shy to speak.  He didn't tell us his name, but to me he looked like a 'Mike'.  It was the last time I ever saw Mike, but it was not the last time he ever saved me.
                When I was ten years old, I fell into a discarded broken window slicing my wrist to the bone.  While stitching up three veins, a bundle of nerves, and a large flap of flesh, the doctor marveled aloud that I hadn't severed the artery.  I was certain Mike had protected me from bleeding to death.
                At twelve, I leaned a ladder into an old breaker box with glass fuses.  Mike threw me clear at the first spark.  An explosion, fireworks, and unbelievable heat should have fried me on the rungs. The melted metal glob had to be pried off the wall with a 2 x 4.
                Two years later I was given the responsibility of riding Buster, our unruly horse.  Buster was a white stallion with a bad attitude.  He hated being saddled, refused to take a bit, and would sulk the whole time I rode him away from the farm.  The second I turned him back towards home, he bolted.  No amount of yanking on reins or hollering, 'whoa'  could keep him from galloping at a full-out, frenzied hurtle.  He shot under low-hanging tree branches, exploded over ditches and bushes, and darted around barking dogs. It was a battle to stay in the saddle clinging with hands, arms, feet, and legs.  All he wanted was his warm barn and oats and to be free of his saddle and rider. 
                After several days of this madness, Mike put an idea into my head: 'Ride Buster at the rodeo grounds.'  It was brilliant!  I could walk Buster into the large show arena, fasten the gate, and gallop him in a huge circle.  Buster was calm and well-behaved when he couldn't tell which direction home lay.  Of course, he still made a mad dash for home as soon as the gate was opened and we exited the show grounds.
                One day we arrived at the rodeo ring to find three, gaily-painted 50 gallon drums set up in the arena.  I had always wanted to try barrel racing like a beautiful rodeo queen.  I excitedly urged Buster into a canter toward the first barrel.  We circled it.  I pointed him to top of the triangle and barrel number two.  Around it we looped, then on to the third barrel.  We made a wide, sloppy circle to complete the cloverleaf pattern. Then it was a straight shot back to the gate.  Oh, that was fun!  I had to try it again, but this time with some speed.  I wrenched Buster's head back around to face the first barrel.  A kick to the flanks.  We were off.  We quickly slipped around barrel number one.  My adrenaline was pumping as we thundered towards the next one, but disaster struck at the top of the diamond.  We approached too fast and instead of moving to go around the barrel, Buster stopped short and reared.  My body whipped forward, backward, then off onto the ground.  I wasn't injured.  The soil was soft, but I knew instantly I was in trouble.  My cowboy boot was caught in the stirrup and Buster, abandoning my plan of circling the third barrel, bolted straight for the open gate.  My head and body bounced through the plowed earth raising a cloud of dust down the entire length of the arena.  I thought, 'this is how my life will end.'  There was no way I could survive the pounding of being pulled more than a mile across the hard-packed ground, graveled parking lot, paved roads, canals, and rough fields to our farm.
                I tried to sit up and twist my boot out of the stirrup.  I attempted to pull my foot from the boot.  The pressure of being drug by that one foot wouldn't allow for either.  I screamed, "Stop, Buster!"  I caught air as he turned the corner at the mouth of the gate.  It was useless.  There was no stopping him when I was tugging on his reins; with reins flying free, the outcome was inevitable.
                Just as my body hit the edge of the graveled parking lot, Buster stopped.  He came to a full, stand still halt.  I didn't waste a second.  I twisted my boot and pulled it out of the stirrup.  I jumped to my feet.  I expected to see someone holding Buster's reins, but they lay limply on the ground.  I looked around and saw no one.  Buster continued to stand motionless.   I grabbed his reins and led him over to metal rails of the arena.  I leaned against the fence to catch my breath then I stepped up on the bottom rail to scan the vicinity.  Mike wasn't waiting by the grandstands or lurking near the snack bar.  He wasn't sitting on the bullpen or the horse corrals.  I couldn't see him, but I was sure he was there.  Buster continued to wait calmly while I regained my composure and emptied dirt from my boots, shook out my hair, and patted dust from my clothes.  Then, for the first time ever, Buster serenely allowed me to mount.  As we slowly made our way home, I examined each knobby hillock, old tree stump, rock outcropping, and brush ditch bank I should have been drug across, over, and through.  I imagined my little brother, Jim, finding my battered body tethered to Buster by a shattered leg.  I shuddered.
                In the 36 years since that day, Mike has been busy.  There was that Jeep rollover in 1980; a high-speed, rear-end auto accident in'93; and the near-drowning of '96--just to name a few incidents Mike saved me from.  I don't know why Mike first appeared as a scruffy man in San Francisco and I haven't set eyes on him since.  Maybe my older eyes cannot perceive him?  Perhaps he got better at his job and staying out of sight? Someday I will see Mike again--maybe on a cloud in heaven.  I will walk up to him, take his calloused, work-worn hand, and look into his blue eyes.  We will talk about all the times he saved me from accident and injury.  He will tell me about all the other times he saved me when I wasn't even aware I was in danger.   Mike has accrued some serious overtime.