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REFLECTIONS: August 14 — Working with Willie

When I was reflecting back to the days when the late Willie Berry and I rode back and forth to work together I had to laugh about some of the things that happened in the twenty plus years. There were times I would drive home on a foggy night with Willie looking out the window telling me when I was over the white line. Did we drive home on nights like that? YES. If you have never driven from Fort Smith to Greenwood after midnight where there was fog (as the old saying goes) as thick as pea soup you just don’t know what you have missed. One night I was coming home alone when the fog was so thick I could not see. I didn’t have Willie with me looking out the window. I missed the turn on spur ten. It was before the road was widened just pass the spur ten turn off. When I realized I had missed it I was scared to death. I drove on until I came to the Mt. Zion Road. I made a U turn there and took my chance that there was no on-coming traffic and gunned it across the highway. As soon as I passed the Cross Cemetery on Denver Street it was as clear as it could be. Talk about a sigh of relief.

You name the weather conditions I can tell you I have driven in it. One night we started home in a blinding snow. Connie was riding with us that night. I tried to get the two of them to stay at the hospital and work a double. They both insisted we get home. Even though I knew we should not have started out I said O.K. My little red car was making it just fine until we got behind a car that the driver, who had let some of the air out of their tires, could not make it up Rye Hill, thus we got stuck behind that car. We were sitting there in the car when two very nice young men came to the window to tell us they had a chain and would pull us to the top of the hill. Talk about being relieved—that is until we got to the top of the hill when the young men would not unhook our car until we paid them twenty-five dollars. Between the three of us we came up with the money. If it should happen today I would have sat there until morning rather than pay them a dime. Had they told us in advance it would have been different. The next day I saw Floyd McKinsey, who was a state trooper in our area at that time. I asked him, “Where were you last night when it was snowing so hard?” He replied, “Home in bed where it was warm.” I then told him about the two young men who were so “nice” to us. He laughed and said, “Dru, they were just waiting at the top of that hill for you to come along.” I didn’t get one bit of sympathy from him…only more laughter.

On another snowy night I talked Willie and another nurse, Tracy, who was riding with us at that time, in to working a double shift rather than try to make it home. Other staff was not able to get in to work. Tracy was our charge nurse who said, “I will stay if you will be in charge and I will do patient care.” I know there has never been a patient in any hospital get as much fresh water as our patients got that night. Every time I went down the hall and met Willie she was taking fresh water to the patients and trying to stay awake. Each time I met her she would say, “Dru, I am going to kill you for talking me into this.” I would just laugh at her.

Most of the time when it started to snow or was icy the hospital would send someone from maintenance to Greenwood to pick us up. The only problem was they would take all the staff that lived in Fort Smith home first which meant that we wouldn’t get home until two or three in the morning. One snowy night we were sitting in the emergency room waiting when I saw some someone from McConnell Funeral Home who was up there to pick up a body. I asked if we could ride home with him. He told us we could. Those waiting in the emergency room thought I was a little off my rocker, but we got home before three o’clock in the morning. Tracy lived in Greenwood West and I am sure if there were any neighbors up at that time there was a little excitement seeing that vehicle in that neighborhood at that time of the morning. Willie and I had a lot of excitement in the twenty plus years of driving home after midnight. I miss that.