Friday, February 24, 2012
The first part of the pipeline project involved everyone in Laurel: those not building the spring head or laying the pipe itself, or finding and hauling material to the worksites, were preparing meals or barricading roads. School was canceled for the week after Caitlin scraped her shoulder, simply because everyone was in the thick of everything to do with the pipeline. It seemed to Cody that everyone wanted his opinion or help —
What do we do with the pipe itself? “Lay it on the ground now, bury it when we know there’s no leaks.”
There’s only enough four-inch pipe to reach a third of the way back to Laurel! “There’s plenty of smaller roll pipe around. Let’s switch over once we run out and hope we can find more big pipe later.”
How do we deal with all the road crossings? Won’t the trucks crush the pipe? “Cut a deep enough groove in the pavement to lay the pipe, then mortar over it.”
Rita had a busy week too. Caitlin’s shoulder was just the beginning; an easy beginning at that. Everyone looking for supplies or building the spring head all had to deal with wild dogs — having exhausted vast supplies of garbage over the winter, former masters forgotten or resented, with the coming spring the packs were hunting and staking territory. Two people were bitten, and Johnny narrowly escaped being a third. He couldn’t get his carbine around in time, but Tim was facing the right way and shot it — almost hitting Johnny. It was Sheldon who suggested finding Super Soakers and filling them with ammonia, and that worked as well as the guns when the dogs got too close. Getting hit with a stream of ammonia was only an annoyance, compared to a bullet, so people were more willing to use the squirt guns.
But it was the accidents kept Rita busy. Rains made the ground slick, and falls led to several sprains and one broken wrist. Max dislocated his shoulder at the spring head; meditation and a dose of oxycontin allowed Rita and a helper to set it on the spot with only minimal discomfort. They put him on the backboard and rode him back to Laurel on a trailer.
Late winter weather in Georgia can (and does) change every which way, often overnight. With no nightly forecasts on TV, people often worked with one eye on the job and the other on the sky. Working outside in variable weather led to numerous colds, which people tried to ignore despite Rita’s admonitions, and several people had colds worsen nearly to pneumonia.
“I’m worried about Ashley,” Rita told Johnny one night, as she climbed into bed after a long night at the clinic. “She’s a big help, but she’s still just eleven. I’m afraid she’s over her head.”
“Send her home.” Johnny had been dozing a little, but had forced himself awake when Rita came in. “She needs her rest. So do you.”
“I did send her home. Me, I’m used to late nights. Even this hasn’t been as bad as most Saturday nights at Grady. One broken wrist, one dislocated shoulder, two dog bites, and everything else has been minor injuries. Or bad colds. It’s been a busy week, even for the clinic in Chamblee, but we’ll manage. It would be nice to have an MD on call, though, just in case.”
“You’re our doctor, Rita. Everyone trusts you.”
She sighed. “I haven’t been called on to do surgery yet, thank God. I’ve been studying, but…” She shuddered. “I just hope Ashley is ready when the time comes. I hope I am.”
“This is gonna sound stupid, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Why not take up veterinary surgery? We have a few dogs and cats that need to be fixed. I mean, it would suck if something went wrong, but not as much as losing a person. It would give you some practice, too.”
A long silence. “Maybe that would help. I’d have to find some veterinary books, though. Maybe when things settle down.”
“Ashley’s been such a big help. She runs the clinic when I have to go on a call. Even when the other kids are helping, she’s there to make sure they’re doing what needs to be done. I know children bounce back, but they need their sleep too.”
“She’ll be all right.”
“I hope so.”
Rita woke up the next morning feeling queasy. She worked through the morning, and all but forgot about it.