Monday, December 15, 2008

Lucy--you got some 'splaining to do!

OK--I knew there just might be a need to "tell the story behind the story."

# 89 (see Meme, too if the numbers mystify you .)

When my parents returned to their mission work in Africa, I was fifteen going on sixteen. I stayed with first my mother's sister, my Aunt Kay, and then after a year with my father's brother, Uncle Arthur. When summers came, I thought it necessary to find work. Nothing too unusual about that, except for me work meant going to Canada. My dad had a cousin there who lived in Ridgeway, Ontario, and did work in homes of wealthy Americans who had summer homes along Lake Erie.

The first summer I worked for the Rich family--as in Coffee Rich (and as in Rich Stadium in Buffalo, NY). The patriarch of the family had come up with a non-dairy creamer and whip topping (long before Cool Whip). Anyway, they had a summer home along Lake Erie where I, along with 2 other young women, worked. I was the cleaning "girl"; another young woman was the cook, and the third took care of the children of the daughter.

When the second summer rolled around, I had hoped to return to work for that family, but I was persona non grata, having been deemed too attractive and the cause of some of the young son's friends wanting to flirt too much. Actually, what I remember is one of those young men--while in a drunken fit--trying to break down the door to the room all of us slept in. But, as usual, blame the woman for being the lure! Anyway, I was not asked to return--maybe make that--asked NOT to return. The matriarch's behavior was so haughty toward the hired help that I vowed, were I ever to have enough money to hire people to help me, NEVER to treat help so shabbily. The only good thing to come out of the experience was I learned to make a good meatloaf--when the cook had off, I was always asked to "make meatloaf."

So, the second summer, I got a job, still on Lake Erie, but this time working for a single woman and her aging father. She was the head of the Buffalo Association for the Blind, and he was a long retired physician who had specialized in allergies. He had actually attended medical school for a time in Germany and had witnessed a duel. No, not fencing or any such--but an ACTUAL duel. He would regale me with tales of dueling in medical school. Maybe that inspired him to go into a specialty other than surgery.

It was here that I learned to make a perfect martini! Every day the Miss of the house would come home from a hard day's work, and want a martini. So, I made martinis for her and her father. Sweet people.

The father had the same lunch EVERY day--an omelet and toast. Each week his daughter would bring him a bag of books from the library--mostly mysteries. And he would sit in the front room, which faced Lake Erie, and read away.

While I was the only maid in the house, doing all the duties from cleaning to cooking to laundry to martini making, I did have lots of free time. So I would pad down the path to Lake Erie daily. Nearby were other summer homes and I became friends with several of the other girls working there.

One day, we were out swimming, and got a bit out of our standing depth. I was fine with that, but the girl with me suddenly realized she could no longer stand. And she panicked. I mean, PANICKED. She began grabbing at me, pulling me hard and under. I am not a trained lifeguard--and have never been a really good swimmer. But I had the presence of mind to shove her away. Then I swam a bit toward shore, reached out, grabbed and yanked her toward me. Then swam another bit, another grab and yank. I did that all the way, until she got her footing. Afterwards, she was so ashamed, that she simply wouldn't talk to me. She didn't thank me--no need, as far as I was concerned. But she was mortified, I suppose, for panicking.

So, that's the story. Wait, you say? What about the dog? Oh, yes, the dog.

A different day, and a different story. This dog was a lab owned by the son of my physician employer. The son's house was next door. As we went down to the lake each day, this dog and another dog, a lovely Irish setter, would trot along. There was a raft anchored about 100 feet from the shore. We would swim out to the raft, haul ourselves up on it and just soak up the warmth. The dogs would swim out, and then around the raft. One day, the lab just stayed there swimming. She didn't go back to shore, but insisted on "guarding" us--I guess that's what she was doing. She swam around and around and around. Suddenly, it was clear she was getting way too tired. She began going under the surface a bit, and coming up too too slowly. I jumped off the raft, and managed to grab her enough to get back to shore. I don't really remember exactly how I did it. Maybe she wouldn't have drowned, but she was so goofy, she just wouldn't give up on circling the raft until it was too late.

So, there you have it--I saved a person and a dog. End of story!

Next installment--# 97.


Unknown said...

Having owned many a lab, I can tell you that those who love swimming will absolutely stay out until they are in trouble. My husband tells a story of getting into a boat and driving away only to look back and see his lab swimming after him. He had to turn the boat back so she could follow him back to shore and then his mom held her so she didn't try it again. Great life saving stories.

NCmountainwoman said...

And what a great story it was! I just loved it.

RuthieJ said...

What a great story about lifesaving Donna! I hope you're saving all these stories somewhere so you can put them in a book someday for your kids and grandkids.

Ruth said...

I was looking forward to this story and am not disappointed. Your clear-headed thinking saved your life too. A panicked person in water is very dangerous. Our last dog was a big lab/German shepherd cross and he would swim out after the boat if we didn't take him along.

Mary C said...

That sure was interesting about saving both of those lives. Donna, do you visit the Lake Erie area anymore (for vacation)?

Denise said...

I'm beginning to think my life is - you saved someone from drowing and Daryl almost drowned. Hmmmmmm I love your stories.

Anvilcloud said...

This is kind of fun!

Beverly said...

I love your stories!

JeanMac said...

Great post!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I love your stories too Donna!
You are the BEST teller of stories in blogland.

Dog_geek said...

Great story! That must have been scary to have a panicky person trying to take you down with them! Thanks for sharing!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

You seem to be able to function under stress. A great quality. I have spent a lot of time around the water and had an opportunity to grab someone panicked in the water. My best friend in the mouth of the Credit river. A young boy who thought he could swim to shore and couldn't in my river. And a very youg child who fell in the river whose mother could not swim.

Did you ever go for fun and dancing at Crystal Beach?

KGMom said...

Philip--yes, I went to Crystal Beach for fun--as I recall there was a Ferris Wheel there. But, dancing--no, I have never been a dancer. Nothing against it--just can't get my body to do what looks like dancing.