Journey of a Traveling NursebyLadynStFreknBed©
I pulled at my scarf as the icy wind assaulted my face. Winters in the North Woods are brutal and unforgiving. My horse faltered at the bottom of the snow-covered slope. With an encouraging pat, I urged him onward. An injured lumberjack needed my help, and as the traveling nurse, it is my job to get to him and administer the necessary medical care.
Wincing against the bitterness, I could see a shabby cabin ahead. As my horse approached the cabin, a large, bearded man greeted us and took the reins of my horse.
"He's real bad. It took us a long time to get the bleeding to stop. He's in a lot of pain," he informed me.
I untied my satchel from the saddle and ran into the cabin. The welcoming warmth of the fire beckoned my tight, wind-burned cheeks, but I could not attend to myself until later. I approached the bed in the far corner of the room where a man laid groaning. I removed the makeshift bandage on his arm. The arm was definitely broken, with the bone piercing through the skin.
"A compound fracture," I whispered to myself. "You'll be fine," I assured the injured man. "What's your name?"
"Robert," he answered.
He cried out in pain as I lowered his arm back to the bed. The only pain reliever that I had was a bottle of aspirin that I always carried with me. I was embarrassed at how inadequate my medical supplies were, even by 1930's standards. I shook three aspirin out of the bottle into my palm.
Robert had a tin cup of water beside him on his nightstand. I helped his sit up enough to take the aspirin. I set the cup back on the nightstand and retrieved some antiseptic out of my satchel. I saturated the wound and surrounding skin with the antiseptic. I knew that if his arm was going to be saved, he'd have to fight off infection until he can be taken to the hospital.
"Robert, you'll be just fine, but we'll have to get you to the hospital."
The wind howled as the man who had secured my horse entered the cabin. I heard his heavy footsteps as he crossed the room.
"Is he going to be okay?" he asked in a hushed tone.
"He needs to get to the hospital now," I firmly stated. "I know you care only about your lumber, but you'll have to spare an extra man to take him in."
The man snorted and retreated to the fire. I turned my attention back to Robert's arm. I took a small splint, gauze, and tape from my bag.
"Robert, this may hurt a bit, but I need to wrap your arm as securely as I can," I explained.
He yelled as I carefully maneuvered the gauze around his arm. I secured the bandage with tape and gently rested his arm on the bed once more. I raised the blanket around him and left his bedside. I walked over to the man at the fire. I wasn't sure which caused more warmth, the fire or my anger towards his apathetic boss.
"He's my friend. I want to help him. I can't leave the site to take him in. I can't spare another man to do it either… not now. You don't understand. I can see you're angry with me already," he said.
"I can't believe you! If he stays here, he'll lose his arm to infection," I snapped.
"Well, you are the one responsible for the health of the men, so why don't you take him to the hospital?"
I stared into the fire. How was I going to manage to escort an injured man to the hospital? We wouldn't be able to make it there today. We'd have to stop and spend the night at my cabin. Spending the night in my cabin with a man who I don't know was not at all appealing to me. It would look improper to anyone who knew. But, it was my job to give medical care to the men.
"I guess I have to," I muttered.
"I'll go get your horse ready," he said.
"Yes, we need to leave right away if we are going to make it before dark," I said. To make it where, he didn't need to know.
I walked over to Robert's bed. I got his boots from the foot of the bed and set them beside him.
"Can you put these on with your good arm? I need to make you a sling," I said as I helped him sit up.
I removed his sheet from his bed. With a pair of scissors from my satchel, I cut a wide strip of cloth. Once he had his boots on, I secured his arm against his body and tied the sling behind his neck.
"Hand me my coat, will you?" he asked.
I grabbed his heavy coat off a hook on the wall and held it open for his good arm. I draped his coat over his over shoulder. He adjusted the coat so that it was almost able to be closed.
"Here, we need to get this closed. It's horribly cold outside," I said softly as I gently tugged and fastened the buttons.
I gathered up my bag, put on my coat, and tied the scarf over most of my face. Robert grabbed his hat and stood by the fire. The light and shadows seemed to draw attention to his broad shoulders and strong frame. His face in the firelight was ruggedly handsome. His neat, dark blonde beard seemed to suit him. This was the first time I really looked at him.
When he turned to look at me, I noticed the brightness of his blue eyes. Although everything about him denoted a roughness, his eyes seemed gentle and kind. I felt drawn to this man.
"Thank you for doing this," he said gently.
All I could do was nod in acceptance. I lowered the scarf from my mouth.
"You will have to sit behind me on the saddle and hold on tight with your good arm. Try your best to keep your balance. If you fall off, so do I. You understand?"
"Okay, let's go check on the horse."
We left the cabin, fighting the force of the wind to walk. My heart sank as I realized that we would be struggling against this wind throughout the trip. Robert's foreman was leading the horse to us. He helped me onto the saddle, and then helped Robert.
I felt Robert straddled tight against my hips. He wrapped his arm around my waist. I felt his face beside my own. The warmth of his cheek against the side of my head was like a dose of courage. For a split second, my mind entertained the thought of us being this close under different circumstances. I sighed and nudged the horse forward.
The horse pressed ahead masterfully. We had soon put good distance between us and Robert's cabin. The visibility was soon diminished by snow. The wind that was previously a nuisance was now surrounding us in blizzard-like conditions. The snow was relentless. I tried to hurry the horse along, but soon realized that I couldn't tell where we were or which way we were going.
I started to get scared. Robert's grip tightened around me, as if to offer reassurance. There was nothing we could do except to keep going to the best of our ability.
After the time when I thought I should be able to see my cabin, I started to cry. A stinging tear froze on my cheek. I knew we were completely lost and at the mercy of the storm. My cabin was nowhere in sight. Still, we kept going. I tried to determine what direction we needed to go. I thought we had been doing fairly well in keeping our course southward, but if we had been, we would have seen my cabin by now.
Through the dense trees, we continued. At least when we were in the thickest parts of the forest, the wind wasn't as painful. It was getting dark. I began to fear for my life. Being lost in the North Woods during a blizzard would mean certain death. Our horse entered a clearing. A cabin was visible. I thought my heart was going to leap into my throat.
Robert pulled away from me a bit. Perhaps he was straining to see the modest cabin, which was a beautiful sight to us. I guided the horse towards it. Getting off the horse was no easy task, but we managed.
As I tied the horse on the side of the cabin that was most sheltered from the wind, Robert yelled, "This is John Lambert's cabin!"
I removed the satchel from the horse. Robert took my hand and we trudged to the cabin door. The cabin was completely dark. I found it odd that not even a fire was lit. Perhaps John isn't here. I didn't know John very well at all, but we had met when one of his friends fell ill with fever. I remembered that John had been trying to make his friend comfortable, bringing him water and his own blanket.
Snow had drifted against the door. Robert forced the door open and we stepped into the darkness of the cabin. Robert immediately went to the fireplace and started a fire. I followed him, standing beside him. We stood there, facing the fire, desperately trying to get warm.
I turned to Robert to say something, and that's when I saw him. I screamed and almost fell backwards. Robert grabbed me to stop my fall, turning to see what I had seen. There was John, his stiff, lifeless body hanging from the rafter of the cabin. My screams turned to sobs. I buried my face into Robert's chest. He held me close to him.
"Shhh… It's okay. It's sad, but it's the choice he made," Robert whispered.
Death seemed to be playing a cruel joke on me. To be fearful of dying while lost in the blizzard, only to be saved by a cabin which contained a haughty display of death. I tried to calm myself. Feeling secure in Robert's embrace certainly helped. I nuzzled my face into his chest before slowly pulling away.
"We better cut him down," I suggested.
Robert found a knife on the table and moved a wooden chair next to the body.
"Can you get on the chair and cut the rope? I'll hold him and lower him to the floor once its cut," Robert said.
I hesitantly stepped onto the chair. Robert handed me the knife. I tried not to look at the body. I focused on the length of rope. The rope was thick. It took me several minutes to cut.
Once the rope was almost cut through, the last strands of the rope broke under the weight of the body. Robert tightened his grip on the body and guided it to the floor. He then reached under one arm and dragged it to the corner. I fetched the sheet from the bed and handed it to Robert. I kept my back turned toward the body.
Robert covered the body and turned to me. He put his arm around me and led me to the fireplace. We stood in front of the fireplace for a moment, and then Robert brought me the chair. I sat quietly in front of the fireplace. I was trying to figure out what would make John take his own life.
"I just don't understand," I started. My hands clutched nervously fretful on my lap.
Robert approached me and stroked my hair. He bent down and kissed my cheek. I welcomed it, but did not move.
"Of course you wouldn't. Your life has purpose. You help so many people. John was depressed for a long time. His wife died years ago. That's why he became a lumberjack. He shut himself off from people. Living alone in this cabin, working in the woods with other lonely men, it isn't much of a life. He had no hope or desire for anything better," Robert consoled me, lovingly stroking my hair.
I looked into Robert's eyes. "Do you? Do you have hope for something better," I asked him.
Robert walked over to the fireplace, putting his hand on the mantle. He looked into the fire as he spoke. "I do. I hope to fall in love and start a family someday. I realize that being a lumberjack is not going to give me an opportunity to find someone special, at least that's what I thought," he said.
He turned to face me. "That's what I thought," he repeated while looking into my eyes.
I turned shyly looking away from him. He approached me and took my chin into his hand. He turned my face until my eyes met his. We looked into each other's eyes and just knew.
He slowly leaned down and kissed me. I felt the warmth of his kiss travel throughout my body. When the kiss ended, I stood and carefully embraced him. I reached my arms around his thick neck. He kissed me again, more hungrily than before. I met his lips with eagerness.
With his arm around my waist, we held each other in silence. I barely knew this man, yet I felt like I was connected to him. I laid my head on his chest and just enjoyed the closeness.
"We better get some rest," I suggested all too soon. I felt like I could have held onto this man forever.
He eased his embrace and kissed me on the forehead. He told me to take the bed, as he tended to the fire. I laid in the dancing light of the fire. My thoughts refused to be easily quieted. Could I already be in love with Robert? The weariness of my body took over and I slipped into a restful slumber.
I awoke to find Robert asleep in the chair he had propped against the wall. I felt bad. He was the patient. He should have slept in the bed. I moved from the bed, stretching and preparing myself mentally for the journey ahead.
I looked at Robert's peacefully sleeping. There was a hint of a smile on his face. I gently woke him.
"I'm sorry. I should have let you have the bed. Are you okay?"
He smiled. He stood up and kissed my forehead. "I'm better than okay," he assured me.
"Since you were familiar with this cabin, do you know where we are?" I asked.
"I know exactly where we are," he said with a smile. "Don't worry. From now on, we're going to be fine."
The air outside the cabin was brisk, but calm. We carefully mounted the horse with the assistance of the chair. Robert pointed me in the right direction. We were only about two hours from the hospital.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I helped Robert get settled in. I spent hours at his bedside during his recovery. We talked. We laughed. We loved. His broken arm was successfully treated, but he would never be able to return to logging. Robert confided in me that he was a little nervous about finding a new career. But, he was neither nervous nor shy about letting me know that he wanted me in his life permanently.
We were soon married and made a life for ourselves in town. I worked as a nurse at the hospital until we were financially stable enough to start our own family. It's amazing to me how that day of death and despair brought us new life.