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Eastern New Mexico, northern Texas, and the Oklahoma panhandle had been under a winter storm warning, but the ferocity of the late-October blizzard had taken everyone by surprise.
Lyndon and Betty Drury were dirt-poor sharecroppers in the Oklahoma panhandle, and as the brutal north wind buffeted their drafty old farmhouse, it shuddered and groaned in protest.
Betty was taking a quick shower before they went into town to catch a movie, so Lyndon switched on the TV to see what the weather was going to do.
Betty was almost nine months pregnant with their first child, and if the weather was going to get worse, Lyndon was going to try to talk her out of making the forty-mile round-trip into town.
Betty hadn’t wanted to worry Lyndon, but she’d been having an occasional contraction all day. As she was getting out of the shower, she doubled over in pain, but unlike the previous contractions, this one didn’t want to let up.
“Lyndon, I think my water just broke,” Betty yelled as she slumped to the floor.
“Hold on, I’m coming,” Lyndon assured her as he tried to keep the panic out of his voice.
When he came rushing in, he almost fell when he slipped on the wet bathroom floor.
“Careful, you’re going to bust your butt. We’ve got plenty of time yet.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Lyndon asked as he helped her up.
However, as she was toweling off she had another strong contraction.
“Maybe we should get going,” she said softly, as she tried to mask the pain.
As he helped her into the bedroom, she asked, “What did the weatherman have to say?”
“He said we’re in for a real blue norther, and to stay home unless it was an emergency.”
“I think this qualifies.”
Lyndon was hovering, so she suggested, “Why don’t you get the truck warmed up, while I get dressed?”
Lyndon had his warmest coat on, but he was shivering when he reached their decrepit old truck.
“Come on, you piece of shit, start,” he exclaimed as he pumped the gas and turned the key.
As it slowly turned over, he prayed for a little good luck.
It finally started, but it only ran for a few seconds before it backfired and quit.
“Oh hell!” He pumped the gas and tried again. When the engine roared to life, he exclaimed, “Oh thank God.”
When he was sure it was going to stay running, he rushed back inside.
“Take a good hold of my arm, the steps are really slick,” Lyndon advised.
“It looks like the weatherman got one right for a change,” Betty commented, as they struggled through the blinding snow.
Their house sat at the end of a dirt road, and it was filled with ruts.
“Take it easy,” Betty groaned as the pickup swerved and bounced its way toward the highway.
It only took him a couple of minutes to reach the pavement, but by then Lyndon was getting anxious. When the old truck slid up onto the pavement, he floored it.
“I can hardly see the road,” Lyndon complained as their old pickup struggled for traction.
“Slow down,” Betty implored.
Jeff Reeder lived just down the road from the Drurys, and he was trying to get home before the worst of the storm hit.
“Oh shit,” Jeff screamed as he lost control of the semi. He never had a chance to react as his truck skidded across the centerline and struck the driver’s side of the Drurys’ pickup.
Lyndon was wearing his seat belt, but he died instantly when the truck crashed into them. Betty hadn’t buckled up, because it hurt her swollen belly, and the horrific force of the impact catapulted her through the windshield and out onto the snow-covered pavement.
Jeff hadn’t been wearing a seat belt either, and the impact had propelled him across the cab of the truck.
Momentarily unconscious, it was several minutes before he crawled down from the cab of his jackknifed semi. Jeff knew he’d hit something, but he was still disoriented, and the whiteout conditions were making it hard to see. He wandered aimlessly, until he heard someone whimpering in pain. He couldn’t see more than a few feet, but he kept moving toward the cries.
“Oh God, what have I done?” he exclaimed when he saw Lyndon’s mangled body pinned in the wreckage.
There was no doubt that Lyndon was dead, but when Betty made another anguished cry, Jeff forgot about him, and rushed to help her.
“Hold on, Betty, I’ll call the ambulance,” he screamed when he saw her bloodied, mangled body lying in the snow.
As he fumbled for his cell phone, he threw up all over his shoes. He spit to clear the bile out of his mouth, and dialed 911.
“This is Jeff Reeder, and I need the ambulance west of town on FM 1125,” he said, with panic in his voice.
“Calm down,” the 911 operator told him. “What’s going on?”
“I just hit the Drurys head-on.”
It took him a couple of seconds to get the words out. “Lyndon’s dead, and Betty is in bad shape.”
“OK, how far out are you?”
It was snowing so hard that Jeff had to get within a few feet of the mile marker to see it. “We’re at mile marker eighteen, and you need to tell them to hurry.”
The phone went quiet for several seconds before the operator came back on. “The ambulance is on its way, but it may be awhile, because the roads are getting slick as hell. Try to keep her warm, and if she’s got any bleeding, put some pressure on it. Call me back if you’ve got any questions.”
Jeff took his coat off and covered her as well as he could. Her cries had turned to an occasional whimper, as Jeff tried to get the gashes on her head to stop bleeding. As the wind howled around them, the snow was getting heavier. By then he was shivering so badly he could hardly think. Shit, she’ll be dead before they get here if I don’t do something, he realized.
He returned to his truck and dug out two sets of old, greasy, insulated coveralls he had stuffed behind the seat. His hands were so stiff he could barely get the coveralls on. He didn’t know how he was going to get the other pair on Betty without hurting her, but he knew he had to do something.
As he was getting down out of the cab, he heard one of the tarps covering the trailer flapping in the wind, and thought, Damn it, I should have thought about that sooner.
He quickly cut one of the larger ones off, and started dragging it toward Betty. The tarp almost took him with it a time or two, as the wind caught it, but he finally managed to get Betty covered up. The cold had helped slow the bleeding, but he knew she wasn’t going to last very much longer if the ambulance didn’t get there soon.
He redialed 911. “Where are they?” he asked frantically.
“They should be there anytime now,” the dispatcher told him.
Normally the ambulance only carried an EMT, but Jim Johnson had been the doctor on duty, and he’d decided to ride along.
“Oh crap.” Tim Warner, the ambulance driver, screamed as he hit the brakes to keep from hitting Jeff’s truck. “Everybody all right back there?” Tim asked.
“Yes, but what the hell was that?” Dr. Johnson asked, as he got up off the floor.
“I damn near ran into the wreck,” Tim explained.
“Let’s get to it,” Dr. Johnson called as he opened the back door.
“What happened?” Dr. Johnson asked, as Manny Perez, the EMT, and Tim put the stretcher down beside Betty.
“I hit a patch of ice,” Jeff explained as he tried to choke back the tears. “I’ve tried to keep her warm, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
Dr. Johnson pulled the tarp back and got his first look at Betty’s mangled body. He patted Jeff on the back, and told him, “Doesn’t look like there was much else you could do.”
He was about to ask about Lyndon, when he caught sight of their pickup. At least he didn’t suffer, the doc thought to himself.
After Dr. Johnson gave Betty a quick examination, he stabilized her neck with a collar, and motioned to Manny. “Help me slide her onto the stretcher.”
When Manny had secured her to the stretcher, Dr. Johnson, told them, “Let’s get her in the ambulance. I know the conditions suck, but we need to get her to the hospital as fast as you can,” he called to Tim.
Tim flipped on the lights and siren, and hauled ass. They’d only gone a couple of miles when Dr. Johnson yelled, “You’d better pull over and park. I’ve got to deliver the baby.”
“I’m afraid so. Betty’s dying, and it’s the only chance the baby has.”
“Manny, get the kit ready, and I’ll cut her clothes off.”
It didn’t take long to do the C-section, but Betty died as he was removing the baby boy.
“Damn it, she’s gone.”
“How’s the baby?” Manny asked.
“He’ll be fine, but this really sucks. Would you mind recording the time? I’ll need it for the death certificate.”
As Manny noted the date and time (October 28, 2028, at 6 p.m.), he thought about how bittersweet the poor little boy’s birthday was going to be.
Dr. Johnson clipped the cord and wrapped the newborn in the warmest blanket they had, before he told Tim, “You can get going, but there’s no need to hurry.”
When they reached the hospital, Betty’s OB/GYN was waiting. “What the hell happened out there?” Dr. Winslow demanded.
“Lyndon and Betty were in a horrible wreck, and they’re both dead,” Dr. Johnson explained.
“Oh God. What about the baby?”
“I managed to save him.”
“Good work, but what a tragedy. They were so looking forward to raising John David.”
“They’d already named him?”
“As soon as they found out it was a boy.”
“What’s going to happen to him?” Dr. Johnson asked.
“It’s hard to say. Neither of them had any living relatives, so I guess it’ll be up to the state.”
Copyright © 2014 by Ken Shufeldt