Thursday, September 19, 2019

Workin' on a thang

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! I'm so blessed that I can slip away from my humanly artificial environment each day and spend some quality hours soaking up and dealing with nature's reality.

As I'm checking cattle I want to dash over into the next pasture to the north and shut off a couple of windmills. It'll only take 10 minutes or so, and as a lazy bastard I only want to open and close the gate once. Unfortunately for me in the moment, the cattle are near the gate I want to use and I don't want them to get out. What to do? Time to apply some problem solving!

Squeezing 'lectrical pennies. One of the dirty little secrets of ranching.

White-tailed jackrabbit out for a morning gallop.


I'm working on a post which will provide everyone who reads it with a solution to all the problems vexing the modern world inhabited by humanarians. But it ain't done yet. So let me do this instead as a temporary measure.

Before I *** let me just say that the steroids are making me quite cranky today.


How clever me is!

Am I just using pain as an excuse to behave in a cranky fashion, rather than in the fashion which I know to be principled, correct, and in all ways better?

Hmmm. It was a lot easier sitting in the trees eating bananas. There's a downside to adopting colorful shoes.


It was somewhere between zero-one and zero-two. Something makes me think it was a weeknight. I feel like I have a memory of noting to myself, at the time, "Shit, it's a firetrucking weeknight!"

Could be wrong on that and it's probably not important anyway. The fact that I've mentioned "weeknight" should be a clue that I'm not writing about the boat this time. No weekdays or weekends on the boat!

Weeknight or not, it was the wee hours. In the Emergency Room at NAS Oceana's Medical Clinic, I was leaning on the patient side of the counter of the check in desk. Over my right shoulder was the doorway leading to the treatment room. To my right was the ER entrance, a pair of double sliding doors leading outside to the ambulance parking area. This was the north or back side of the clinic, and the ER entrance was the only way in or out of the clinic after hours. Across the counter from me, sitting comfortably in a cushioned chair, was a First Class Hospital corpsman, or HM1. She was the Chief of the Day, and I can't remember her name. I'm pretty sure I was an E-4 or HM3 at the time, but this might also have been the period when I'd been invited to revert to my previous E-3 rank for various self-inflicted reasons.

The HM1 and I were shooting the shit. I was bitching about having my affections played with by a certain woman.

"How was I supposed to know she was married?"

"Gee, I dunno. Wedding ring maybe?"

"She wears a wedding ring?"

Eye roll, head shake, face palm.

This HM1 was physically tiny. I don't think she touched the five-foot mark. But the way she carried her authority and responsibility made her presence considerably larger. As I climbed the rank structure she was one of the people I tried to model my leadership style on.

The room strobed with flashing lights. We both looked through the sliding doors and saw a Virginia Beach police cruiser. A pair of cops eased a wobbly, bloody sailor out of the back seat. One of the officers solicitously held a bloody bandage (actually a big wad of paper towels) to the sailor's head.

Ruh-roh. I glanced at my G-Shock. "Shit, it's a firetrucking weeknight!"

Somewhat surprisingly, the sailor, who belonged to one of the CVW-6 Fighter Squadrons, wasn't under arrest or in any legal trouble. And he was only mildly (by sailor standards) intoxicated. He did have a spectacular scalp laceration though. He'd been larking about in a parking garage and jumped a cinder block half-wall. He'd let his head stick up too high and peeled back a big layer of scalp. The flap was easily 10 centimeters on a side but still attached at the back, near the crown of his skull. Other than the laceration the fellow was in good shape. He hadn't even drawn a concussion. That laceration though! It was kind of like this, only larger and higher/farther back on the head.

It looked nasty, and in some ways it was nasty, but it could have been much worse, and it was something I could fix. I was young and relatively junior but I'd had a lot of training and full deployment's worth of experience. This wasn't my first rodeo. My training and experience told me that these kind of lacerations are complex and have to be closed in layers. The tissue on the top of the head is stretched pretty tight over a convex chunk of bone and consists of skin, a subcutaneous layer, and a layer of galea aponeurotica overlaying the skull. Fortunately for Skippy the Superhero Sailor, his galea was completely intact. Had the galea been peeled back with the skin and fascia he'd have bought a ticket to a surgical repair done by an honest-to-god surgeon rather than a complex but locally done stitch job by a jumped up chancre mechanic.

The HM1 rolled one of the watchstanders out of the rack to hold down the desk while I checked Skippy in and waded through the preliminary paperwork and physical exam. As I was wrapping up my preparations to close the wound and explaining the procedure to the patient, HM1 invited Rosco the Refrigerator in to bless the procedure. Rosco was the Duty Doc, a Flight Surgeon assigned to CVW-6. He gave me a thumbs up and I tucked into the job, competently assisted by the elfin HM1.

It took about an hour to close the wound. I hadn't realized it before, but HM1 had never been formally certified and had therefore never sutured. It was kind of nice being able to talk and teach my way through the job.

With Skippy's head held together by Frankenstein stitching, it was time to send him to the barracks. Rosco had called the squadron's ready room and the Squadron Duty Officer sent both the duty driver and the Squadron Corpsman to fetch him. The corpsman would babysit Skippy overnight and return him in the morning for a follow up.

I didn't give it a thought at the time, but I was working within a very good health care system. I only rarely worked with Rosco and the CVW-6 medical team; we were on nearly opposing deployment cycles. Likewise, I only rarely worked with HM1, and by the time I returned from my next deployment she was long gone to another duty assignment. I'm pretty sure I never saw any of those guys again. One of the cool things is that we were all able to work together so smoothly and also be comrades and friends. This was all based on training and experience, an understanding of mission and our individual places in mission accomplishment, and a shared sense of respect. From the outside it probably looked like we were simple plug-and-play components, but we weren't that at all. We could function like that because of the ethos and convictions we shared and because we chose to. It wasn't always like that, but most of the time it was, and the experience could be a very satisfying one indeed.


Back to the ranch...

Always something...

Winter's coming...


  1. Miss driving past your ranch and down 71 three times a week, but don't miss the rest of the courier job.

    1. I can see where that would get old. Driving that stretch once a year is enough for me. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. There is joy in your writing when you are in the thick of it as Mr Fixit.
    Are you sure your heart's on the ranch, or are you just crabby? lol...

  3. YIKES! What a hair raising tale. Once again, I'm glad it was you and not me.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I never thought about it at the time -- at least I don't remember thinking about it -- but a lot of humans (and sailors are human, despite some evidence to the contrary) stick their heads in places they shouldn't. I know I've sewn up more head lacerations than any other kind. Probably more than all other kinds combined. Thanks for stopping by Paul!

  4. Lots of tales playing doc with bipedal critters. Do you do much on your quadrapeds, or leave that for the Vets? (Hey, an expense you might be able to cut....).
    Always enjoy the Corpsman sea stories.
    John Blackshoe

    1. I do quite a bit of doctorin' on the cattle, or at least more than most of my peers. Cattle are seldom drunk enough to hurt themselves and they're never dumb enough to voluntarily ride a carrier or climb into a helo so they don't suffer from all that much trauma. When they do, I can usually fix it. I'm also a top hand cow/calf bls and midwifing the birthing cows that need a hand. The basics are all pretty much the same though the scale is slightly different. Not dissimilar to caring for sailors. A little less puke, a little more shit.

      Thanks for stopping by John.