My first recollection of life was color ... vibrant, beautiful color. The exaggerated color of the movie screen when the color movies first came out. Explosive color ... violent color ... magnificent color. Startling ... as I remember it. Yellows, reds, oranges, blues, greens ... the color wheel with damn few of the intermediate colors
Of course I was asleep.
I dream in technicolor. Or, at least, I did when I was new. The monsters in the closet were checks and stripes, plaids and multi-colored spots ... with variegated fangs and rainbow eyes. Six different appendages or floaters ... all in wonderful color.
It is a parents duty to eliminate the monsters ... eventually they ridicule and coerce often enough that the child blocks the vision. The most effective rejoinder is, "What would the neighbors say?"
What the parent really means is, "I have friends in town and you're scaring them away."
"Grow up, David."
And I wanted to be grown up.
So the monsters were shunted to the old boots and too small clothes in the back of the closet ... and one of the colors went away.
The next time I lost a color was when I was 28.
My first heart attack.
I lost the reds. Oranges and yellows stayed, but I lost the Italian glass bead red ... the one they had to make with gold. That one was gone entirely ... the other glass reds slowly faded away ... so slowly that I didn't notice until I closed my eyes one night and all I saw was blue ... spectacular shades of blue ... but blue. The blues lasted a long time.
I was 35 when I died.
The heart attack was pretty severe. I fell off a 24 four foot ladder. When I was aware again, I was talking to a Wyoming State trooper at the stoplight at the corner of US -16 and US -16 Truck Route, Newcastle, Wyoming.
"You need to get out of the truck, sir," he said.
"I can't," I replied.
"Have you been drinking, sir?" he asked.
"No, I'm having a heart attack and I doubt that I can stand," I slapped my chest a good one by way of confirmation. "Start! Damn you!"
"Can you drive?"
"If I can stay awake."
"Where do you live?"
"I can call for an ambulance?"
"Where are you staying?"
"The motel with the swimming pool."
I followed ... or he followed me ... I don't know which ... it's fuzzy. But I was in my room.
So ... I called home from the motel and woke up in the middle of the night with my wife beating the shit out of my chest.
"He's got a pulse ... Drive! Landrum ... Drive!" she shouted at the driver.
Landrum Metlock the third. A fine young man from Texas who moved to Wyoming to answer God's call.
He bundled up his wife and three teenaged daughters and packed them off to the wilds of Wyoming in response to a dream.
Anyone who would leave Tyler, Texas ... the only southern town in Texas ... and move to Sheridan, Wyoming in response to a nightmare just has to be at least two bubbles out of plumb. And Landy was all of that.
The car was his 454 big block Chevrolet station wagon. When I called from the motel, Cora called Landy. It's 181 miles from Sheridan to Newcastle ... and 181 miles from Newcastle to the VA hospital in Sheridan.
I'm a vet. Ever since my brother in law shot me, I try and stay away from the Sheridan County Hospital.
In just under 3 hours and 15 minutes, Landy drove to Wolf, Wyoming ... dropped off two of his teen daughters to act as babysitters, picked up Cora, drove to Newcastle and back to the hospital. Three hundred sixty two miles ... not counting the forty miles to Wolf and back on gravel roads ... in three hours fourteen minutes 27 seconds. Four hundred miles... 40 of it on gravel. 3:14:27
That's one hundred twenty-four miles an hour ... including the stop to get me in the car and the stop to unload me at the hospital.
You have to understand ... I don't KNOW any of this ... I was dead or dying or recovering from being dead. This is what was testified by various and sundry folks ... Davy ... the admitting officer at the VA. Cora called him and he began the process to get me seen.
He wasn't expecting Landrum to show up for at least four MORE hours.
Landy's wife testified about the time Cora called and she woke the girls.
That testifying was done in church.
The motel owner testified about the time the station wagon ground looped into the motel parking lot in Newcastle.
Three Wyoming state troopers testified that they couldn't catch the 454 Chevy station wagon and Landy didn't stop. That testifying was done in court and the judge dismissed the case because it was a lifesaving mission.
The VA Intensive Care nurse testified that she had indeed used the paddles to revive me once that night. She wrote that in my records and if there's one thing a nurse knows it's if it's not written down it never happened.
My wife testified that she had to restart my heart three times on the terrifying trip. She told me that when she was cussing me out for scaring her so bad.
So ... to continue. My part of this story:
I was snug in my bed at the VA. I was watching the pretty green line bounce on the oscilloscope screen and listening to the beep ... I need you all to know ... that beep is mighty comforting ... until it stops ... and the green line on the oscilloscope flattens out to a thin line ... that doesn't even wiggle.
Near the ceiling of the south west corner of the three bed ICU ward, I was watching the poor sap lying on the bed struggling He was rapidly turning blue.
From the south west corner of the three bed ICU ward, I could see Joan ... the ICU nurse ... at her desk drop the Cosmopolitan magazine she was reading. It floated to the floor ... she stood ... took at least an hour for her to stand. The step she took to reach the shocker on its rolling stand took a good fifteen minutes ... I was watching her from the south west corner of the three bed ICU ward through the solid concrete and tiled wall.
The poor sap on the bed stopped turning blue. He turned gray and shit.
That's going to stink, I thought, I am outta here.
The original ceiling in the Intensive Care Ward of the Veterans Administration hospital in Sheridan Wyoming was 18 feet tall. Over the years that ceiling had been lowered four times.
Above the acoustic tile of the present ceiling was a grid of asbestos two foot by three foot tiles.
And above the asbestos was another asbestos tile ceiling that was snap together one foot squares nailed to a lattice of 1 inch x 3 inch pine boards suspended by wire through the next ceiling which was metal squares.
Above that was the original pressed tin ceiling that used to be so prevalent in the 1890's; very fancy and looked like plasterwork.
I know this because while I was evacuating the stinky zone I passed through all five ceilings.
The First ceiling ... the pressed metal one ... was attached to one inch by twelve inch wide clear pine boards and just past that were the ceiling joists ... three by six clear single length spruce covered by clear two inch by twelve inch pine flooring that formed the attic floor and resting on that attic floor were the Electroshock therapy machines that had been stored in the attic after the VA lost a lawsuit and the court ordered the machines destroyed.
Later, I heard the Chief of Medicine tell the Head Psychiatrist that administrations change and he'd be damned if he'd destroy a useful tool ... no matter WHAT the courts said. So instead of the scrap heap the machines were gathering dust in the attic.
I noticed, on my way out, the the roof had been replaced. The original was those cast interlocking red clay tiles that are prevalent in Military installations throughout the south...
When the VA hospital was Fort Mackenzie, the same architects from the Army Corps of Engineers who designed the Forts in the south must have designed the Forts in the north and used the same roofing system. The tile fastens to the roof decking so that each tile is a vent to release excess heat.
There is no such thing as excess heat in the snowy reaches of the Upper Great Plains and the Fort was rapidly converted to slate shingles.
Slate shingles have a tendency to gather moss. The moss gathers acorns from the oak trees the military planted and acorns become trees.
The slate was removed and rather than replace the sheathing ... the contractors added in wood to make the roof a solid surface acceptable to asbestos shingles ... that's what was on the hospital roof.
Each time a new roofing system was applied the contractors added wood to fit the needs of the new roofing. Each addition was with new wood and each change created a stripe of a different color ... and that's how I know the roofing had gone from tile to slate to asbestos shingles. There were three different colors of wood.
All this was going through my mind as I was cruising at the speed of light through the top of the building.
The ubiquitous tunnel ... with the light at the end.
After the ordeal of the building I noticed that it was a very nice full moon August night ... comfortable and peaceful ... until the tunnel.
And I did think the light at the end was a train ... really. At the least it could be a car with a burnt out light or a motorcycle. Train fit my mood.
But it wasn't. It was just nice sunny daylight ... I popped out of the light onto a patch of the nicest grass I ever saw. It had never been cut.