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Tippy Gnu

I chase unicorns (unique thoughts, experiences, ideas, etc) and post them on my blog. Then you can comment on the unicorns, by sharing your own unique thoughts, experiences, ideas, etc. Come join the fun, and together we’ll chase unicorns!

The Mariposa War, Chapter 3: War Begins

This is Part ? of a 10-part series of posts entitled, The Mariposa War.
To read the previous post, CLICK THIS LINK.
To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK.
To read the next post of this series, CLICK THIS LINK.
Thanks for reading!

War Begins

In May of 1850, the Mariposa War broke out. Chief Tenaya led a party of warriors in an attack against Savage’s trading post. This business operation had been built about 15 miles from the Gold Rush town of Mariposa.

Mariposa means “butterfly,” in Spanish. This area was named “Las Mariposas” by Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga in 1806, after the many beautiful, macrolepidoptera he encountered here. Even today, Mariposa holds an annual butterfly festival to commemorate the Monarch butterflies that frequent the Yosemite region.

Mariposa is the southernmost Gold Rush town in California. It’s located at the southern terminus of the mother lode that attracted prospectors the world over, back in the mid-1800s. It’s also known as the mother of counties, but not due to the mother lode.

A mother county is one which has splintered multiple times, forming spin-off counties. Mariposa began as the state’s largest county, encompassing one-fifth of California, and included what are now 11 other spin-off counties. These counties are Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, and parts of San Benito, Mono, Inyo, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.

The hostilities with the Indians took place within the confines of this gigantic county, and hence this conflict received the name, Mariposa War.

617 foot high, Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite Valley is famous for its high concentration of waterfalls in a small area. They flow the heaviest during the snowmelt season of April, May, and June. But many dry up during the summer and fall, disappointing visitors during the busiest time of the tourist season. Bridalveil Falls, however, flows year-round.

This war that Tenaya’s attack touched off would determine the fate of King James’ kingdom, as well as that of many tribes in the gold mining country of California’s Sierra Nevadas.

Savage and his subjects successfully repulsed the attack, sending Chief Tenaya into retreat. They then pursued the Ahwahnechees up the Merced River, until they neared Yosemite Valley, which this magnificent river flows through.

Further ahead of Savage, and above the main portion of Yosemite Valley, lies Vernal Falls, a 317 foot waterfall. Vernal Falls is about a half-mile downstream from 594 foot tall, Nevada Falls. Both of these cataracts, and the rapids between them, drop the Merced River from an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, down to about 4,700 feet.

Many historians have said that nobody of European descent had ever laid eyes upon Yosemite Valley before. But some historians disagree. In 1833, a mountain man named Joseph Walker led the first party of Americans to ever cross the Sierra Nevadas, and enter California’s Central Valley. It’s thought that he might have traveled through Tioga Pass on his return trip, and spotted the valley from afar, at Olmstead Point.

If so, then he could not have helped but notice the north side of Half Dome, which is one of the most impressive blocks of granite in the world. Yet Walker made no mention of Half Dome, or of any of the other incredible and memorable features of the Yosemite Valley, in his log of his travels. So it’s debatable that he was the first European to discover it.

Half Dome sports the highest point of geological features immediately surrounding Yosemite Valley, at 8,846 feet. It rises 4,737 feet above the valley floor. Its towering height makes it visible from outside the valley, but only at certain strategic vantages, such as Olmstead Point on Tioga Road, or Half Dome Viewpoint on Big Oak Flat Road.

But now, in May of 1850, King James Savage was on the cusp of making one of the most notable discoveries in the world. Yet it was not to be. As he chased Chief Tenaya’s warriors through the Merced Gorge, his Indian subjects hesitated. They warned him to pursue no further. They explained that the valley they were about to enter offered perfect conditions for setting up an ambush.

The Merced Gorge during a rainstorm. Had Savage traveled just a few miles further up this rugged gorge, he would have first been greeted by the magnificent sights of El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls. And possibly the terrifying sight of Chief Tenaya’s warriors, surrounding him in an ambush.

King Savage wisely took their word for it, without seeing the valley for himself. He relented and returned to his trading post. He felt wary about a future attack, though, and decided to abandon this trading post and relocate his business to a safer location at Mariposa Creek, close to the town of Mariposa.

This is the latest installation of my 10-part series, The Mariposa War. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 4: Slapped By a King . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

Stolen Quote: Old-Fashioned

Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.

Jane Addams, Social Worker

If they would stop wearing high heels, maybe this wouldn’t happen.

The Mariposa War, Chapter 2: El Rey Tulareno

This is Part 2 of a 10-part series of posts entitled, The Mariposa War.
To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK.
To read the next post of this series, CLICK THIS LINK.
Thanks for reading!

El Rey Tulareno

Life with the Tularenos was working out well. Only a few months after being accepted by their tribe, James Savage once again became a family man. And then twice again and more so. That’s because he managed to marry several daughters of tribal leaders. And this won him political clout among the Tularenos. In fact, many of the Indians began calling him El Rey Huero, or The Blonde King.

But Savage would have none of this name. Instead, he brazenly instructed them to call him, El Rey Tulareno, which meant, King of the Tularenos. And they obediently complied. And this is how John Savage, recent immigrant from Illinois, became a king in California.

El Capitan is a loose translation of the Miwok word “Totokanula,” which means “Chief.” It attracts climbers from all over the world, over 30 of whom have fallen to their deaths since 1905. The Dawn Wall, subject of an eponymous 2017 documentary, is partially covered by the right branch in the foreground. Before the documentary, it was considered impossible to free-climb.

Now it was time for conquest. He organized his new subjects into an army, and waged war on neighboring tribes. The Tularenos fought bravely, and met with victory after victory, carving out a larger and larger kingdom for King James Savage.

In March of 1848, news broke that gold had been discovered in the nearby Sierra Nevadas. This was local news, for the time being, but King Savage realized he had to act quickly before word got out and the whole world descended upon his kingdom. Soon he staked some claims on the Tuolumne River, and organized 500 of his Indian subjects to work his placer mines. Then he established a trading post, to take advantage of newly arriving miners stricken with gold fever.

The Tuolumne River (pronounced Tu-ALL-uh-mee), where King Savage made a fortune in gold, with the help of his subjects.

His subjects found gold for him, and between the lucrative trading post, and all the gold the Indians dredged up, King James became a very wealthy man. In return, he rewarded his subjects with whiskey, beads, blankets, and other inexpensive items that sparked their fancy.

However, all successful kings and conquerors eventually meet their match, which was a lesson James Savage soon learned. Although he was rich, he wanted more, so he decided to expand his kingdom and his operations by establishing a trading post to the south, on the Merced River. But there was a problem with this. He hadn’t counted on the Ahwahnechees.

The Merced River, named by Spanish explorers after Our Lady of Mercy. Its headwaters are in the high Sierras, and it’s the main watercourse that drains Yosemite Valley. It eventually empties into the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley. This waterway was one of the southernmost rivers in North America to host chinook salmon, until dams blocked their migration in the late-19th century.

The Ahwahnechees were a mixed tribe of 200 Monos, Paiutes, Miwoks, and other local Indians, who had recently settled on the Merced River, about 25 miles upstream of Savage’s new trading post. In fact, they had settled in Yosemite Valley itself. Their name for the valley was, “Ahwahnee,” which means, “Big Mouth.”

But the white man, as well as neighboring tribes, called the Ahwahnechees, the “Yosemites,” which is a corruption of the word, “Uzumati.” This is a Miwok term meaning, “they are killers.” These “killers” were led by Chief Tenaya, and he saw the new trading post downstream from his valley as an encroachment upon his tribe’s territory.

North Dome and the Washington Column guard the entrance to Tenaya Canyon. Exfoliation, not glaciers, created the rounded granite domes commonly found in Yosemite National Park. Water freezing in cracks, expands the granite, forcing it to break off. As it exfoliates and slides away, it scours the surface of the underlying rock, filing it down at the edges and thus rounding it into a dome shape over millions of years.

This is the latest installation of my 10-part series, The Mariposa War. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 3: War Begins. Click here to start at the beginning.

Stolen Quote: War

There’s in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 5/3/44

Yep. We can’t have nice things.

Stolen Quote: Pride

There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Benjamin Franklin–The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Maybe the best way to rid ourselves of pride, is to feel ashamed at our inability to rid ourselves of it.

The Mariposa War, Chapter 1: The Widower

This is Part 1 of a 10-part series of posts entitled, The Mariposa War.
To read the next post of this series, CLICK THIS LINK.
Thanks for reading!

The Widower

James Savage had no idea he would soon become a king and conqueror. And he could not imagine that he would also take credit for discovering one of the wonders of the world. A wonder that we now know as Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Valley was a mystery in 1846, known only to Indians until after California achieved statehood.

It was April, 1846, when this future king boarded a wagon with his wife and child, shook the reins, and headed West for the Mexican state of Alta California.

Savage was born in 1817, in a part of the Illinois territory that was German and Dutch immigrant country. He was a bright young man while growing up, and charismatic, and possessed an uncanny aptitude for learning languages.

At a very young age, he surprised adults by learning to speak fluently, the German and Dutch of his immigrant neighbors. And it was this knack for quickly picking up on other languages that would play a key role in his coronation as king.

Yosemite Valley was formed a million years ago by glaciers, including a giant, 4,000 foot high glacier, that carved out the valley’s distinctive U-shape.

The journey from Independence, Missouri to California was long and treacherous in those days. Many pioneers perished along the trail, and Savage’s wife and child joined the statistics. Sadly, by the time the future king arrived at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, in October of 1846, he was a childless widower.

And he arrived during the middle of a war. The Mexican War was raging, and the U.S. military needed help in the conquest of California. So James enlisted, joining Captain John Fremont’s battalion. But three months later, in January of 1847, the war in California ended with the Treaty of Cahuenga. By April, James Savage had mustered out, and was ready to do his own conquering of this new addition to the United States.

I wrote about the conquest of California a few years ago, in a series of posts entitled, Conquering California. If you wish to read this series, please click this link.

Glaciers sliced away vertical blocks of granite, leaving hanging valleys that gushed precipitous waterfalls, such as Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, with a cumulative vertical drop of 2,425 feet.

He drifted around, as unmarried men are wont to do, and ended up living with a tribe of Indians in the San Joaquin Valley, about 100 miles or so southeast of Sacramento. These were the mighty Tularenos.

At this time, the Native American population in California approximately equaled that of the non-natives, at about 100,000 each. Disease and genocide would soon reduce the natives’ numbers, but for now the Indians were holding their own.

And so was the environment, as most of California was unspoiled by the growth and “progress” that would later befoul its coastlines, Central Valley, and Sierra Nevada mountains. The air was clean, the rivers ran free and full, and the mountains offered secret hideaways, such as Yosemite Valley, that were known only to the natives.

California was a wilderness paradise in 1847. This is how the Merced River, with El Capitan on the left, and Bridalveil Falls on the right, likely appeared even back then.

But there was a history of friction between the natives and their invaders, dating back to the 1760’s, when Spanish missionaries first arrived on their soil and began changing their way of life. And so Savage was regarded with a bit of wariness and distrust, when he first became a guest of the Tulareno tribe.

But Savage’s natural charm, and aptitude for learning languages, saved the day. He quickly adopted the mixed Spanish and native tongue of the Tularenos, and won their admiration and respect for this. He was a likable and diplomatic man, and was also friendly and sympathetic toward these Indians, to the point where they began treating him as one of their own.

El Capitan, or “The Chief.” This block of granite lifts 3,000 feet from the valley floor. It’s steep, sheer cliffs are attributed to the granite being relatively free from joints. This makes it resistive to the grinding, crumbling effects of glaciers, as well as to the probing fingers and toes of free-climbing adventurers.

This begins a new series of posts, entitled The Mariposa War, about the discovery of Yosemite Valley. Thanks for reading, and please come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 2: El Rey Tulareno.

Closing Time

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 9: Closing Time

After more than three years of living with us and barhopping with my wife, Grandma’s health went downhill again. She reached the point where she couldn’t sit at a barstool anymore, or even handle a beer, so she asked to go to the hospital. My wife drove her to the ER.

But there the doctor scolded her. “You’re old!” he declared. “We can’t help you here, and you’re taking up space we need for those we CAN help.” He gave her a choice between being admitted to a rest home, or receiving hospice care at our home.

My grandma chose hospice. But her hearing had gone so bad from her super-powerful, and super-damaging hearing aids, that we’ve never been sure if she understood the choice she was being asked to make.

Soon hospice took away all of her life-sustaining medication, such as her heart pills, and replaced them with painkillers. And my grandma’s health worsened. She had always been thin, but over the next few months she grew even thinner.

She reached the point where she could no longer walk to the livingroom and watch the Syfy channel. Later, she could no longer make it to the bathroom, and had to resort to a potty chair in the bedroom. Then she grew so tabescent, she could hardly get out of bed.

One evening she fell, and it was a struggle to get her back on her feet and into bed. At this point she became too much for my wife and I to handle, and we had her admitted to a local rest home.

A few days after she was admitted, I finished my mail delivery rounds and drove over to pay her a visit. There she lay, flat on her back, with a cold dinner sitting on a tray in front of her. The staff would not help her eat, and her arms were too weak to lift the silverware.

I tried to speak to her, but she was too weak to answer, and probably couldn’t hear me anyway. I wasn’t even sure if she recognized me. But as I turned to leave, she lightly grabbed my hand. Then she pointed to the food, and then her mouth. It seemed as if she was asking me to feed her.

So I dipped a spoon into the bowl of mush, or whatever it was, and guided it into her mouth. It felt strange feeding someone. It’s the first time I’d ever done such a thing in my life. It kind of grossed me out, but Grandma seemed hungry, so I kept at it.

How roles had changed! She had helped take care of me during my first year of life, and I’m sure she’d put a spoon into my mouth many times. I don’t know if it grossed her out, but she did it. And now here I was, returning the favor.

But after three meager spoonfuls, Grandma waved her hand as if to say, “Enough.” That was all she could handle. So I set the spoon down and said goodbye to her. She feebly managed a slight wave back.

It might have been the last meal she ever ate. A few days later the lights were turned out and the party was over. It was closing time. The Queen of the Silver Dollar abdicated her throne and returned Home, just two months shy of her 97th birthday.

Grandma, the Queen of the Silver Dollar, 1916 – 2012.

This has been the final installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. I hope you enjoyed the read! Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.


The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 8: WHERE’S MY MONEY?!

My 93-year-old grandmother emerged from her colon cancer surgery almost as good as new, and ready to party once again. My poor wife. She dreaded dragging Grandma around from one bar to another, and now the old barfly was healthy enough to barhop on nearly a daily basis.

She and her two cats had moved in with us, occupying a bedroom in our house. Our dogs kept the felines prisoner in her bedroom, where they stank up a litter box, and scratched the closet doors to ribbons.

When Grandma wasn’t at a bar, she preferred to work crossword puzzles in her bedroom or watch the Syfy channel in the livingroom.

Her hearing aids were wearing out though, so she had to turn the TV volume way up, and this was getting annoying. So my wife took her to the ear doctor for an examination and a fitting for new hearing aids.

About a week later, at the bar, my grandma drunkenly confessed a secret to my wife. During the hearing exam, she was wearing headphones and was told to repeat all the words she heard. But when she heard something like “dog,” she would respond with something like “log,” to make it appear as if her hearing was worse than it really was.

My sly grandmother was trying to fool the examiner into prescribing super-powerful hearing aids. Which is not a good idea, according to audiologists. My worried wife called the ear doctor and ratted on Grandma. The doctor was appalled. “Oh no!” she said, “she could go completely deaf wearing strong hearing aids like that.” But it was too late. The order had already been sent in, and the devices were already being built.

Needless to say, Grandma was never pleased with her new hearing aids, and was always struggling to turn the volume down. And to rub salt in her wounds, she had to pay a pretty penny for them. $3,290. But the clever old miser had a trick up her sleeve. She bought them on credit, with a deal that promised her zero percent interest if she paid off the entire balance in 12 months.

Grandma had no intention of making any payments. She figured her cancer would return, and she’d be dead in 12 months. But she hadn’t counted on the fact that I had taken over her finances, and I wasn’t about to let her renege on this deal. I figured she’d be dead in 12 months also, and I wanted her to have a clean conscience when she entered whatever hereafter lies after here.

So every month when I counted out her allowance from her Social Security check, I deducted $275 for the hearing aid company.

I also deducted money for room and board. Yes, we required Grandma to pay for her keep. It was hard work taking care of this old biddy, and she was sending all of her money, or what was leftover after paying her bar bill, to her alcoholic son in northern California. I’ll just call him Foster Brooks, since the drunken bum might still be alive. Why give Uncle Foster all her money, we reasoned, when we were the ones busting our asses for her?

I’m also proud, and not one ounce ashamed to admit, that I defalcated her entire savings account of $1,545. I closed that damned account down, and set the money aside in my own account to pay for her final arrangements. That is, her upcoming and inevitable cremation.

We’d been nagging after Grandma to make arrangements with the local funeral home, but she kept putting it off. Even in her 90’s, she was scared to death of Death. It gave her the willies to even talk about it. Also, she liked the idea of leaving everyone holding the bag, upon her demise. Except Foster. She’d been carefully building her savings account, and had intended that Foster inherit the $1,545.

Meanwhile, out of the generosity of her heart, she expected us to pay for her cremation. But it was not to be, much to her chagrin.

She didn’t like us taking so much out of her Social Security check, or losing her savings account, but didn’t say so right away. She just did a slow burn. But a few months and a few meager allowances later, the shit hit the fan. I was casually passing through the livingroom while she was watching Star Trek LXXVII, or some damn thing, when she stopped me with a glare and a growl.

“Tippy!” she barked.

“Yes, grandma?” I meekly turned to her and answered. I remembered that tone of voice from childhood, and an instinctive fear kicked me in the stomach, reverting me to my younger days.


It took me a second to regain my composure. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t a kid any longer, and that she posed no threat to me.

I cleared my throat. “Grandma, you have to pay off the hearing aid company within 12 months, or they’re going to charge you 22% interest, backdated to your first payment. So your money is going to the hearing aid company. And the money from your savings account is going to be used for your cremation,” I tried to explain with all the adult maturity and official gravity I could muster.

“I WANT MY MONEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!” Grandma belligerently hollered.

I was flummoxed. “I-I’m sorry Grandma, but I-I can’t help you,” I stammered while beating a hasty retreat to my bedroom and escaping this monstrous 93-year-old, 99-pound woman.

My wife worked at home. She was a beautician, and we had a beauty shop attached to our house, where my wife gave inexpensive perms to little old ladies. In fact, that’s where my better half was at now, rolling curlers in someone’s hair, or whatever the hell beautician’s do. My grandma suddenly whipped the beauty shop door open and shouted, “WHERE’S MY MONEY?! I WANT MY MONEY!”

My wife tried to soothe her, “We’ll talk about this later, Grandma. I’m with a customer right now.”

To which Grandma retorted, “Fuck your customers! I WANT MY MONEY!”

Then she slammed the door shut and rushed to her bedroom, and slammed that door also.

This could not stand. A business cannot be run successfully with that kind of interruption. We had to take action.

So my wife called both my grandma’s daughter (my mother) and her son (drunk Uncle Foster), and asked if they would take her. But they both came up with all kinds of lame excuses as to why she couldn’t live with them. Truth is, they didn’t want her. They’d known her all their lives, and they remembered just how difficult she was to live with.

One of her sons, my Uncle Mike, was already dead from having drank too much while taking care of her, so he was no help. And another of her sons, my Uncle David, the one who never became an alcoholic, and my favorite uncle, was also long dead. So he was no help.

It was time for Plan B. My wife handed Grandma a phone book. She told her that she was very welcome to continue living with us, but if she did, she had to be pleasant to be around. On the other hand, if she preferred to live in a rest home, she could call around to all the rest homes in town and choose the one she liked best.

Grandma’s telephone investigation led to the discovery that if she lived in any rest home, they’d drain her meager checking account dry, and every month they’d confiscate her entire Social Security check. All she’d receive would be a measly allowance of about $30 a month. Which wouldn’t be much to send to Foster. Hell it would hardly be enough to afford more than a day or two a month of barhopping.

That ended the controversy. Grandma returned to her old, sweet self.

Except with me. She refused to talk to me after that, until her hearing aids were paid off, and I increased her allowance. Which took a year. But after that long era of silence ended, we became like old friends again.

This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the final installation, entitled, Chapter 9: Closing Time . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

Blood Transfusion

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 7: Blood Transfusion

When my grandma was 89 years old her son, Michael, lay dying in a rest home. My uncle had partied hard with my grandma for 20 years, while chauffeuring her around to bars. But his constitution wasn’t as stout as hers, and now at age 62, it was all catching up with him.

My wife had taken over the role, as my grandmother’s caretaker and chauffeuse. Every day, she drove Grandma to the rest home. There, they would spread a special blanket that my grandmother had crocheted, over her son’s dying body. Then they would hold his hands.

One day they felt his spirit leave his hands, as Uncle Mike drew his last breath. The ordeal was over, and he moved on to that great Distillery in the Sky. Or to the center of the Earth. It’s not for me to judge which direction he went.

Four years later, and now my grandma had advanced to age 93. Her health was declining fast. No more could she go bar-hopping every day, to booze it up with her friends. About the best she could manage was maybe once a week. So we knew something was seriously wrong.

Her doctor told her she could no longer live on her own, and threatened to notify Adult Protective Services if she continued to do so. But Grandma did not want to waste away in a rest home, like her son, so my wife and I decided to sacrifice our privacy and space. We allowed her to move in with us, to live out her final days.

Her doctor had run a blood test on her that revealed a low red blood cell count. Based upon this, she had diagnosed her with leukemia and given her three months to live. So we didn’t expect Grandma to occupy space in our house for very long.

About a month after moving in with us, her anemia took a turn for the worse. She grew so weak she could barely make it out of bed. She wanted to see her doctor, but my wife had a better idea. She called 9-1-1, and had the EMT’s take her to the hospital. She was betting that the Emergency Department would run a whole battery of tests and figure out whether or not the issue really was leukemia.

And she was right. They poked, probed, and X-rayed, and finally diagnosed her with colon cancer. She had a malignant tumor in her large intestine that had advanced to the point of making her bleed internally. Hence, her low red blood cell count. She didn’t have leukemia.

Surgery was in order, to remove the tumor. But their most immediate concern was that she was bleeding to death in her bowels. She required a blood transfusion, stat.

My grandmother adamantly refused. She claimed she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and didn’t believe in blood transfusions. It was against her religion, she asserted. Now this is somewhat true. Grandma had been in and out of the JW religion many times over the past 60 years. She was what you might call a jack-Jehovah’s Witness.

She was very patriotic, and worshiped flag and country. And she drank like a fish and flitted from bar to bar like an archetypical barfly. And I’d never known her to attend the Kingdom Hall for worship services. This sort of behavior is anathema to her professed religion. But she still maintained that she was a Jehovah’s Witness.

The hospital called my wife and advised her of my grandma’s impending doom. They told her they had to honor her religious convictions and withhold the transfusion, and that meant she probably wouldn’t make it to the next morning.

My wife replied, “Get the blood ready! I’m coming down there. She’ll want the transfusion after I’m finished with her!”

My wife had been caretaking for my grandmother for more than ten years, and she knew her very well. Within the hour she was marching down the hospital corridors, heading for Grandma’s death bed, with a blanket under her arm. She stopped at the nurse’s station. “Have you started warming up the blood for her?” she inquired.

“No, ma’am, she’s absolutely refusing a blood transfusion. We can’t give her blood. We have to honor her religious wishes.”

“Start warming it now! I guarantee she’ll be wanting a blood transfusion in just a few minutes.”

Into Grandma’s room, she marched on her mission. The first thing she did with Grandma was put her hearing aids on. Then she covered her with the blanket she’d brought with her. This was the same crocheted blanket that they’d spread over her dying son, four years earlier. Then she sat down next to her, held her hand, and reassured her.

“Don’t worry, Grandma” she spoke with tender solicitude, “I understand that your religion forbids you from taking a blood transfusion. It’s okay. I’m going to stay by your side, just like we did with Michael. They told me you won’t make it to morning, but I’ll be right here the whole time, to help you through this.”

“What do you mean, I won’t make it until morning?” my grandmother appeared startled. Apparently, when the doctor advised her of her need for a blood transfusion, she hadn’t been wearing her hearing aids.

My grandmother was practically deaf without her hearing aids. She’d fake it and pretend to hear, while trying to read lips. So when the doctor warned her she was going to die without a blood transfusion, she simply answered him the same way she answered everyone else when she couldn’t hear them. She smiled and nodded, and said, “Okay, honey!”

Grandma began protesting. “But-but I’ve been praying to God, and God told me that He wants me to make more hats!” My grandmother had been crocheting caps for the Marines at the nearby military base. Marines used these caps to line their combat helmets, for cushioning their heads. This was my grandmother’s way of helping with the Iraq War effort.

Grandma with a pile of helmet liners she crocheted for the Marines. The proudest day of her life was when the Marine Corps awarded her for her efforts, with a flag that had once flown over Al Anbar province, in Iraq.

“Well,” my wife repeated the warning, “according to your doctor, you won’t make it to next morning without a blood transfusion. But since you’ve declined that transfusion, I’m here to support you.”

Grandma went into panic mode. “I’m not THAT damned religious!” she sputtered. She frantically pressed the nurse’s call button, over and over. “Nurse! Nurse!” she shouted. “I want blood! I’m not that religious!”

The nurse rushed into the room, and was confronted by my grandma, begging for blood. This was the same nurse whom my wife had advised to warm up the blood, just a few minutes earlier. She cast an accusatory scowl at my wife. “What did you do?! Did you threaten her?!”

“No,” my wife explained, “I put her hearing aids on.”

Grandma got the transfusion, and then the surgery. And after that she managed to squeeze out another three years of life, and partying, and maintaining her reign on the barstool as the Queen of the Silver Dollar.

This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 8: Where’s My Money! Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.


A site for the Barsetshire Diaries Books and others

Chasing Unicorns

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The Trefoil Muse

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