Max K. Fraughton aka Barney McCoy

This project began as I was reading Nell Pauly’s book, The Day Before Yesterdayone fall afternoon while sitting outdoors at The Hub sipping a cup of coffee. It was a beautiful September day with the aspen in full color. The temperature was perfect and Mia, my springer spaniel, was foraging for crumbs and handouts at the other tables.

Nell’s book is about Who’s Who in the Grand Lake Cemetery and is copyrighted in 1972 and can be purchased in the Kaufmann House Museum. Nell (1905-1981) also credits much of the material in her book to her one time mother-in-law Josie Kalsay Young Langley, who for forty-six years was proprietress of the Rustic Inn, on the west shore of Grand Lake.

The story I read that day delt with the life of Little Bill Lehman, his cousins Big Bill Lehman, Art Lehman and friend Barney McCoy.

Nell’s description of Little Bill went something like this. Little Bill was born aboard a ship while his mother was on her way from Germany and spent his childhood traveling between the several Lehman families living in Grand County. He was slight of build compared to his two cousins and struggled at making a living, performing menial labor jobs in the Grand Lake area. He was very shy with women and as he grew older his temper grew with him. When you did see Little Bill he usually was caring his small .22 caliber rifle.

National prohibition had started in 1920 but that did not curb a man’s thirst for liquor. Eventually Little Bill found his niche making white lightening and distributing it in the county.

His two larger cousins teased their smaller, younger cousin terribly. To make matters worse, after he had strained the bugs out of his hooch and bottled it, his cousins would make off with it and have themselves a good night of drinking with friends.

Eventually Little Bill threatened to shoot cousin Art if he took any more of his product. Of course, that did not stop Big Bill, Art and Barney. In June of 1932 Little Bill’s stash of hooch once again disappeared so he went looking. He knocked on J.B’s cabin door with rifle at the ready. When Art opened the cabin door, Little Bill fired. He missed Art and managed to shoot poor Barney McCoy in the heart. He died there on the spot. Little Bill fled and hid out in the snowy hills north of Grand Lake but eventually turned himself in to the law. Little Bill was tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the criminal insane at Canon City State Prison.

In Defense of Barney McCoy, page 139
US Military – 1stWorld War 1884-1932

“Barney McCoy and his wife Josephine came to Grand Lake in the early 1930. No one ever knew just what brought them. It was widely speculated that they were running from something.”…… During their initial stay they spent time with different families and even rented from Nell and Jake Young for three weeks before renting their own little place along the Tonohoota Creek Trail. Nell and Jake found them to be a very delightful couple, congenial and friendly.

Once the couple was established in their own place they started associating with Art and both Little and Big Bill Lehman. Because Art and Little Bill were into bootlegging whisky it was assumed that Barney was too. Then that fateful day in June 1932, when Little Bill came hunting his cousin Art for stealing his hooch, stopped by J. B’s cabin to do him in but missed and drilled poor Barney through the heart ending his life. Barney went to boot hill and Little Bill to prison for life.

After Barney’s demise more bad rumors started going around town and it seemed that Barney had been the cause of all the crimes in town. Jake and Nellie defended Barney since they had known him as a good, kind and gentle man.

At the funeral, and most folks had left, Jo McCoy, looking lovely in a black satin gown, bent down, kissed Barney on his large white brow and said “It was wonderful while it lasted, Darling.”

Some years later a new marble headstone arrived and replace the worn out white wooden cross, which had marked his grave.

I had been intrigued by Nell’s story of Little Bill Lehman, Barney and Josephine McCoy. It became a personal challenge to me to see if I could learn more about Max K Fraughton aka Barney McCoy. So, as I usually do in mysteries like this one, I went online, typed in ancestry.com and away I went.

First I went looking for Max. In the 1920 US census it showed him living in Heber City Utah with his mother, Eliza and two younger brothers and had been born in 1895. His father was born in English Canada and his mother in Sweden. He was a laborer and worked for wages on a farm.

The next entry indicated he sailed from New York City on June 28th1918 on the ship Justicia for France and that his service number was 1640081. He was an automatic replacement draft – Artillery. Then a little further down on the list it showed he departed St. Nazaire, France on June 20 1919 aboard the ship Pocahontas bound for Fort Hill, Newport News, VA.  Other document shown on Ancertry.com were 1) War Service Questioner (with a wrong birthdate on it), 2) Military Service Card showing he received no wounds and was not in any engagements (did not see action), his 3) WW I Military Draft Registration card indicated he was medium build, medium height, light hair and blue eyes. His family shows up in the 4) 1910 Federal Census but his name was Mode Graughton but all the other facts about him match the 1920 census. The 1900 US census showed him listed as Mode Fraughton, same family and to show he was born in 1894 or 95.

Then I went searching for Barney McCoy and Josephine. What appeared first was the 1929 Denver City Directory and – McCoy, Barney (Josephine) cook and they resided at 4845 Irving St.. They also appeared in the 1930 US Census records for Grand Lake, CO with a few notable exceptions. He gave Alabama as his birthplace, age 40 and both of his parents were from Ireland. Josephine was born in Washington and her parents were Canada – English.

So I surmised that the two were hiding out under the alias of McCoy but why choose the name, Barney McCoy? So now I switched over to google search for the name Barney McCoy in the 1920s. And after over looking all the still living Barney McCoy names I found an entry titled “Ernest Stoneman& Uncle Eck Dunford-Barney McCoy – YouTube.” When I clicked on the link I was listening to an old song by the two men. The original song was written in 1881 and now in 1925 was making a come back. It was about a couple of young lovers wanting to migrate out of Ireland and the young lass needing to choose between leaving with Barney or staying with her family. It rather sounded like what was happening with the Grand Lake Barney and Josephine. My thought was that they just used the information in the song to hide themselves in the Denver City Directory and the 1930 US Census in Grand Lake.

I attempted to use Newspapers.com to locate a news article that might indicate what crimes Max had supposedly committed. The only newspaper articles I located on Max had to do with is being in the Utah National Guard during the war to end all wars.

It looked to me that my search for Max K. Fraughton, aka Barney McCoy, had come to an end. Well, I might have been a little hasty in my conclusion.

Several months later, I was using Ancestry.com to do some of my own family research. I was using the information I found to make my Family Tree when I searched Max K. Fraughton and found a LifeStory timeline on him.

It showed that he had married one Mattie Josephine Whitworth and they had a girl child by the name of Cleo McCoy. In the timeline it stated that they had married in 1913 in Somervell, TX. All of the information in his timeline was correct except for Cleo and his marriage to Josephine. It was all confusing to me until I stopped by the SWN Genealogy Society office in McCook.

It was explained to me that LifeStory timelines were manufactured by Ancestry.com from entries found on family trees. Some how Mattie Jo and Max were shown as married. A Ancestery.com computer program did the rest.

In further searching I found that Mattie Jo had married Barney C. McCoy in 1913 in Somervell, Texas. They had four children then divorced. She had moved to Wichita, Texas and died in 1961.

I was able to learn the owner of the family tree that contained Max and his family. Thinking she, the owner, might have additional information on Max and Josephine I could use in this article, I tried to contact her. I was even able to find where she and her husband are living but no phone number. I’ve emailed her four times and written her a snail mail letter with no replies.

So, I’ve decided there might be two possible ending to his story. The one about how they used the song to come up with aka Barney McCoy. And the one where he actually hooked up with Mattie Josephine Whitworth McCoy and used her ex husbands name to hid under.

The choice is yours. At this point in my investigation, I can believe either one but at this moment I’m leaning toward them borrowing her ex’s name.

Little Bill Lehman eventually died at Canon City State Penitentiary in 1951 and is buried under a rusty metal marker showing his location.

Along my journey to learn more about Max K. Fraughton aka Barney McCoy I found lots of material using Ancertery.com and Findagrave.com. I would like to share some of my findings as jpg images:

Note 1)I shared this blog with Jane Kemp and here is her reply.

“Great story! Here’s an interesting note about Billy Lehman which I found in our safe. There is an affidavit signed by James Cairns, my grandfather,  that the still which the Sheriff found on his North Inlet property did not belong to him and that he had no knowledge of it. There is also an affidavit signed by Billy Lehman that the still belonged to him and that James Cairns had no knowledge of it.”

James Cairns was an early Grand Lake settler, land owner and business leader. I believe he owned a quarter section up the north inlet surrounding Tonahutu creek. James Cairns died in 1925 so the affidavits had to be dated prior to is death.
Note 2)The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited making, transporting and selling alcoholic beverages. The Volstead Act spelled it out and law enforcement began in 1920. The 21st amendment to the Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment.  The Volstead allowed Little Bill Lehman to go from laborer to entrepreneur. It was too bad for both Barney and Little Bill that he could not have kept his anger in check for another eighteen months.
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Brian’s Story of Dr. Batty

At a weekly McCook Rotary Club meeting in January, 2017, Brian, office manager for the McCook Clinic, shared with me a story that involve my father Dr. John Batty.

Brian’s statement to me. “Steve, back when your father was living at Willow Ridge (a retirement home) when the front desk at the clinic forwarded a call to me from a farmer who wanted to get an ointment for his hands that were rough and scaly like they had been twenty years ago. Back then Dr. Batty had prescribed an ointment from Farrell’s Pharmacy that had cleared up the problem. “ Now that Dr. Batty was retired he did not know where to go to get the prescription he needed.

Brian took down the farmer’s information and called my father and explained to him what he needed. After a few seconds  of silence on the phone Dad came back and told Brian to go into Dr. Klug’s office and look for a large red book on his bookshelf. He could not remember the name of the book. He attributed that to his age. Dad was in his 90s by then and retired for over twenty years.

Dad told Brian to go find the book and look on page 87, the right hand page, half way down the left column and he would find the name of the ointment he needed to give to Pat Farrell to have the compound made.

Brian followed Dad’s instructions. Located the book and to his surprise half way down the left column on the right hand page was the name of the ointment or paste. Its name was Menthol Phenol Paste.

Brian called Farrell’s and asked for Pat then explained what he needed and wondered if Pat still had the formula for the past. After a few minutes of searching Pat replied in the positive.

Brian contacted Dr. Klug and explained the situation, where upon, the doctor wrote a prescription for the farmer.

The farmer must have picked up the paste and used it on his hands. Once the paste had done its magic and cleared up his hands, he called Brian and thanked him for his help.

The title of the red book Modern Dermatology and Syphilology published in 1941 and the authors were S William Becker, M.D. and Maximillian E. Obermayer, M.D.

On the front inside page of the old red book is written:
To Dr. John L. Batty,
In remembrance of several years pleasant association.
S. William Becker
Maximillian E. Obermayer

Chicago,
6-23-41

It looks to me that my father was leaving the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he did his residency, and moving to his first private practice in Hibbing, Minnesota. I’m only guessing but he most likely had the two doctors sign his copy of their book.

My parents were married in March of 1940 and lived on his $100 per month as a resident. He told me years ago he decided to join a medical practice in Hibbing because he was tired of being poor and in Hibbing his salary would be $300 per month.

A few days after Brian told me the story I followed up and visited the McCook Clinic and Farrell’s Pharmacy. I wanted to see the medical text and learn what I could from Pat Farrell. Below are the photos I took on my short journey.

derm-redbook           2018-01-11_19-54-05

derm-bookpg87 der-paste

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John Batty, A man’s View of his Career.

JOHN L. BATTY, M.D.

A short autobiography for 60th Class Reunion from Medical School -1999

I was fortunate in obtaining an Internship and Residency at the Albert Merit Billings Hospital, a part of the University of Chicago and its medical school. I entered this on 1 July 1938, and left in October 1941. I feel sure that Dean Poynter was responsible for this fortunate appointment, and I have carried their teachings as part of my life. As an Intern we had direct responsibility for the patient. In fact we were the only ones who could write orders. Each day we made rounds with the Assistant Resident and the Chief of the Department. These were great men, and I will enumerate them. George Dick, Infectious Diseases, Walter Lincoln Palmer, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Lewis Leiter, Nephrology, William S. Becker, Dermatology, and Henry T. Ricketts, Metabolic Diseases, all “giants” in their field. We were also involved in clinical and laboratory research, in addition to our routine duties. I really enjoyed and benefited from the personal relationship that I had with the senior staff. After 2 years I decided to go into chest diseases, and joined that department under the leadership of Dr. Robert Block.In March 1940, I married Marjorie Miller of Holdrege, Nebraska who was an intern dietitian in the Department of Medicine. By the end of June in my 3rd year we were about out of money, so I went into practice in Hibbing, Minnesota. This is the heart of the iron range and one of the coldest spots in the United States.

I did make progress financially for my income went from $100.00 a month to $300.00 with $60.00 added for my automobile. We had a nice new office for the 4 of us, a real good hospital, and plenty of work to do, most of which was quite interesting. The prize case I had that might bear noting was one of Type 7 pneumococci meningitis, who was in pretty bad shape. I was real fortunate in being able to cure the fellow with a mastoidectomy, intravenous Sulfadiazine, and intravenous and intrathecal anti-pneumococci serum. I was real happy with this fellow, for the survival rate of that disease at that time was virtually nil. I enjoyed the climate there in the summers. It was very nice and my spare time was spent fishing and portaging a canoe into the many lakes. The winters were different, temperatures reached 40 below zero, and one couldn’t see out of the windows between November and March.

Then World War II started and the fringe benefit was that I didn’t have to go through another winter in Minnesota.

On December 7th, upon returning from church, we heard the story of Pearl Harbor, and as a result I went to Minneapolis in July, and was given a Commission as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the US. Navy.

I then reported for active duty in August to the U.S. Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. There I was assigned to a ward of boys with rheumatic valvular heart disease, the result of an epidemic of acute rheumatic fever, I think in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This lasted until November when I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Training Station Aiea, Oahu TH, which was just outside Pearl Harbor.

We were given the care of all enlisted personnel coming in from the United States. We took care of them and their medical needs until they were reassigned. This didn’t prove to be very interesting, but I did fall in love with the flora of the islands, and that has influenced my life since then. I did take a little extra duty on a patrol yacht that went out Northeast of Oahu five hundred miles, as a weather station, and perhaps to pick up any downed flyers who might be needing help.

I was tragically seasick for 3 days, but this disappeared as soon as we started going in circles, and I never experienced it again. By the end of our cruise I was hooked on sailing and we didn’t recover any downed pilots.

After we return to Pearl I decided I wanted to try sea duty, as a year had passed. My request was approved and I was assigned to the USS Meade, a destroyer also identified as the DD602. I really enjoyed this year. We spent time on independent duty, and then operated with the 5th Fleet over the Central Pacific.

We were instrumental in taking one island, and we shot up some small atolls that were being by passed. Fortunately we were never hit by any of the Japanese shells. We did get back to Mare Island for a major overhaul. Marjorie came out and we spent a delightful 2 weeks in Lake Tahoe. After returning to Hawaii, I had a total of 2 years out of the States, so I asked to be reassigned to shore duty, and was transferred to the University of Dubuque, in Dubuque, Iowa. This was a V12 Training Station that was a unit preparing Naval recruits for Naval air duty. It was here that my first son was born. 6 months later I was transferred to the Marine Station at Camp Pendleton, and while there, the atomic bomb terminated things.

I was assigned to inactive duty January 2,1946, and to the inactive reserve March lst of that same year.

I then went to the University of Minnesota for 3 ½ months in a review of Internal Medicine, and this included a 2-week course in psychosomatic medicine. This was my introduction to the psychological aspects of disease. I’d had no training in that in medical school and very little during my Residency program. Following this I made a big mistake. My in-laws talked me into associating with a physician who had been 4F, and was operating in a small hospital in Lexington, Nebraska.

My second son Stephen was born there, l Jan. 1947. I really came back to Nebraska because I was influenced by a physician I met in University of Minnesota, who encouraged me to carry a specialty into a smaller community. Other than for Stephen, the Lexington program was a disaster. I had the opportunity to join the Kearney Clinic, but was prevented by a contract with the hospital. I then came to McCook, Nebraska, my hometown, and became a partner in the McCook Clinic. We had a well-equipped hospital, but lousy facilities at the clinic, but this was rectified by the construction of a new building in 1960, and I was able to practice medicine the way I wanted to deliver it.

I had had excellent training in gastrointestinal radiology, and I spent quite a bit of time in the x-ray department too. One of the regional morticians had a son who brought home a German autopsy kit that he presented to me. I made good use of it doing postmortem examinations on most all the patients that presented interesting and/or difficult problems. On occasion, my son Steve used to assist me when needed.

I became interested in hypnosis and took a couple of courses in Las Vegas and Denver, Colorado. I used it rather extensively in my practice, but really got out of my field when I began to use it in obstetrics. It proved very satisfactory, and the women came back again and again. I really had no complications in all the patients that I delivered.

As new and younger doctors came into our office and I got a little older, I stopped doing these. I did find considerable use for it in attempting to get people to stop smoking. When one is a partner in a 4-man organization one has to take call, and so my practice was not completely restricted to Internal Medicine, as a result of that, I was not allowed to join the American Society of Internal Medicine. This had no adverse affect upon my work; and I had a very active and rewarding practice. I saw lots of pathology, and I did not feel that reluctance on the part of the Academy affected my work.

I finally secured the office on July 1, 1986, and I have never regretted it. Life here in McCook has been very good to me, and it has been a good place to rear my family. I had the sadness of having my older son killed when he was 6 years old, but he was superseded by an adoption of a boy about 9 years later.

I didn’t have very much time for extra curricular activities during my active practice. I did keep current with my postgraduate courses at the University of Denver, and the University of Miami. The latter courses in Miami were usually followed by short trips to the Bahamas or Costa Rica. I have been the local representative for the Nature Conversancy, a Rotarian for over 50 years, etc.

I always had an interest in sailing, so I acquired several boats along the course of the years, and even won the Regatta in the M20 Class at Grand Lake where I have a summer cottage. I also acquired a deep-water sailboat, called an Off Shore 41, which I named “Serentil”, and we sailed principally in the Caribbean. After I recognized that this wasn’t a practical hobby, I sold the boat but continued to sail in the Society Islands, in the Adriatic, and further South in the Windward Islands. Now I am old and crotchety and I can’t get in a sailboat any longer. I did build a house in Costa Rica, but Marjorie became ill, and I thought that it was a long-term situation so I sold it. She passed away in October of 1991.

Since then I have been retired living here in McCook. I have a small home, and I have developed an association with an old patient of mine, a female that is, and we have spent quite a bit of time traveling to Hawaii, Japan, Ireland, and Turkey. We have discovered a very small island called Saba in the Eastern Caribbean where we spend the winters.

Physically speaking, I think I am on borrowed time with a pacemaker, a couple of artificial joints, and lots of osteoarthritis elsewhere that certainly restricts my activities. Now I am too disabled to sail, and if I got into a boat I wouldn’t be able to get out.

In summary I can say that I had good medical training at the University of Nebraska, and a superb residency program. The practice of medicine has been very rewarding to me, and I guess to most of the people that I practiced on and with. I am still able to make my own decisions, and wish that I could do more.

I regret that I didn’t get to Omaha last fall for the 60th reunion from the University of Nebraska Medical School. To tell the truth, I forgot about it, thinking that it was going to be a month later. Today that call that a “senior moment”.

Reminiscing about the members of the Phi Rho Sigma, there are only 5 of us that I am fairly sure who are still surviving. Jim Shaffer, Don Miller, Herb Modlin, Jack Maxfield, and myself. I just heard about a week ago that Buzz Moore, who was in Helena, Montana, passed away at the age of about 85.

Looking back, life is really a matter of choices. I haven’t done badly.
My better choices were:
l. Choosing the University of Nebraska for Medical School.
2. Choosing the University of Chicago for hospital training.
3. Not joining the Army Reserve when a Senior in Medical School.
4. Joining the Navy.
5. Staying in the Naval Reserve.
6. Returning to McCook.
7. Not buying a house on the Island of Montserrat.
8. Not getting married a second time.
9. Developing the ability to do “not very much” and enjoy it.

My, not so good, choices were:
l. Investing in a Costa Rican gold mine.
2. Buying a 1976 Porsche 911 Targa and fixing it up.

I have had a devil of a time getting this thing composed. I hope that it hasn’t been too long for you to read comfortably. I shall look forward to reading yours, and I hope that all of you are better off physically than I.

Sincerely,
JOHN L. BATTY, M.D.

1/1/2018 Update: Over the years from the time this article was originally written, my father had both hips replaced, his right shoulder, descending colon removed, was on his forth pacemaker generator and had developed congestive heart failure along with macular degeneration making it almost impossible for him to read or watch The Huskers play. While recovering from a bout with fluid in his lungs in Community Hospital he asked his cardiologist to turn off his pacemaker. The doctor agreed to comply with his wish. The next day the event happened and Dad gradually slipped away from this world over the next three days as Paul and I sat watching the heart-breaking event. But it was what Dad wanted. If he could not be helpful to others there was not reason to continue. On the morning of January 11th 2013 Dad raised his hand one last time in a salute or goodbye and quietly left us.

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Fishing with Uncle Harry

The book. “Fishing with Uncle Harry” was the result of listening to a young woman read her book, “Fishing with Dad” to children at the McCook Public Library. As I sat there listening while she read her book a loud and explaining where she got her material, I said to myself, “Steve, you can write your own children’s fishing book. And that’s what I did back in 2009 and finished it in 2010 using an Adobe software product.

Once I had most of the content in the computer I started tracking down an illustrator. Eventually I was directed to Connie Kleckner. I gave Connie a few photos of Harry and myself back in the 1958 time frame. I liked the sketches she did for me, so it was a go.

I felt I had  several good reasons for wanting to create the little book.

1st – I wanted to save my story for my children and grandchildren so they would have a mental picture from my childhood and living conditions back then.
2nd – I wanted to show others that each person has memories they need to get down on paper to save them for future family generations.
3rd – It was a challenge to myself to set the goal and create the book. Also to show others it is not necessary to spend a great deal of money in creating their book.

So – Here is my little creation in the book “Fishing with Uncle Harry“.

If the text seems a little small to you, use the zoom in feature on your computer to make it larger.

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Photos Along the Danube River 2015

ama-dolce-boat

Here’s the AMADolce boat which our group used to see many sites along the way. I do need to convey to you that it was a wonderful experience and I don’t think I’ve ever been treated so well in my life while traveling.  There was only one cruise but two photo albums due to the number of photos.

During the last week in April and the first week in May this year I traveled to Europe with three friends from Nebraska. We took an an AMA Waterway’s boat trip up the Danube River from Budapest to as far at that boat could go. We were off loaded and reloaded onto a bus which drove us to Prague. Even the bus ride was fun and scenic. The following are just a few of the many photos I took during the wonderful adventure. There is no particular order to the photos. When you click on the first thumbnail photo of the cherry beer mugs  clinking it will open a second screen where you can view all of the photos at full size one at a time. Or, click on “view slide show” and it will show all the photos then you can start the individual slide show.

 

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COWBOY TROUBADOUR: Poems and Stories

A book by Richard McQueary from Grand Lake, CO

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When I think of Richard and describe him to others I say ”he reminds me of the Marlboro Man with out the cigarettes.”

I’ve know Richard for several years now, listened to many of his cowboy stories and poems and videoed several of them which I will share with you a little later.

When I graduated from the Univ. of Nebraska back in 1969 I spent two months that summer  hitch hiking through Europe and England. It was lots of fun and I did some interesting things, often stupid, and made some nice friends along the way. But, it was nothing compared to what Richard did traveling around the world starting in 1963. I almost perished one evening while trying to have too much food and cheap wine in Papilloma, Spain just before the running of the bulls. From listening to his tales about his world travels I still wonder how he survived to tell the stories. 

Richard’s book is dedicated to the memory of is father, William Earl McQueary and is divided into the following four sections:

1) Adventures at the Ranch, Rodeo and School (37 stories/poems)

2) Neighbors, Friends and Folks We Knew (11 stories/poems)

3) Movin’ On (8 stories/poems)

4) Travelin’ (15 stories/poems)

After watching these three short stories of Richards’ I know you will want to go to the local book store in Grand Lake follow this link to Amazon.com .

Shootin’ the Flume:

 

The Constipated Cow:

 

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Is It Chance or Do Things Happen for a Predetermined Reason?

On Tuesday, Oct. 15th 2013, I drove to Longmont and stayed with my friends Doyen and Jim Mitchell. The next morning I drove to the Eye Clinic to have a procedure done on my right eye for wet macular degeneration. I had been to the clinic the past two months and given injections in that eye. I was prepared for a more, longer lasting procedure, which involved an intravenous injection followed by a strong light directed into that eye over the area where the rogue blood vessels were leaking. That process is photodynamic therapy and I had it done in January 2005. It worked for 8 years. One of the side effects is that you have to stay out of the sun for 3 days. Not wanting to impose on the Mitchell’s for 4 days in September I called my life long friend, Roger, who lives in Greenwood Village, CO, for help. Roger offered to drive up and retrieve me after the procedure was done on my eye.

Life had changed for Roger and family at the end of September. Rog’s younger brother Jon, who was living in AZ, was diagnosed with terminal small cell lung cancer and needed to be cared for. Rog drove to AZ, took care of Jon’s things and the two returned to Denver where Jon was placed in The Denver Hospice on old Lowery AFB. For the next few weeks Roger and family took turns staying with Jon. Over time Jon became less and less responsive and eventually needed to be sedated due to the pain the spreading cancer caused.

The day before Roger was going to pick me up, Cynthia called and we talked about my retrieval. We decided that Rog would not head to Longmont until I called him after my eye procedure was completed. I was thinking that I might be able to drive myself if I stayed out of the sun and wore dark glasses.

I showed up at the eye clinic on time and the first thing they did after dilating my right eye was photograph my retina. When the doctor looked at the pictures he said that there was no leakage going on and that he did not needed to do anything to me and would like me to return in five weeks to see if things were still good. That sounded Great to me. We made my next appointment and I head out with one good eye and sunglasses perched on my nose.

As a little celebration I decided to stop at Wendy’s for a senior coffee and a sweet roll.  The server at Wendy’s was Mexican and who’s English was marginal at best. I had to ask her a couple of times for the coffee and sweet roll. What I ended up getting was a coffee and two packets of sweet & low.  I also learned that Wendy’s does not server sweet rolls. It’s always nice to learn something new.

When I arrived at Roger’s no one was there so I took the opportunity to visit MacDonald’s for lunch and also discovered that my spy phone battery was too low to make a call. When I arrived back at Rog’s home he was there. He had just returned from being with his brother and was spending some time in the back yard with Kallie, their standard black poodle. I left Mia with Roger and drove to Denver Hospice to keep Jon company. Roger followed after the evening traffic rush was over. We both return home about 2030 hours. Here’s a phone photo I took of Roger holding his brother that late afternoon. Sorry it’s so dark.

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The next day I rode with Roger and we arrived back at DH about 1000 hours. I told Rog about taking the above photo the day before and asked if I could post it to my facebook account. He said to go ahead and then learned how to do it from my smart phone. Actually it was pretty easy. A few minutes later I received my first reply from Mike Gilbert a high school classmate of ours.

Below is what my son Ryan posted to the photo on FB later in the day:

“Hi Dad – Seeing the posts about Jon and Roger, I can’t imagine what it is like to be in that room. And what it probably means to Roger to have you there with him as he sits with his brother while they determine what terminal cancer means. Shit. For what its worth, you and Roger have been friends longer than any other thing that’s happened in your life, and that really means something, more than just about anything else. He has been there for your best, and hardest, memories. I hope both of you really appreciate that your friendship has lasted this long and what it means in light of all the hard times he’s seen, you’ve seen. Sometimes there’s nothing better in this life than a friend who just knows you for who you are, and understands what you are going through because they are going through it themselves. I really hope both you and Roger realize that and make sure the years we all have left together mean something. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But I’ll be damned if you, Roger and I are going to get old without a fight!”  …     I was touched and have shared it with Roger.

Cynthia brought us some lunch and after that I stayed in the break area and gave the two of them some time together. While sitting quietly next to the warm fireplace as  I reflected on my thoughts about Jon. Jon was a very gifted artist but not a very good person and I had virtually no respect for his person, only his artistic craftsmanship. I seemed to feel no emotion one way or the other toward his approaching death.

As I sat there thinking about my thoughts, in walked a little dark haired girl with an older man, maybe someone my age. They went to the vending machine and retrieved coffee and chips for gramps and M&Ms for the little girl. They sat down at a table across the room from me and started sipping and munching.  The little girl seemed supercharged with energy and was eventually down at my end of the room checking out the gas log fire warming the room. We said Hi to each other then she proceeded to do some kind of fast dance steps and eventually ended up on the floor doing some gyrations. After tiring of that she began doing slow flips over the back of the large couch and onto the floor. Between scenes she returned for more M&Ms.

Eventually I introduced myself and asked her name. “Abby” she told me. I asked her age and she said, “four.” I queried if she was with her grandfather and she, “no, he’s my uncle.” He didn’t look young enough to be her uncle but stranger things have happened. When she returned for more M&Ms I heard her ask him if he was her uncle and his response was, “no, I’m your grandfather.”

When Abby walked back to me she held out both of her hands and when she opened them, in her right palm was a bright blue peanut M&M and in her left a brown one. She said, “would you like one.” How could I say no, so I told her yes and asked which she wanted. Immediately she popped the blue one in her mouth and extended her left hand  toward me. I took the brown one and once in my mouth, started savoring the sweet taste as it dissolved in the roof my my mouth. I asked her if she immediately chewed her M&Ms or did she let them slowly dissolve? Her response was to open her mouth and show me a white coated and intact M&M.

Then, out of the blue, with no emotion, Abby said, “My mommy is sick and going to be with God in Heaven.”  After a second’s hesitation my reply was, “I’ve heard Heaven is a good place to go.” With that, she turned around and returned to gramps. Shortly after that her grandmother arrived at their table and Abby was gone, leaving me with tears welling up in my eyes and a tightness in my chest. Just writing about that scene has returned the tears to my eyes and a tightness restricts my throat.

On one of my walks outside the entrance to the facility I noticed their fountain and  how one Maple leaf was refusing to go over the edge. When I saw the reflection of the sun next to it, it suggested a ray of hope.  I could see some similarities with the patients in the hospice but by the time they arrived, there was no hope for more life. How sad to no longer have hope, only the end in sight.

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I was emotionally and physically very tired that Thursday evening and immediately fell asleep as I lowered my head to the pillow. After my first tip to the loo I had difficulty falling back to sleep. My thoughts kept going back to that little brown haired girl telling me her mother was going to Heaven to be with God. I know she had no idea what that was going to mean to her by the way it was said. I felt once her mother was with God she would be missed, very missed. Her mother was not going to be their to help dress and comb out her long dark hair each morning, or watch her have her first date. Or any of those first time events that happen in the growing up to womanhood. I was saddened and it seemed to take me hours to finally discover myself having a dream, so I knew I had fallen asleep.

That morning, as I lay there before forcing myself out of bed, I asked, “Is there a reason I met Abby yesterday?” If so, what was that reason? Was it to remind me how fortunate I had been to have had my father and a best friend in my life for sixty-six years and ten day? Or was it to remind me how Roger must have been feeling so that I could share it with him? I’m not sure I ever decided on one answer but I know I was hoping that I would see Little Abby at Hospice again that morning.

Just as Roger and I were about to head out and drive to be with Jon, we were notified that his body had finally given up and freed his spirit. As we drove over to Hospice we mostly kept our thoughts to ourselves.  When we entered Jon’s room he was finally resting quietly with folded hands and looked very peaceful. As more of the family arrived I removed myself from the room and returned to the warmth of the fire hoping to see Abby with all her energy. It was not to be. I wondered if her mother had passed or that, for some reason, she, her father and grandparents were just unable to be there that day. I’ll never know.

Eventually Jon’s body was taken away and we all headed out;  me, back to Hwy 36 and home, Roger and family were going to lunch together. I think we were all glad that Jon’s ordeal was finally behind him and  his spirit had joined all those who have gone before. Jon had lead a troubled life and now it was going to be better.

I reflect most days, how fortunate I’ve been to have been the son of Dr. John Batty.  The kind of man any boy/man would be proud to call dad. We don’t get to choose our parents so I feel very fortunate to have had one of the best of the lot in my life.

So why did Abby enter my life that day? Was it supposed to happen or was it chance? I’ve decided it was chance and that it’s the meaning I attached to it, which made me think it was planned by the guy upstairs.  Either way, it started me thinking and I cherish those thoughts about Abby and my father.

The photos below were taken at Roger and Cynthia’s home in Greenwood Village just a few hours apart. It illustrates to me how fast life can change. One moment life is beautiful and full of vibrant colors and the next it is not. Steve

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Now, five years later, I’ve learned I have a third, older son, who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Corey and Lynne have four wonderful adult children all following in their father’s chosen path, serving their country through the United States Army. The oldest is an Apache AH-64 pilot and when the young three complete college they too will serve our country by becoming members of the US Army.

My questions at this moment are: Why did this happen at this particular point in our lives? What are we supposed to do with this newly discovered relationship? Do each of us need something only the other can supply? Were our lives designed for it to be this way or was it only by chance Corey found me? I’m guessing we will only learn as time goes by. Steve 3/23/2018

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