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Saturday, June 20, 2009


High noon Saturday our friend picked up his walker and walked away from the 2.5 month rehabilitation effort that put him back on his feet. When he went into the hospital by ambulance, he could neither stand up nor walk. He had dehydrated again. His physical therapist in the nursing and rehabilitation center brought him a long ways, from unable to stand or walk to walking easily with the aid of his walker for balance. We both shook hands with the old boy who was his room mate. It was a sad moment for him to see Wiley going home, when he, himself, could not walk away. He couldn't walk.

Riding to the house, Jr was alert and wide awake. He hadn't slept the last two nights. This morning he lay in the bed waiting. I usually get there around 10:30, but today had the radio show from 10 to 11. He forgot that I was always an hour later on Saturdays than usual. 2.5 months of days and nights exactly alike, they all run together into a continuum when the window is light part of the time and dark part of the time. No difference between one cycle of light and dark and any other. The lights in the facility are the same day and night.

On the way to the New River Bridge, just before Brush Creek Church, he noted, "I know this country. Out that road," pointing to the road on the right, "is where the man has the chainsaw shop." Everything had changed so much along the highway he said he doesn't recognize much any more. I was heartened to see he had his spirit back. It's his spirit I pay closest attention to. The body always hurts, sometimes all over and sometimes just the throbbing pain in his right knee. Like old footballers have pains all over their bodies, the same goes for old farmers and mechanics who worked physically all their lives.

Some years ago sawmilling, a log jumped back by surprise. The end of it hit Jr in the face, bending his nose over to the left, crushing sinus passages and knocking teeth loose. The teeth gradually firmed up on their own. Sinuses don't work right. At the time, he wiped the blood off his face with his sleeve and went back to working. Sawmilling is such dangerous work it could be called Xtreme. Though that was the worst he was ever hurt sawmilling, he knows a banjo picker in Ashe County, JC Kemp, whose arm was almost cut off. Doctors fixed it and he continued to play the banjo, but never again like before. It was the same with Jr, unable to pick as good as he could before. He remembers a man who fell onto the spinning blade and it took him out in less than a second.

No, that wasn't the worst he was hurt sawmilling. One day around 20 years ago he was sawing pine. Pine resin sticks to the spinning blade. The wood of deciduous trees leaves no residue on the wheel. He forgot for just a second he was cutting pine. To test the temperature of the spinning blade, he slapped it with his open hand just a touch to feel its temperature. Because resin was on the blade, it peeled off the palm of his left hand in a flash.

That was one time he went to a doctor. It required a skin graft, taping his hand to his leg for a long period of time to let the skin from the leg grow onto the hand. His doctor, named Reynolds, was a flatfoot dancer who won ribbons at fiddlers conventions. He knew who Jr was, a bluegrass banjo picker. Noting the banjo with his left hand made as good a therapy as he could have.

I was curious to see what he would say when he walked in the door of his home. The time I sprung him from the Sparta nursing home, he said, "Home Sweet Home," when he crossed the threshold behind his walker. Home Sweet Home was his winning song at fiddlers confentions competing in bluegrass banjo. He figured out a way to pull on the strings by the pegs with a finger to get the sound Earl Scruggs could make with special pegs that allowed him to tighten and loosen the string without changing the note.

Today he said when he crossed the threshold, "Good God! This is nice!" He sat down in his sitting place and gazed around with light in his eyes and a spirited countenance. He said, "I forgot what my home looked like. It isn't bad." It was almost like he was seeing it the first time. He looked at the walls and furnishings and found his home was better than he remembered it. He called his woman friend as soon as he'd settled. She came right over, carrying a store-bought pie that would make Paula Dean's eyes bug out. They sat and talked for a couple hours. He was so happy and relaxed he leaned back and faded toward sleep. He had to get up and go lie down on his bed he'd missed all day and night for 2.5 months.


  1. Praise God. I thank him for answered prayer. I am so happy for you TJ and happier for Jr. I don't know him but the respect you have for him tells me he must be a fine fellow to know. He is blessed to have a friend like you who cares so much. Oh yeah... He sure looks a whole lot better sitting on his own couch compared to the other picture you posted where he was in a hospital bed with a hugh knot and cut on his head.

  2. Welcome home Jr. So glad he made it home. I hope I have friends as loyal as you if I ever get caught in that situation. Please give Jr. my best.