My brother was looking for a fight! He tried to engage my sister’s attention by poking her in the back enough times and hard enough to warrant a quick, full-swing slap across his face. More angry than ever, he tried to pick on me, but Mom caught him.
“Outside! No more picking on the girls! Go find someone your own size,” Mom scolded. “Don’t go far. We’re in for a shower.”
“Hm-m-m, my own size. That’s it!” His face still smarting and now hot with rage, Chet stormed out of the house. He sneaked past Mr. Burt’s farm. Dad might wonder where he was going if he happened to be looking. Up the next right hand turn and quite a bit further to where the big Rumrill family lived. The family wasn’t just large in numbers, ten children, but they were all large for their ages.
“Georgie! I’ll tackle Georgie.” Suddenly, right in front of him, in the middle of the road stood Georgie. Hoping to gain an advantage, Chet kicked a large stone, hitting his adversary on his right cheekbone. With a roar, Georgie came barreling straight at him. Instinctively, Chet side-stepped and brought clenched fists down on Georgie’s neck and back.
Mom’s warning about a rain storm came true, but the bolt of lightning that preceded the rain came just as Chet’s fists came down on Georgie’s neck and back. The bolt shattered a nearby, old-growth chestnut tree, top to bottom. Georgie’s scream of terror rivaled the decibels created by the following earth-shattering clap of thunder. Though he didn’t scream as Georgie had, Chet was badly frightened by the brilliant flash of pink lightning, the smell of brimstone and burning hair, and the shattered, smoking tree.
Georgie wasn’t moving! Now Chet was very scared. As he reached out to see what was wrong, the heavens opened the floodgates of a cloudburst. Georgie’s clothes began to steam, giving his whole body an eerie phosphorescence that flickered, then glowed.
Chester’s wildly beating heart felt about to burst.
Over the snapping of chain lightning and the continuous crashes of thunder, Chet, nearly in tears, shouted, “Georgie! Georgie! Wake up!”
As Chet started to reach out to shake Georgie awake, a deep voice said, “Don’t, Don’t touch him!”
Chet, squatting down beside the stricken boy, sank back on his heels in order to take in the huge man who loomed over them.
“Oh, Mr. Rumrill, the lightning,” Chet began.
“I know what happened. I saw and felt the whole thing from my front porch,” said Mr. Rumrill. He went on, “Boy, pick up that branch, no, the bigger one over there, if you can handle it. Now, drag it over here and put it next to Georgie.”
Forgetting his own trauma and following Mr. Rumrill’s directions gave Chet a temporary sense of stability that enabled him to do as he was told.
For the first time, Chet noticed the long stick Mr. Rumrill was holding.
“With this stick I’m going to try to roll Georgie over onto the green branches you just put beside him,” he said.
Chet was puzzled, so he asked, “Can’t we just pick him up?”
Anger sparked in Mr. Rumrill’s eyes as he snapped, “I would if I could!”
Seeing Chet’s fearful backward step, he explained in a calmer voice, “I’ve been very sick and I don’t even have the strength to help my own son.”
Chet asked, as he picked up a sturdy, straight stick and offered to help move Georgie, “What do you want me to do?”
Mr. Rumrill glanced about the rain shrouded scene in helpless frustration. Even the youngest Rumrills were away with their Mother. The older ones were all away working. Georgie had been left at home to care for his Dad—now in reverse positions.
Drawing in a quick, decisive breath, Mr. Rumrill directed Chet to stand across from him, with Georgie and the large tree limb from the shattered chestnut tree, between them.
“Now take your stick and push the branches as close as you can get them to Georgie and the main part of the limb.”
Chet found his assigned task to be very difficult to accomplish, but, by standing on the water-soaked branches as he drew them toward the main limb, they would stay in place. How to make them stay that way would be a problem once he stepped off of them. Mr. Rumrill solved the problem by coming around the low stack of branches, taking Chet’s stick and jamming it into the softened ground close up to the outer edge of the low pile.
Back in his original position, Mr. Rumrill, with Chet’s help, rolled Georgie over onto the leafy pallet. Now Georgie’s weight held the wet and pliable branches in place fairly well.
Georgie was beginning to moan weakly and there was slight movement in his fingers and bare toes. His eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair around his face were singed to a dirty white.
Seeing Chet’s shocked expression, Mr. Rumrill remarked, “If the loss of his hair is the only result of this experience, he’s a very lucky boy. Now, please grab the end of the limb and see if you can help me drag him up to the house.”
As man and boy reached for the torn branch, Chet noticed Mr. Rumrill’s hand was very unsteady and he wondered if he should even try, but the big man jammed his makeshift walking stick into the soft ground and together they began to drag Georgie up the sharp incline to the house. Nearly there, Mr. Rumrill was wheezing hard with every breath and step. Chet had to pull harder as his partner began to cough as well as wheeze. Exhausted, man and boy melted down to the top step of the porch.
Mr. Rumrill was trying to get something from his shirt pocket just as Georgie raised up on one elbow reaching desperately toward his Father. Seeing Chester, he gestured, frantically for Chet to help his Dad. “Pill,” he gasped. “Pocket!”
Chet, still breathing heavily himself, reached into the pocket of Mr. Rumrill’s red plaid flannel shirt and found a small tube-shaped metal container. Through gestures and a few barely understandable words, Chet finally understood that he should give the man a pill from the metal tube.
“How?” Chet asked. “Water?”
Over the still very noisy storm, Georgie shouted, “No! Dad, open your mouth! When he does, slip the pill under his tongue.”
Chet did as he was told. In seconds Mr. Rumrill’s breathing became more normal, but Georgie, though awake, lapsed into a deep lethargy.
The storm had moved on, though the sky was still split with far off shafts of lightning, and thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.
For a few minutes just the patter of rain broke the silence.
Chester was beginning to realize he was in a situation well over his head. Looking at Mr. Rumrill and Georgie, he understood they both needed the care of a doctor.
Down on the main road, further haying for the rest of the day being out of the question, Mr. Burt had just asked Chet’s Father to find out if there was any storm damage on his land, up the hill.
The next sound Chet heard was that of approaching horses and cart. Chet sprang to his feet, but his overtaxed legs wouldn’t hold him upright. His Dad had stopped the team at the storm blasted chestnut tree. In desperation he called out, “Dad. Dad. Up here! Help!”
Urging the team of horses up the now muddy incline, Chet’s Dad wondered, out loud, “Chester, what in the blue blazes are you doing way off up here and soaking wet! Your Mother must be frantic!”
“Please, can I explain later? Mr. Rumrill is sick and Georgie needs help,” Chet cried.
His son being his first concern, and finding him in reasonably good shape, Chet’s Dad gave the rest of the scene a quick assessment. Though Mr. Rumrill was taller and heavier, Chet’s Dad had him resting in a porch chair in no time with an additional pill under his tongue. Georgie was a different matter, but Chet’s Dad made a quick decision, based on previous training, to find and send for the doctor as soon as possible. As he spread a blanket from one of the porch chairs over a now shivering Georgie, Chet’s Dad explained his decisions to Mr. Rumrill who nodded, weakly, in agreement, saying, “Go easy on your boy. Whatever his reason was for coming up here—well, he saved our lives.”