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American History
Hang Out A Bright Red Rag

The old ranch house was still able to provide shelter for them, although it was fast slipping in a bad way as far as needing repairs was concerned.  It  wanted paint on the outside, but the inside was all right. The old house still maintained her dignity, only now with signs of being neglected, if not yet abused. This would come later. There was still an aura of genteel grace about her.

Growing up in this same place still brought pleasant memories of family and love all about to this young woman who was pregnant and expecting her first child. Presently, she wasn't  worrying about reality; although, this fact was definitely real. It was simply that the place was sixty miles from a hospital. However, this was still a time of freedom for them. This was a time before the country had become so embroiled in medical possibilities. It was a closer time to the earlier days. Life had been lived differently then. One was eternally aware that death could come at an instant with just a moment of carelessness. She paid no attention to the warning the old house was haunted. She had grown up with that foolishness. The fact was the danger stood more living and it was real, not some shadow like substance one could not see. Care was something to be practiced at all costs. Careful driving habits, work habits, and any other way of living so as not to bring about an accident. Driving, if some one was there to drive, at break neck speed for medical treatment could be a very life threatening situation. This life style did not hover over one with a constant anxiety. It was rather just something one learned in daily living until it became as second nature as brushing one's teeth.

The elderly rancher who dropped in on her with a pleasant promise of conversation must have been observing her and evidently was satisfied with her ability to function in this out of the way place. It was true she was young in years, had not lived in the area for a time, but the things she had learned as a child stayed with her and,  there were no worries about anything.

Rattlesnakes were common, but folks didn't walk through places without first having prepared it over a period of days.  There was a light lawn mower to mow a low grass path to walk over. "Just let 'em strike this machine. Guaranteed, the machine wins, every time,"  and it was a joke. Heavy tall boots were an accepted rule too. Her Dad always said, "they ring a bell before they get you, and if you are watching and listening, well then, you have a chance to avoid them."

A small dog with a brave heart was as much a necessity as anything one could think about having. When she was a child they were always led around the chain link fence so as to sniff what might be one of the little prairie rattlers out of its hiding place there. The running about the grounds and the noisy yapping usually gave the unwelcome reptiles a message they were not welcome. Her uncle had brought her just one of those little dogs and he met his job with everything to be expected of him.

She kept to the habit of retiring early at night.  Accidents seem to choose those who are tired and not thinking sharp thoughts through a sleepy haze. This was no problem, since the quietness and isolation of the place gave them no extra stimulus as to excitement. The nights were quiet with only cricket or an occasional howl from a distant coyote to break the silence.

The young woman was not totally unaware of the danger of her situation, and she had been a little uneasy as to the possibilities of what could happen during a pregnancy.

The aging old rancher was sitting on the rock bannister of the porch. August heat had brought her out where the breezes off the prairie gave them a break from it. He had a gentle way about him which reminded her of her own father, too, a product of this country.  They visited about everything and nothing while they enjoyed each other's company.

"Mr. Fulsom,"  she began,  "you know, I've been thinking a little about my time as it is just another  couple of weeks away."

"I know,"  the elderly gentleman looked at her with a loving concern showing in his face. "I have had this on my mind too. This is what I want you to do. If something should happen you need help, being as you don't have a telephone, if something should happen, I want you to promise me you will signal me."

"But how,"  she was thinking.

As if to let her know he knew what she was thinking, he said, "I want you to hang out a bright red rag on this wire I am going to put up here. I will keep a check on the place. I can see up here easily from my place. If I see that rag, I will be with you in just a little bit."

There was never a need to summon the caring old gentleman. When her time came it was during the night and they made almost a leisurely drive to the hospital.

Sometimes, over the years, she would remember the old gentleman, when for such a short time of her life she had been gifted with a happening to help her walk back over a bridge to another time.  A time when a neighbor knew her problems, but even more a time when they could solve a very real possibility of a life threatening situation. If it was the knowledge of his stable protection to give her security and calm, to enable having fear  lifted from her; or, whether it was his teaching her about taking responsibility before hand for safety; she would not ever know the answer. All she would remember was his wrinkled brow and caring eyes as he told her, "Just hang out a bright red rag."

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