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Stephen A. Peterson
Five years ago Bret and Norma Ledbetter, Chicago natives, moved to a house southwest of Seminole, Oklahoma. The Ledbetter house was surrounded by stands of paper shell pecans, two manmade ponds and buffalo grass as far as the eye could see.
Even without paved roads, Norma felt at ease among the endless trees, but she was very uncomfortable about letting her children roam too far away from the house and her view. Anything could happen in this remote area: the children could twist an ankle in a shallow hole; end up in the bottom of one of the ponds; or be lost for hours in the vastness of their property.
On a hot July afternoon, the day before the 4th, ten year old Ali decide to pick wild blueberries with the family dog by her side. Norma agreed while applying an extra layer of sunscreen to her face, arms and legs topped by a large straw hat. As she watched her daughter disappear from her sight, Norma returned to re-arranging living room furniture and pictures.
Ali was thoroughly enjoying the picking and eating of blueberries in a seeming endless field of fruit. Spying a large bush of the berries she closer without noticing the hole beneath her feet, her next step caught her ankle. Falling backward, a loud crack and a burst of pain enveloped her right side. In horror, Ali realized she could not stand without falling. Through the shadows of the afternoon, Ali could see her dog tugging at her pant leg to coax her to stand. As much as she tried could not do so without falling in more pain.
Although she had worn ankle high boots, Ali’s foot became so tight and painful that she dare not take it off. Unless she could encourage her dog to get her mother, the ankle might get worse. After almost ten minutes of pleading with the dog, the terrier headed in the direction of the house. When the dog was out of sight, Ali began to imagine the worst case scenario—that she was going to die here—and her family wouldn’t know she was seriously hurt.
Norma was hanging a picture when the dog was heard to bark and scratch frantically on the screen door. “What’s wrong boy? Where’s Ali?” When it was apparent that she was nowhere near, Norma sensed something was not right. She left the pictures on the floor. “Where’s Ali? Take me to her! Come on, let’s go!” Running ahead of her and barking, the dog led her to her trembling daughter.
“Mom!” she cried, “I’m hurt! It’s my ankle. I tried to get up but it really hurts!”
“Can you walk?”
“No, I can’t. I tried two times but I couldn’t.”
“What to do,” thought Norma who did not want to leave her injured daughter. She attempted to carry Ali but was unable to walk but a couple feet before Ali let out a loud crying scream. She couldn’t call Bret as he had left her cell phone in a rush to locate Ali.
“Dear Lord Jesus! Please help me!” From out of nowhere, a Native American man appeared. He was about 6’ 6” tall wearing a green plaid short and a pair of jeans.
“Please help us! I can’t get my daughter up. She’s too heavy. I think her leg is broken and I don’t want to hurt her anymore.”
Without a word, the man carefully lifted Ali carrying her back to the house. When they arrived, he placed her in Norma’s pickup truck then drove them to Seminole Regional Hospital some 12 miles away. At the hospital, Ali’s boot was cut away and X-rays taken. Within 30 minutes or so, the Emergency Room doctor reported to Norma that Ali had indeed broken the lower end of her tibia and fibula. The physician further reported that Ali would not require surgery. She could be released to go home then return the next day when an orthopedic surgeon would be available. Ali’s leg was immobilized in a soft cast resulting in a smile.
When Norma left the ER room in search of the man to thank him for his service he was nowhere to be found. She sought his whereabouts from hospital employees who stated never having seen a man fitting her description.
“He never said a word. He just made certain me and my daughter got to the hospital safely. I just wanted to thank him for everything he did.”
The Ledbetters never did find the man who helped Norman and Ali, though they wrote a letter to editor in the local newspaper and had a two day radio public service announcement. Ali fully recovered from her broken leg within a matter of months. But she and her family will always remember the mystery man.
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