Chapter 8 - I'll Never Smile Again

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July 1940


Hearing someone shout his name over the roar of the gravel crushing machine, Jonathon turned around. Svenson, one of the younger men who worked in the pit was running up to him.

"Johnny, come quick!"

"What's going on?" Jonathon shouted over the crusher.

"It's your father!"

Jonathon's heart went in his throat. "What happened?"

"He's collapsed!" He headed in the opposite direction and Jonathon ran beside him. "We were – moving a steam shovel," Svenson gasped between heavy breaths. "He started shouting – and then he fell."

Even though it wasn't good news, relief flooded through Jonathon. Between the heavy machinery, huge trucks, and railroad cars involved in the mining operation, terrible injuries and even death were possible in a split second if the men weren't careful.

He wasn't surprised his father was yelling. He frequently lost his temper with the men, but collapsing wasn't good. Then he saw a cluster of men next to a steam shovel, and picked up his pace. Breaking through the crowd, he was horrified at what he saw. His father was lying in the dirt, his face ashen, and Billy was kneeling next to him looking distraught.

"Father!" he cried, landing on his knees. He shook his father's shoulders, but he didn't move. "Where's the doctor!" he shouted at the men surrounding them.

"Palmer went to get him and call for an ambulance," Clay said.

"He was shouting at us, Johnny – you know how he gets," Myrick said as if he was pleading for Jonathon to understand. "Then he started coughing and grabbed his chest. Before we knew anything was wrong, he went down."

"He won't wake up, Johnny," Billy said in a shaky voice. "He won't wake up."

Jonathon shook his father by the shoulders again. "Father!"

"I think it's his heart," Clay said.

No, that couldn't be possible. His father was one of the healthiest people he knew.

There was the sound of a motor, and the men stepped aside. To Jonathon's relief, a truck used to transport the workers had arrived, and Dr. Ward jumped out of the passenger seat with his black bag. Jonathon stood and got out of the way so the doctor could take his spot. "It's his heart maybe," he said, pulling Billy up.

The doctor opened his bag and took out a stethoscope. Except for the sound of machinery in the distance, there was silence while he moved the diaphragm to different places on his father's white shirt, listening. "We need to get him on the truck," he muttered, taking the ear pieces out. "The ambulance won't be able to get down here."

"How bad is it?" Johnny said as the men moved into action, lifting his father's limp body.

"His heart is beating," Dr. Ward said. "But we need to get him to the ambulance as quickly as possible."

Seeing his grim expression, Jonathon's stomach sank. Doc Ward thought it was bad, worse than he was letting on.

"Johnny?" Billy said, looking at him with fear filled eyes.

He put his arm over his brother's shoulders. "It'll be okay," he said, leading him to the back of the truck. "He'll be okay, you'll see."

They climbed in and sat beside their father while the truck started up the steep winding dirt road that took them out of the pit. While he looked at his father's pale face, Jonathon willed him to open his eyes, to tell them he didn't feel that bad, but he remained unconscious.

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