A child's memory of a long ago incident
|Helen and Walter Scanlon|
The screaming filled my ears.
It wasn't coming from me I realized. I was in too much shock.
What was happening to me and why did I feel this dead weight upon my frail, little body?
I couldn't answer my own question. I didn't know what was happening to my own self. I was on the ground being pushed into the sharp gravel that cut into my skin causing my wounds to bleed into the ground beneath me.
I knew I had to get this terrible thing off the top of me.
I heard the screaming over and over again, " Roll over, roll over."
I knew it wasn't a dream. I hurt too much. I could feel scratching on one of my legs. It was like fingers attached to a hairy hand. Then I felt hot breath on my leg and things like sharp daggers plunging into my skin. I shrieked and shrieked.
It was supposed to be a special Saturday for my two sisters and me that day. My older cousin, Jane had taken the LIRR out to our town early that morning and we were planning to do fun things all day. My mom would get a rest from having her three vocal daughters hounding her with the age old question, "What can we do today? "
In return for entertaining us all day Jane would be treated to dinner at the restaurant on the corner of Stable Row as our street was known. My father worked for one of the owners of the largest stables on the row. It was wartime and he was fortunate to be working,waiting for the war to be won so he could purchase ponies of his own and open a polo stable in a different location.
That warm autumn morning he was giving lessons to the wealthy patrons who could afford to pay to learn to ride. The riding ring was located behind the barn to afford some privacy for the beginner horsemen. It was a shady quiet spot, away from the hustle and bustle of horses and riders coming and going at the front of the stable yard.
It was also a way from the lurking danger awaiting the heedless customer or careless child that knew better. Knew better than to go near that large, leaf covered tree growing near the middle of the yard.
At mid morning Jane was ready to take us on our first excursion. It was to be a walking trip up to Mercy Hospital, in Rockville Centre a half mile from home, for the purpose of gathering crab apples from the trees adorning the wide front lawn of the hospital. We had a broken down baby carriage, which we were to fill with crab apples so mom could cook up apple sauce to can for the winter.
Our conscience had not been formed as yet so we gave no thought to the sinfulness of helping ourselves to property belonging to others. If stealing crab apples was sinful Jane never mentioned it to us. Our sagging carriage quickly became full. It was time to head home. The coast was clear. A posse was not sent out after us so we figured no one even noticed anything was missing. Jane pushed the heavy load slowly toward home.
Too slowly for me as half way home nature called and I had to run. Through the stable yard I raced. I had completely forgotten the tree. Right under it I ran.
Down I went, knocked to the ground with the fearful thing on top of me. Biting me. Blood was streaming from my leg. It then began scratching my other thigh.
That's when I heard the screams, "Roll away, roll away."
The words must have registered. I rolled away as the crowd around me watched. My dad hearing the shouts came running, snatched me up and rushed me to the nearest hospital, Mercy Hospital. There I was rushed into emergency. I was held down by nurses as my father stood by helplessly hearing my screams as my flesh was cauterized by an unsympathetic doctor.
My leg was then immobilized and blood was taken for testing for any diseases the animal might have. I was then able to go home. Before my dad and I left the hospital. Dad was asked for an explanation as to what happened. He told the story as to why a ferocious baboon was not in a zoo where it belonged.
It seemed incredible to those who were listening. "It could have been worse for your daughter," I heard the doctor remark. " It could have been her face."
He turned and walked away. Dad wheeled me out of the hospital and drove slowly home, dreading to face my mom who was anxiously waiting at home with my sisters.She had complained loudly when the owner of the stable agreed to board the baboon for wealthy customers who no longer wanted the creature at home.
What she had feared would happen had.
I couldn't hear the conversation between my parents but it was certainly loud. I was confined to bed for several days so my leg would heal. When my bandages were removed I saw the ugly hole in my leg.
It was not a pretty site. So much for being a Miss America contestant in twenty years.
Editor's note: Enjoy this story of a true incident long ago. It was written by my mom, Joan Scanlon Bennett. Her dad was Walter and her mom. Helen. The war she refers to is WWII.