When did it start? When did the idea of being part of the motorhoming community first start to grow inside our brains? When did the idea first hit any of us, including Kay Toolson the founder of Monaco Coach, John Crean, who founded Fleetwood, or Warren Buffet, the owner of Forrest River?
All of us have our own story about how we ended up owning a motorhome company or, like most of us, just owning a motorhome.
This is my story.
Just about twelve years ago this month, my wife Diane, slipped on her padded wrist weights and headed out our front door to take her early afternoon walk through our neighborhood. She was not alone. Nickolas, our cocker spaniel, went right along beside her. It was a beautiful sunshiny April fool’s day with a bright blue sky and big fluffy clouds floating overhead.
Diane took her journey of about two miles, which followed the main drive along the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, past Tommy Newsom’s house, around the storm water lake and then the final road home, past Green Acres Presbyterian church, the playground and our front door.
She never made it down the final road home.
As she was passing a house owned by our neighbors, Radar, their pit bull mix dog, jumped the five foot chain-link fence and then raced to the street and grabbed Nickolas by the neck. Our dog let out a sound that Diane later described as a scream. Diane yelled at Radar with all the authority she could put behind it to let go and go home. The dog turned Nickolas loose and took off down the street.
Nickolas lay on the ground and started to whine. Diane leaned down next to him to look for wounds. She was sure that there had to be a gash in his neck somewhere. There was not, but while she was looking, Radar, without a sound, hit her from behind. He grabbed her by the ankle, nipping through her Achilles tendon, and tried to drag her down the street. Diane, yelling again, turned and rapped him on the nose. He let go, and then as she was attempting to get to her feet, Radar clamped down hard on her left wrist, sinking his teeth into the exercise weight. Diane hit him again. The dog let go and then clamped down on her bare forearm.
This time Diane screamed in pain and for help. She realized that this dog intended to kill her.
A couple of blocks down the road, one of our neighbors heard her. He heard her screams for help over the sound of his lawnmower. He looked down the street, saw the dog and my wife, grabbed a brick out of his flowerbed and took off running. As he got close he yelled at the dog and waved the brick. Once more Radar let go of his intended victim and took off.
Diane lay on the road with her blood literally flowing down the gutter.
Across the street two more neighbors heard the noise, saw the dog take off and ran over. One was a nurse and the other was her daughter. The nurse borrowed Diane’s rescuer's shirt and tied it around Diane’s arm to stop the flow of blood while the daughter dialed 911.
In less than ten minutes the rescue squad was on the scene. The paramedics refused to get out of the vehicle. They would not attend to my wife as long as the dog was on the loose.
It took a lot of encouragement from our three neighbors, along with two boys who showed up, to convince the paramedics to get out and do what they needed to do. The boys, who happened to be riding by on their bicycles, said that each one would ride down to the end of the street and keep an eye out for the dog.
Thanks to those brave boys and the actions of our neighbors, the paramedics were able to treat Diane and deliver her to the emergency room of the nearby hospital. The nurse and her daughter, after getting the key from Diane, delivered Nickolas back to our house. The poor dog was a nervous wreck.
There were a lot of waiting patients at the hospital. Because Diane was mangled but not dying, they stuck her in a wheelchair and said she needed to wait. She rolled over to a free-for-patient’s payphone and called my voice mail/pager number.
When I heard my beeper, I was standing in a dark phone closet located in a church. I was holding a flash light with my teeth staring at lots of wires on the wall. I reached down and unclipped my pager, read the number. I used my test set to call the paging service and listened to the message.
I heard this soft, shaky voice.
“Derrick, I was out walking Nickolas and got attacked by a dog. I am in the emergency room at Maryview. I thought you would want to know. “
That was it. I had no idea how bad this was or wasn’t, but it did scare me to death. I charged out of the church and ran to my truck and drove a bit like a madman to the hospital, which was about nine miles away.
When I arrived Diane was back in one of the trauma rooms. She was hooked up to an IV, her pants leg had been cut off at the knee and there were some bloody sneakers and wrist weights lying on a chair.
We had some paper work to take care of. Pictures were taken and then they stitched her up, pumped her full of antibiotics and painkillers, bandaged her wounds. We filled out more paper work and received a set of crutches, followed by a trip in the wheelchair to my truck and home we went.
Before I left the hospital the doctor talked with me and said that a main artery in her forearm (I don’t know which one) was missed by the dog by only a couple of millimeters.
He also told me that the terrycloth-covered foam wrist weight bands she had on had saved her life. If the dog had gnawed her wrist the way he chewed up the band, that would have been it … chances are she would have bled out.
Diane smiled at me the whole way home. It looked like a drunken smile to me. It did keep me calm and I can tell you I was pretty shook up.
I thought about how close I had come to losing her. It wasn’t the first time she had been in the hospital for an emergency, but it was definitely the worst time. It made me start to reevaluate my position in life and what I wanted from it. I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted for me and for Diane.
A few days later, I asked her what she wanted me to do for her.
“What do you mean?’
“Well, you were almost killed, don’t shake your head, we both know that could have happened. We have been working hard for a long time, you just got over back problems before this happened, we are not getting any younger and time is running out to try to make our dreams come true. So I think we should pick one and work on it ... so, which one? Trip to Greece? Bigger house? Want do you want?”
Diane looked at me and said: "I want to look at campers. I want to spend more time camping in the mountains and I don’t want to sleep on the hard ground anymore.”
I looked at her and said okay.
I didn’t really mean it, because I didn’t think she meant it, either.
Boy, was I wrong.