From the Relief Society Magazine, October, 1944 –
The Captain’s Biggest Battle
By Sadie Willis Adamson
It was in the early summer. Captain William Andrews, a patient in a great eastern hospital, was experimenting with a wooden leg.
Out on the large veranda were many soldiers both young and odd – some with splints on their arms, some with splints on their legs. All were convalescing, home from the war. Some would go back overseas, back into the grim battle of death – but not Captain William Andrews.
Inside the big hospital, nurses were rushing up and down the corridors with food trays. At the moment the Captain was resting in a big chair in his room. His eyes followed the nurses but his mind was far away. A whiff of perfume from the flower box filled with petunias and geraniums drifted in with the slight breeze. A pretty nurse set a tray of food on a table at his side.
“Mr. Steffan will be in to see you early this afternoon, Captain.” Her smile was encouraging. Captain Andrews nodded, unsmiling, and sipped his postum. If she would only keep away from him. Her hair reminded him of Mazie. His Mazie he once thought, but war had fogged everything. He didn’t want to think of Mazie. Time had been when he had held her in his arms. They had danced at college dances and Bill had been the team’s best man. It had been only two hours since she had left his room.
“Oh, Bill,” she had exclaimed at sight of him. “I knew you would be okay.”
“But I won’t hold you,. Mazie,” he had replied with such fierce irony that the girl had stepped back at his look and words. “No girl as lovely as you, should be tied to a wooden leg.” At least not Mazie Barker, the Doctor’s daughter.
“But Bill darling, you don’t understand.”
“I understand,” he had assured her. “I’ll not have any pity. In time you will forget.” Then gently, “There will be others without a scar.”
“As if, oh, Bill, how can you?”
“This must be your last visit. This is final. I’m leaving soon, anyway.”
For one long minute Mazie Barker had gazed at the man she loved, in painful acceptance, and, sobbing, quickly left the room.
Andrews had known the pain and cruelty of war. But this bitterness was new. If he had not loved Mazie with heart and soul, he could have stood this handicap with the rest. But he loved her and it cut deep. His tray had been removed unnoticed. He sat there wondering what his next move should be. A shadow filled the doorway and Andrews looked up.
“My name is Steffan.” The man before him spoke with sincerity and interest. He held out his hand. “They told me of you when I was here last week. I’m driving out into the country. Want to come along?”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll be rather cumbersome until I get the hang of this.” He placed his hand on the new leg and the shock of no feeling shot a streak of red up to his temples.
“You’ll manage.” Steffan was confident and firm.
They had gone probably three miles when Steffan remarked, “I like to drive out this way, the sights I see along the road feed my soul. I understand you were an electrician before the war?”
“That’s right, sir.”
“It was like food to me, sir.”
“Then I’ll show you something, a sight for tired eyes.”
They had come to a turn in the road. “Over there,” nodded Steffan, “is our power plant. The electrician in charge of it has made quite a name for himself. Yonder are the Timothy Falls where electricity is manufactured for the surrounding territory.
“The Falls are lovely in their powdery whiteness surrounded by these mountains of rock with the green of lawn and flowers enhancing, if possible, their brilliant hue.
“When I’m down in the dumps, I come out here and view nature for a while, and every time I see something that builds my faith.”
They had parked the car and now stood viewing the Falls. Andrew could find no words to offer. They walked on, his cane thumping the hard earth. They were on their way to the power plant. Not once did Steffan offer to help the man beside him.
“Take a look at this oddity,” suggested Steffan, pointing directly in front of them.
Out there amid nature’s magnificent beauty was a barkless, broken old tree apparently barren of life. Two long, knotted old roots stretched over the surface of huge rocks, on either side of the weather-beaten portion that was once a tree of life – their knotted, claw-like arms clasping the surface of barren rocks, prying into their depths, and disappearing out of sight under their heavy weight.
Extending from a limb, apparently dead, Andrews gasped in astonishment at a spray of green (like a Christmas table decoration) gazing up at the sun and basking in its warmth. That old tree, courageously seeking, prying, gathered from the good earth the sap and nourishment with its breast to enable it to pierce through the rugged surface above, and reach the warm health-giving light of the sun.
“It’s a pitiful struggle,” exclaimed Steffan, “yet the conquering tree breathes a lesson in our everyday lives, ‘Labor in order to grow.’ ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ How long the old tree has battled the elements can never be learned, yet the simple truth defies crushing, and points that it can be done.”
“Faith is the word for it,” observed Andrews.
“Exactly.” Steffan spoke with finality. “It burned a lesson on my conscious existence the first time I saw it.”
A lizard ran in front of them and disappeared behind a rock.
“This is part of Nature’s wonderland,” declared Steffan.
A few moments later they reached the power plant. The smooth, steady noise was music to Andrews’ ears, and his quick eye gleamed with pleasure as Steffan pointed out different parts of interest.
Back at the car, Steffan placed his foot upon the running board. He drew up his trousers and thumped his wooden leg with his knuckles.
“It has served me well,” he stated, “just as yours will you.”
“You, too?” Andrews gasped.
“Ever since World War I,” Steffan spoke proudly. “And if there’s a pretty girl in the picture so much the better. Once I was about to tell Janice I didn’t want her pity, that was once. Janice is my wife now.” He shook his head. “What I have done, you can do, lad. I’d like to take a needed vacation soon and I’d appreciate your services. How about it?”
Andrews was trying hard to control his quivering chin. “I’ll give it all I’ve got, sir. Thank you, sir.”
Back at the hospital Captain William Andrews called a number, and only joy was reflected in the conversation over the telephone. It was plain he was talking to someone he loved.