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  • Meredith Whiteley

Detours

The stories on the front pages were better than the nightly sitcoms or most of the movies playing at the moment. What got to me most were the articles about tuberculosis. It ravaged teenagers and young adults. They coughed themselves to death. Doctors thought warm dry air was the cure, so whole families or lone individuals left everything to come to places like Arizona. The papers were full of their tragic stories.


I will never forget reading about a young mother with three small children. She must have collapsed onto her seat after boarding in New Orleans. Getting to Phoenix was her last hope. How did she manage to diaper, feed, and comfort the children? She was dead when the train doors opened in Phoenix. The children were orphans with no information about relatives anywhere. I cried and prayed for them as I reread the article. It made no difference to me that they were probably long gone, too by the time I was reading. God is in charge of time and souls. I was sure he would work it all out.


I loved the ads. Women’s hats, killer corsets, cure-alls that probably killed instead.

And the big write-ups about pro-baseball. The Yanks, Cubs, and Cardinals. I found a few mentions of local men’s club baseball. The Milkmen and Gaseaters. The best teams were the “Mexicans” and the mining company teams. Sometimes there was a little talk about high school men’s sports. The only mention of women were a few tidbits about country club golf and tennis. Nothing about baseball yet.


What the newspapers wrote about most was water. Because there was never enough, people fought over it in a classic big man little man battle. The big man was the New York stockholders who were in it for the profits. The little man was the farmer in it for his family’s life. The day-to-day struggle often pitted farmers against each other. Men killed each other on the ditch over who’s turn it was to have irrigation water on his land.


I loved it. All of it. But it wasn’t getting the job done about finding Ollie’s baseball playing. Did that matter?

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