SOUTHERN BELLE’S ILLNESS                                                      SEPTEMBER 2005 

          Being the KING OF OBSOLETE, it is not good when your best friend and business partner gets sick and that is what happened to SOUTHERN BELLE. It was very weird how it happened and it is still very strange as I write this story for you to enjoy. The sickness started out as an irritated eye and a headache that SOUTHERN BELLE thought was from her glasses or contact lens. But within a week she could not see very well, which was not a good thing. I knew something was up when I drove her to work and she got into the back seat of the Bel-air car instead of the front seat. I was sitting behind the steering wheel and I just turned around and asked her if she could see. Once she realized that I was in the front seat and she was in the back seat that is when she confessed that she was having troubles seeing. All I said to her was no kidding!! When I drove her to work I told her co workers that she can’t see and 3 hours later the doctor drove her home personally so he would know that she made it home alright.

          With the September long weekend over, the doctor made a few phone calls and got SOUTHERN BELLE an appointment with a southern doctor to check out her eyes. The southern doctor is only 1200 kms away and she is to ride the Greyhound bus for 17 hours through the night to make it to the southern doctor appointment for the next morning. But the KING OF OBSOLETE will not be able to make the trip with her because business in the KINGDOM must continue. The 300 km of “so called” road from Thompson, Mb to Lynn Lake, Mb is at its all time worst because of all the rain we have had. All the Americans coming north to trout fish are wrecking their boat trailers and vehicles. So I have been very busy welding their misfortunes back together. Plus, the KING must get the other 2 kids ready for school and make sure they don’t wreck the house while SOUTHERN BELLE is gone. So SOUTHERN BELLE and I decide to send her 16 year daughter along to escort her to Winnipeg, Mb. Once they get to Winnipeg, Mb, my Dad will meet them and drive them around. Plus the most important thing is to help out with his VISA.

          With the greyhound bus leaving in 5 hours I have to help my “blind lady” pack and get ready to leave for the south. First thing I do is get all the ladies laundry done so they have clean clothes for the trip and for the stay in the south. Since the KINGDOM does not have a well water supply (KINGDOM has a cistern) all laundry is done in town at FORT FLOYD’S, which is a fortified house with laundry machines. I thought I did the ladies’ laundry very well except for the fact I dried the teenage daughter’s bras in the dryer on high heat to speed the process up. Well when you do this, the bras shrink and make them very uncomfortable to wear for some reason?  I never thought that they would shrink. Oh well.  I learned something new and I’ll try not to do it again, since they are a very expensive piece of clothing for the amount of material used.

          The next problem we have is that the government will not pay for the ticket for the teenage daughter because she is under 18 years old. This is one stupid rule and it would have to be by some government fellow who lives in the south with a “perfect suburban life” in the suburbs who thought of this rule! A 16 year old teenager can travel from Lynn Lake, Manitoba to Medicine Hat, Alberta on a bus unsupervised but cannot escort her sick mother to a southern hospital. So being the KING OF OBSOLETE I don’t have a credit card or extra money lying around for the teenager’s ticket. But my buddy Mark walks over to the bus depot and buys the ticket to send the teenager with her mother. That is what friends are like in a small northern town.

          I get SOUTHERN BELLE and her teenage daughter to the greyhound bus in plenty of time to say good bye to my “blind lady” who walks and talks normally but just can’t see. Once the bus leaves, there is bit of uncertainty of when she will return and what those southern doctors will say and do. I wait by the phone for SOUTHERN BELLE to phone saying the bus has made the first leg of the 17 hour trip. But she phones an hour late because the “so called” road from Lynn Lake, Manitoba is rougher than HELL. This is not good for a blind lady who has major head pressure in the form of a headache. I asked which is worse, riding the bus “blind” or giving birth to your kids, she said the bus was 10 times worse. So this is going to be a very long and miserable trip for my best friend and lover.

          So after 17 of the longest hours, the Northern ladies arrive in Winnipeg, Mb to be met by my Dad who has my Mom’s mini van plus the VISA. But there is a surprise for my Dad when he goes to pick up the Northern ladies, there is a third lady and she is BLOND. Yes the BLOND LADY who has been SOUTHERN BELLE’S best friend since high school decided to hop on the bus when it stopped in Ashern, Mb at 4:00 am. All the BLOND LADY did was leave a note for her husband saying that she is going to Winnipeg, Mb with SOUTHERN BELLE and to pick up his vehicle at the bus depot. I imagine that he was a “little” surprised to see a note like that in the morning when he awoke.  Thoughts of SOUTHERN BELLE and the BLONDE LADY’S wasted youth must have passed through his head as he read the note. So, now my 62 year old Dad gets to drive a blind lady, a blond lady and a teenager with a shrunken bra around Winnipeg, Mb in my Mom’s mini van. I felt sorry for my Dad but I think he enjoyed being a chauffer.

          My Dad was smart and got a hotel in the downtown area so the ladies could freshen up after the long bus ride from the “Great White North.” Plus he used his union card and got a very good discount since he has been a member for 30 years. When I got a phone call from SOUTHERN BELLE saying that they made the bus trip and she thought of getting off the bus and checking into a hospital along the way because the pain was unbearable. Once checked into a hospital, they might have transported her in a smooth, quiet ambulance to Winnipeg, MB to see the southern doctors. When I talked to her on the phone I got to hear the BLOND LADY in the background, so I asked what she is doing there.  SOUTHERN BELLE said that she had hopped the bus to cheer her up and help her through this. WOW is all I said and poor Dad with all these ladies.

          So with Dad and his VISA in charge of all these Northern ladies I was quite relaxed and went about working outside on some of these broken American boat trailers. I had a simple plan, work away and when the phone rings, run like hell and answer it in the shop. That way I could get things done and this would keep my mind off of what is happening to my best friend. It was a good plan until those computerized telemarketers decided to “pick me”, today of all days! The phone rang and I ran into the shop to get it and it was a fax trying to come through. All I hear is the high pitch squeal for a fax machine and I slammed the phone down. I am just a little pissed off that it was not SOUTHERN BELLE. As soon as I started back to work the phone rang again and I run to get to the phone. When I answer, it is another fax tone again. I hang up and return to work only for the phone to ring again! But this time I run to the house and hit the fax machine start button, only to find it is a spam fax offering a cheap cruise. Of all days to have the telemarketers “pick me” to harass with their computer generated phones.

          I return to work and they start phoning again with their crap that they are trying to peddle. This is going nowhere! So I decide to just stay in the house and wait for the important call from SOUTHERN BELLE. But in the mean time I phone the telemarketers on the phone number they give to have your number removed from their list plus I phone and let off some steam on the 1-800 number that is booking a cheap cruise. I don’t know if it does any good but it sure feels good releasing your anger on someone who is controlling my personal phone line for their financial gain! After 8 hours of waiting, which seemed like forever, the phone finally rang with the news of SOUTHERN BELLE.  But I was not there to answer it.  I went out onto the deck of the house and told a seven year old and thirteen year old to answer the phone when it rings because it is very important. Well the 2 kids got into an argument over “WHO” is answering the phone and it didn’t get answered! So, instead of talking to someone who is with SOUTHERN BELLE all I got was a recorded message saying that they will call back later. I was not pleased with the 2 kids and for the rest of the night they were called DUMB and DUMBER!

          Now I am really upset, with not knowing what is happening to my best friend and when will be the next time they phone. So I’m a little “punchy” as I call it and the 2 kids stay in their rooms watching movies plus reflecting on how stupid they acted in a time of need. Plus I’m worried about what SOUTHERN BELLE is thinking about when they phone up to the KINGDOM and no one answers. She must think I’m at the nudity bar having fun while she is in the hospital. But I’m glad she doesn’t really think that way. After 3 long hours, the BLOND LADY phones saying that SOUTHERN BELLE is being taking by ambulance to another big fancy hospital for more tests plus they will be heading over to the fancy hospital too. Also the teenage daughter needs to buy new bras because these ones that YOU shrunk are very uncomfortable and her womanhood might fall out of her shirt.

Ok, I think we now have a problem here, when I put SOUTHERN BELLE on the bus to the south, she could not see and now she is going to another hospital? Now she is being taken from one hospital to another in ambulance while my Dad (who has VISA) is following in a mini van with the BLOND LADY and a teenager who is bearing her womanhood for all the world to see because I selected too high a dryer setting. Now this is a perfect “Crown Royal” time because I’m more confused then ever and now I regret not going south to be with my best friend. I decide it is not a good time to do something stupid and just go to bed and hope that tomorrow will be a better day. But at 2:00 am I get a phone call from SOUTHERN BELLE saying she is in a fancy hotel with everyone. After they took her to the fancy hospital in the ambulance, they ran tests and such and told her to go home at 1:00 am since there are no beds available for her. So my Dad and the ladies took her to a fancy hotel for the night which is very expensive, but cheap with Dad’s union card. What a relief to get a phone call like that saying everything is sort of alright but more tests to be done in the morning at the fancy hospital. SOUTHERN BELLE couldn’t figure out why they took her by ambulance when she could have rode in the mini van and stopped for a meal too. When you come from the “Great White North” you try and get as much fast food as you can because it might be a year before you get fast food again.

          I wake up the next morning quite relieved that SOUTHERN BELLE is in good hands at the fancy hotel. I work away at welding up trailers that were destroyed on the “so called” road to Lynn Lake, Mb. plus wait for the phone call from SOUTHERN BELLE saying what the doctor found on all those tests. Well at 4:00 pm she phones and tells me that the southern doctors have found nothing, she has a headache so go home and make an appointment for in a month. What a shock that was for me and for her. I remember hanging up the phone and asking myself maybe they missed something?  But who am I?  I’m the KING OF OBSOLETE living in the KINGDOM in the “Great White North” so what would I know on medical stuff? The only thing I know is that the medical system is over loaded and the doctors might have missed something being in a hurry to see the next patient. What the Government of Canada has done is take all the medical tests and such and move them to the big cities. In the Lynn Lake Hospital there are 2 operating rooms that sit idle because everyone is sent south to have hall way medicine in the over crowded hospitals. Xena (daughter) was one of the last babies to be born in the Lynn Lake Hospital.  Now when SOUTHERN BELLE and I decide to have a baby, the baby will have to be born in the south because it is cheaper for me to pay for motels and other expenses than it is for the Government to pay for the birth of our child in a Northern hospital.

          After being stunned by the news of “can’t find anything wrong”, SOUTHERN BELLE tells me that the BLOND LADY’S husband has showed up to drive them all to Ashern, Mb to catch the bus going back to the KINGDOM at midnight. This will save about 2.5 hours off of the 17 hours bus ride which will really help out since she is in not in the best of health for traveling by bus.  The next morning SOUTHERN BELLE phones from Thompson, Mb which is only 300 km from the KINGDOM and breaks the news to me that she is not walking very well. I thought nothing of it since she has been on a “roller coaster ride” since she left 4 days ago. Well, when she was helped off of the bus in Lynn Lake, Mb I was shocked that the southern doctors had even sent her back on the bus in her condition. SOUTHERN BELLE could not stand up on her own, her teenage daughter had to help hold her up plus SOUTHERN BELLE had “puppet feet”. This is not good.  She is in worse shape then when she went out and there is nothing wrong with her? I think the medical system in Canada has failed big time on this case! So, I take her back to the KINGDOM to relax after the worst 4 days of her life. Plus the KING OF OBSOLETE, will be her own personal doctor.

           Since it was payday Friday when SOUTHERN BELLE returned she wanted to go uptown for super with all the kids as she says do the “Family Thing”. I figured if she was up to it we better go because it is not very often we get to eat out. Supper went very well but when we went to leave SOUTHERN BELLE had no sense of balance and she was very lighted headed too. Well, we didn’t make it to the door of the café, before SOUTHERN BELLE’S legs gave out and she was on the floor. I seen her out of the corner of my eye and grabbed her sweater as she fell to the floor. But a sweater will not hold one up.  It more like lets the person slide out. Well it was a good thing that SOUTHERN BELLE was wearing a bra that night because I had her sweater in my hands and she was on the floor. A fellow from the café helped me get SOUTHERN BELLE’S limp body in his truck and off to the hospital we went. Also the cook from the café helped with SOUTHERN BELLE claiming out loud to the surrounding crowd that it was not the food. Once at the hospital the doctor was called in and he was quite surprised at SOUTHERN BELLE’S condition. This was not the same person, health-wise he had seen 4 days earlier. After an examination it was decided that SOUTHERN BELLE needed lots of rest and for me to come back in the morning when she awakes from the sleeping pills.

          I return in the morning after an almost sleepless night in the “KINGDOM” but thanks to a good shot of “Crown Royal” I was able to finally sleep. The hospital is quiet until all the patients who are waiting for a long term senior care home to be built start waking up. These seniors must be able to listen to their favorite radio and TV programs with their deaf ears. So, I am in SOUTHERN BELLE’S room with the door closed trying to enjoy the fancy TV because in the “KINGDOM” we have not had TV for 3 years. So there are a lot of programs that I would like to see on the discovery channel. But the noise from the other radios and TVs is getting unreal even after I kept turning up the TV to hear my program. I wear earplugs all day in my lifestyle as the KING OF OBSOLETE and it is starting to bother my ears. So what about SOUTHERN BELLE who has a terrible headache and Tylenol 3 pain killers can’t even numb the pain? So when the doctor arrives we ask to take SOUTHERN BELLE home to the KINGDOM where we can take care of her in a quiet environment.  The hospital is short staffed and in the KINGDOM we have 3 kids that can help out or they will be grounded until they are adults! So it makes sense to have her home relaxing and trying to get better.

          Everything went well on Saturday with SOUTHERN BELLE home from the hospital including bath time which I helped her with, for I am “a gentleman”. On Sunday morning we awoke to a big surprise when SOUTHERN BELLE tried to speak. Overnight her perfect speech had turned into Porky Pig with the stutter and everything! Wow is all I said.  Most husbands would have been upset but I thought it sounded so sexy. This is because my cup of coffee is always ½ full and I make the best of the worst situations. Now I am living with a blind, Porky Pig-stuttering, puppet walking woman who I still love as much as when she was a healthy woman 2-3 weeks ago.

          Now this stuttering is really making SOUTHERN BELLE upset with all the other problems that her body has given her. So on Monday we go and see the doctor. He doesn’t know what to do and tries to get an appointment in Winnipeg to see another fancy southern doctor. This appointment could take weeks and I decide to keep one of the 3 kids at home each day from school to help out. With one of the kid’s home, I’m able to work in the KINGDOM to keep the Cheese Whiz and Kraft Dinner on the table. Plus I have to get the KINGDOM ready for the big interview on Friday with the fancy magazine. Yes a fellow is flying in with a friend of ours to do an interview on the KING OF OBSOLETE and SOUTHERN BELLE in the KINGDOM.

          I make sure SOUTHERN BELLE is well rested before the interview because it will be a big day for her with her puppet feet and such. Well the southern plane arrives early and the interviewer and a friend phone from the airport for a ride. When I talked to them on the phone I told them they will have to wait because I was bathing SOUTHERN BELLE. If I don’t do her hair right with the conditioners and such it will be a “bad hair day” for the interview! We said we would be there in about 15 minutes in the 1964 Bel-air with the big back seat to pick them up. No problem is all they said. When we arrived in the Bel-air they were very surprised at the room in the big back seat as I drove them to town for lunch. One of the benefits of SOUTHERN BELLE’S puppet feet is that we get all the good parking spots up close to the building. So when we arrived at the hotel café I just made the big Bel-air fit in front of the café a little on the side walk and a little on the street but it was close for SOUTHERN BELLE to walk.

           After a good meal we head to the KINGDOM for more of the interview and we get our picture taken numerous times in front of the Linn Tractors. As I hold SOUTHERN BELLE up by the waist she whispered to me that this picture taking is just like posing when you get married. The thought of marriage went across my mind and I just about dropped SOUTHERN BELLE due to the shock of that word! When the tour was done in the KINGDOM we head back to the hotel café for a good bye supper for our flying guests. Of course I parked the Bel-air up close to the front door but this time more on the sidewalk then before. The things I do for my best friend and partner.

          When we arrive home at the KINGDOM the message on the fancy computerized telephone is that SOUTHERN BELLE’S parents are heading out on a 2 day drive to the KINGDOM to see what has happened to their daughter. Ok is all I have to say because this is the in-laws coming to visit and they must think I am one of the top ten under achievers of Manitoba! But hey, at least I made the top ten list? So lots of Crown Royal to help me sleep and get ready for their arrival on Sunday. Which I figure in my mind will not be good. I took their daughter away from a fancy mortgaged house, shopping malls, pizza delivery and fast food to give her a 10x30 shack at the edge of town with no fast food, microwave pizza and lots of Cheese Whiz and Kraft Dinner. But to my surprise they liked me. Even after a whole week of living in the KINGDOM eating Kraft Dinner plus having Cheese Whiz on everything!  What can I say?  It must be the Barnes Charm at work. But what I think made me the #1 son in-law was the fact that the friend who was up with the interviewer phoned when he heard through the grapevine that SOUTHERN BELLE’S health was declining. The only thing the friend said on the phone was we will be getting an airplane to have her flown south. This friend became “OUR FRIEND” So with “OUR FRIEND” planning to fly SOUTHERN BELLE south, “OUR FRIEND” made me look very good in the eyes of the in-laws!

          SOUTHERN BELLE’S parents headed home after 5 quality days in the KINGDOM knowing that the KING’S friend will be flying her south to see a fancy southern doctor. When “OUR FRIEND” arrives and takes one look at SOUTHERN BELLE he is shocked at her declining condition and starts ordering a plane to fly her south! We agree to fly in 2 days because we must make arrangements to see a doctor in the south for her. So after a week of beautiful weather GOD decided to give us the first snow of the season. Which, this is not good when you are flying an airplane due to the snow freezing on the wings and causing the plane to crash! So this is a minor detail for “OUR FRIEND”. He hired a very reputable flying service from Flin Flon, Manitoba with around 30 years of Northern flying under their belt.

          At 7:30 am on the flight day we get a call from “OUR FRIEND” saying that the new computerized weather station is not reading the weather correctly in Lynn Lake, Mb. The Government decided to replace 4 good paying jobs with a computer to read the weather at the airport. Well I think they got the computer at a bargain bin store because it has been wrong more than it is right which is not good when in an airplane. Well I’m not making a judgment call on the weather so I tell “OUR FRIEND” and pilot to phone the local flying service and get the weather report from them. When “OUR FRIEND” phoned back he said they can’t fly out until at least 9:00 am when the weather might be better. Our hearts sank because SOUTHERN BELLE’S fancy southern doctor’s appointment got moved up 2 weeks to “plane day” and that is amazing how that happened! Now with the plane weathered in and it not able to fly, SOUTHERN BELLE will miss her doctor’s appointment and have to wait another 3 weeks for the fancy doctor. When we phone the fancy southern doctor’s office and explain the plane is weathered in and it can’t fly to make the 1:30pm appointment, the doctor’s secretary said that anytime this afternoon will be your appointment.  If you are going through this much trouble to see the doctor we will wait.

          News like that was a relief for us.  At 9:00 am “OUR FRIEND” phoned saying they will be flying to Lynn Lake, Mb and will be making a decision on the weather when they arrive. Ok, I’m not a rocket scientist! But flying an airplane to a place where you know you might not be able to land and have to turn back is a very big expense at today’s fuel prices! “OUR FRIEND” was determined to get SOUTHERN BELLE south for medical treatment at any cost since the system has failed for the last month. We sit by the phone waiting to hear from “OUR FRIEND” as to what is going on. As I look out the window at the rainy, low cloud covered day I hear a twin engine fly over the KINGDOM. Then 3 minutes later the plane flies over the KINGDOM and this continues for the next ½ hour. I can’t see the plane only hear it. Then I hear a plane land at the airport and within minutes “OUR FRIEND” phones to say lets go.

          When we arrive at the small Lynn Lake airport, it is full of young pilots sitting around because they can’t fly due to bad weather conditions. But standing over them is a grey haired fellow, who is a big man to start with, telling these young guns that he has to get this young lady to a southern doctor. All he is going to do is rely on his years of experience and read the weather and make the right decision. It only took him a ½ hour of circling, waiting for the right window of good weather to land, where as most pilots would have turned back home canceling the flight. I sure was glad to see an experienced pilot for the bad weather condition and not Pee Wee Herman at the controls.

          “OUR FRIEND” was very concerned at the late departure from Lynn Lake, Mb meaning the fancy southern doctor’s appointment could be missed. But the experienced pilot assured him that he will just “kick” the throttles forward and increase cruising speed which also will increase the fuel consumption. With this combination we will make the fancy southern doctor’s appointment and the extra fuel that will be burned will be added to the bill. “Oh.”, is all I said.  But at any cost I must get SOUTHERN BELLE back to health, so what is a little fuel compared to the risks that the pilots and “OUR FRIEND” have taken to get SOUTHERN BELLE south in this bad weather. The grey haired experienced pilot says good bye to the young gun pilots and gets SOUTHERN BELLE on board his plane. These young gun pilots won’t get to fly today due to weather. When they taxi away from the Lynn Lake terminal I felt relief known that SOUTHERN BELLE is now going south to get fixed up. In the plane the grey haired pilot told “OUR FRIEND” and SOUTHERN BELLE and the teenage daughter to hang on because on take off he will have make the plane a rocket and get up and out of the weather if not the plane will not fly due to the wings freezing up. So when the plane took off it went straight up like a rocket and that is the last I seen or heard of it until SOUTHERN BELLE phoned 2.5 hours later from downtown sunny Winnipeg, Mb.

          My Dad was there to meet the plane with his 85 year old Mom’s wheel chair. When I asked my Dad to borrow my Grandma’s wheelchair for assisting SOUTHERN BELLE from the plane to his vehicle she gave me a slap upside the head for asking but when she seen the wheelchair at the bottom step of the airplane she gladly hopped in for a relaxing ride to my Mom’s mini van after a long plane ride. Now, my Dad must drive SOUTHERN BELLE and the teenage daughter, in downtown Winnipeg traffic, to the fancy southern doctor’s office. But he is getting smart. When the plane was delayed this morning he did a practice run while he waited, so he knew where to park for the best wheelchair access to the doctor office building. Also, Dad borrowed his Mom’s wheelchair parking pass to get the best parking spot to save time.

           SOUTHERN BELLE made the fancy southern doctor appointment where the doctor spent over 2 hours checking her over and this is all thanks to the experience of one pilot and Dad’s practice runs. With a long day under her belt SOUTHERN BELLE only wanted a pizza from Boston Pizza which can only be had in the south. Well my Dad hates pizza and won’t even go to a pizza restaurant because he doesn’t even like the smell! Next thing I know SOUTHERN BELLE has “my Dad” at a Boston Pizza enjoying a fine meal! I guess my Dad really likes SOUTHERN BELLE or he was just that hungry too. When SOUTHERN BELLE phoned up to the KINGDOM to tell me the days events I was more surprised that my Dad was in a pizza restaurant than about what the doctor had to say! The doctor gave SOUTHERN BELLE a list of tests that he said would take a couple of months to have done and she would be able to get them done in Brandon, Mb where my parents live. This is great, because now she can “Bond” with my parents and the costs would be a lot less than in the big city of Winnipeg, Mb.

          The next day after arriving in Brandon, Mb, SOUTHERN BELLE set out to have the tests done. When you are sitting in a waiting room and someone doesn’t show up for their appointment, they get you to fill in for the person who missed their appointment. So after a week SOUTHERN BELLE had completed all the tests that should have taken 2-3 months. When she phoned the fancy southern doctor and explained the tests are done. The doctor was shocked and SOUTHERN BELLE told him that she doesn’t want to be sick that is why she got the tests done now. All he said was go home and he will know the results in a couple of weeks or so. When I talked to SOUTHERN BELLE that night to express my love to her, she caught me totally off guard by saying she was coming home tomorrow.

          The next day my Dad, SOUTHERN BELLE and the teenage daughter drive off to Winnipeg, Mb after a snowstorm the day before.  A trip to Winnipeg, Mb from Brandon, Mb takes normally 2 hours but today took 4 hours with the icy roads and slush.  But they made sure to leave early and made it in plenty of time so they could grab more fast food before they head back to the “Great White North”.  After 2 phone calls she was on a big plane to Thompson, Mb which just happened to have the newly released fancy magazine that we were interviewed for. When the plane landed she was a bit of a celebrity and no one really noticed the wheelchair she used because the "puppet feet" give out when she walks too much. SOUTHERN BELLE went from a big airplane to a smaller plane and within 45 minutes she was back in Lynn Lake, Mb. I picked her up at the airport in the Bel-air with the big back seat.


June 2007 Southern Belle moved back to the south, the Great White North is not for everyone. The second part of her illness story will not be released on the internet. Her health has improved to normal. Thank you