Somebody once wrote “I dream things that never were and say ‘why not?'” My family lived these words long before they were ever written. In the late 1950’s, when our small town fire department put its outdated ambulance up for sale at a bargain price, my father bought it.
It wasn’t a box van like the emergency vehicles we see today, but rather something that looked like a blood red hearse. Our purchase included two very comfortable chairs with tiny legs for medical attendants, a system to hang canvas stretchers from the ceiling, and a metal gurney on wheels.
When my dad proudly brought the ambulance home, he enthusiastically announced that it would be our new camper. So on our family outings my mom and I would sleep on mats on the floor, my two sisters were suspended from the ceiling in new canvas hammocks, and my hardy ex-Marine father would sleep on the wheeled gurney outside. It was only when he almost rolled into Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks that he realized that the stretcher always needed to be tied to something solid.
For some reason, we only had the ambulance for one camping season. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that so many cars would pull over to the side of the road when they saw us coming. The cute red chairs with the short legs became our TV chairs and the gurney became our favorite toy. My sisters and I hooked a rope to it and as two of us pulled, one sister would have a thrilling ride around the outside of our house. As the momentum built, a final accelerating pull would be executed and then the rope was released. The rider would be hurtled down a hill in front of our house and eventually be stopped by a small ditch about three feet from the road.
One day, a man driving in front of our house turned pale as he saw a little girl on an ambulance stretcher speeding down a hill toward his car. Of course, the gurney stopped just before the road like it always did but the man got out of his car and gave us a stern talking to. After calming down a bit, he asked us why we would ever do something so crazy. Since we were the daughters of our unconventional dad, my sisters and I looked at each other, shrugged, and replied, “Why not?”
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