The county fairgrounds were used for many private functions as well as the venue for the county fair. People could rent one of the various sized buildings for their function but, no matter what the use, it was up to the private individual or organisation to provide (pay for) security.
I suspect that the most cost effective security would have been off-duty deputies but for some reason they weren't that interested. They probably valued their time off more than anything. That left the opportunity open to the Reserve Deputies. I remember it was considered a perk of the job to be assigned to a Mexican wedding.
They were almost always happy affairs and the deputy was 'expected' to partake of the ample food presented. Although we were paid, most of us would have accepted the assignment for nothing more than the food on offer. Of course there was liquor being served and there were the odd occasions when we had to tear ourselves away from the serving table to quell a small riot but for the most part, the duty was totally enjoyable.
Obviously, the main purpose of the fairgrounds was for the annual County Fair and it was another assignment (although un-paid) that we usually found enjoyable. That is where I found myself one warm spring day, at one of the two main gates of the fairgrounds.
I was totally involved making sure nobody stole the gate or tried to force their way into the County Fair while at the same time anticipating my next break when I could get hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob and an ice-cold soda, when a woman came running out of an exhibition hall, ran up to me and said that an old man had just fallen on the floor inside.
I told one of the women selling admission tickets to call for an ambulance and then ran into the building to see what I could do. For some reason, I thought I would find a victim of a tripping accident, maybe a sprain or even a broken bone.
When I got inside the exhibition hall I saw that there was a crowd standing around an elderly gentleman who was lying on his back on the cement floor. I knelt down beside him and was immediately taken by his ashen colour. I also checked for breathing ... even though it was pretty obvious that this was not happening.
By the time I had been alerted and got to his side I suspected he had been lying here for, at least, three or four minutes. He had either fallen and landed on his back or had been turned that way after falling. There was no bleeding so the first thing to do was open an airway.
At the time, the American Heart Association was leading the way in CPR training and advocacy. I had taken their course as part of my Sheriff's Department training and then went on to become a CPR instructor. I had been through this so many times before but always in a training environment ... always with a dummy ... I had never been truly tested. Now a life hangs in the balance and it seems I'm the only one that can do anything about it.
I put one hand on his forehead and the other under his chin and tilted his head back as I had been taught and as I had told so many others to do.
Nobody in the history of CPR has ever been more surprised and relived as I was when, immediately, I heard and felt him take a huge inhaling breath and make a loud choking noise.
I realised his tongue had fallen back and blocked his airway when he fell. Of course I had to act as though this was totally expected but inside I was yelling, "Wow, this stuff actually works … look what I did ... with a whole lot of help from the man upstairs."
The display surrounding us was filled with home-made afghans, quilts and knitted blankets for entry in the Fair. I told a woman who seemed to be running the exhibit to get me blanket for the man. She hesitated and started to explain that all the items were entered in the Fair competition and not to be used!
I said, "Get a blanket for this man or I'll just take one from the display." I think she decided she would pick one instead of leaving it up to me as one appeared almost immediately. I'm sure it was one that didn't have a chance of winning the blue ribbon.
Just then the EMTs arrived and started setting up. I told them I had opened an airway and he was now breathing on his own.
One of them asked if I had an ID yet? I didn't and the man wasn't saying much as he was still in shock, so I turned him slightly and reached for his wallet. That was when he came alive! He wasn't able to speak or barely move but he felt the wallet leave his pocket and faster than the speed of light he grabbed for it ... and me.
It was then that the tug of war started. There I was, struggling with an old guy, who had just fainted and was still lying on the cement floor, each of us pulling on his wallet. I finally won; after all he was old, frail, and weak from a near death experience ... and I had been bolstering my energy with hot-dogs all day.
I gave the paramedics the information they needed and then handed the wallet back to the old boy. He gave me a cold look, snatched it back and gripped it with both hands. I remember feeling sorry for the hospital staff that would try to take it away from him again when they admitted him!
The paramedics had everything under control so I wound my way through the crowd and returned to the entry gate. I was relieved to find that the gate, the ticket booth and the receipts were still there; my absence would not be noted. Nor, it seemed, would my presence inside the exhibition hall. I doubted that anyone had noticed what just occurred.
It took me time to realise that in those few seconds, I had actually saved a life. Very few emotions can match that feeling and I envy those that do it often as a matter of course.
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