During May 1999, family, friends, and neighbors gathered to pay our respects to my 98-year-old aunt. The day before the funeral, some of us decided to visit our hometown of Howard, Colorado.
I found myself standing in front of the site where my great-uncle Lou Davis had operated a dry goods store. Across the road, a six-foot-wide, six-foot-deep irrigation ditch still flowed. The old concrete slab that had spanned the stream was still there, reinforced with dirt and logs.
Memories came rushing back to my mind. I remembered a warm, sunny afternoon in the summer of 1931. I was about three-and-a-half years old. My brother Bob was perhaps 16 months older than me. Since it was a Sunday, Uncle Louís store was closed. Lou, dressed in his best suit of clothes, was sitting in a chair on the porch keeping an eye on my brother and me.
We decided to try to catch tumbleweeds as they came floating down the irrigation ditch. Bob and I lay down on the edge of the concrete slab so we could reach the weeds as they floated under the bridge. It seemed that Bob was catching all of the tumbleweeds and I never touched one.
I kept inching farther off the concrete ledge until, reaching for a tumbleweed, I fell into the rushing water. My body kept rolling over and over in a fetal position. All I could see was muddy water.
Uncle Lou saw me fall into the ditch. Without hesitation he jumped out of his chair, leaped off the porch, ran the 25 yards or so to the ditch, and jumped in. I remember him grabbing me and setting me up on the bank. Then he crawled out of the ditch, his boots full of water and his new, blue wool pinstriped suit ruined. Uncle Lou carried me to the house.
No one doubted that I would have drowned if Lou had not rescued me.
In January 1949, I stopped off to see my aunt and uncle in Pueblo, Colorado. I was saddened to find my Uncle Lou at their house, seriously ill. I was told that he probably would not recognize me.
When I walked into the bedroom he opened his eyes, smiled, and reached for my hand. The first thing he said to me was did I remember the time he had pulled me out of the irrigation ditch. I told him that I did remember, and that I would never forget his act of bravery.
Lou Davis passed away a few days after I left for home.
Our 1999 visit to Howard ended with a visit to the old cemetery. There, in the old family plot, I found Uncle Louís headstone. Standing in front of the tombstone I placed both hands on the marker, closed my eyes, and bowed my head in silent prayer. I thanked Uncle Lou for allowing me to spend the many years with my family and friends.
As I stood there, head bowed, I felt a slight chill. I thought that was peculiar on so warm a day. I also felt a presence. Thinking that my wife had walked up behind me, I turned my head to the left and opened my eyes.
There, about half a step behind me, stood Uncle Lou. He had a smile on his face. He was wearing an old slouch hat, a white shirt open at the collar, and a pair of old faded overalls. He looked at me with a wonderful smile on his face, looked down at his grave, and then he was gone.
Then I knew that I was blessed. I have been watched over all of these years by my Uncle Louís spirit, always at my side.