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Abby to the Rescue, part 1

Abby to the Rescue, Part 1

By Bill Stork, DVM 

Three hundred sixty four days a year, well before dawn cracks through the cul-de-sac, Abby the Westie is all about business and breakfast. Through her back yard and just past the lilacs, there is an 80-year-old retired teacher eternally grateful that on one eventful day, she deviated. Thanks to Terrier Tenacity, a chemical engineer who can’t handle his Kool-Aid, and an orthopedic surgeon skilled with scalpel and Fender Stratocaster, yet agile enough to dodge a 9-iron, she is today trading her walker for a crutch.

Danny Cane arrived at the University of Illinois in 1981. He had earned enough Advanced Placement credit in high school to technically qualify as a professor. When I came to know him two years later, he had forever assumed the moniker of his home town of Red Bud, Illinois, and his forehead was beginning to overtake his red hairline. 

At 5’9” and 180lbs he could best be described as a carrot-topped, chemical engineering equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil, with only slightly better table manners. Having lived only a few doors down in Townsend Residence Hall, I can speak from experience.  The man walked fast, ate fast, read books fast, showered quickly, and I am convinced he even slept fast. Long ago I developed the highly functional habit of memorizing the cars people drive and the shoes they wear. It provides a little insight as to their personality and function, and helps me remember names.  You can tell from the road if a friend is at the hardware store or pub and you can speak topically to the person on the other side of the bathroom stall divider.  Red Bud Cane wasted no time on the groover. 

The morning of Sunday, October 10, 1986, however, he moved slowly. Very slowly.

October 9, 1986 was the 21st birthday of my friend whose parents named him after a pedestrian traffic violation. It was a Saturday night and The Mudhens were opening for Otis and the Elevators. It was time to mobilize the ranks and celebrate with Jay Walker. 

On stage, The Elevators was a jam band, long before Dave Mathews and Phish, and void of anyone named Otis. They were well known for their perpetual hypnotic danceable grooves, and the guitar work of one Jim Bury. A card-carrying disciple of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jim could let it fly. He lined spare picks on his microphone stand and wore a feather on the head of his guitar. Minus the floor length robe, even his stance was SRV.

Mabel’s Bar was tended by a good friend and future colleague named “Natural” Dave Rosen. Grateful for my having saved him from a life as a lawyer, he refused to charge me or anyone I had ever known for a beer. Through four years of veterinary school, Dave was the third-ranked full contact karate fighter in the world. With hands soft to nurture a newborn kitten yet hard and swift to render a competitor comatose, he could spin a long neck Budweiser on each knuckle, bump them on the bar and spin the caps into the garbage. 

On this momentous night, Red Bud decided to join us. Though a St. Louis Cardinal fan from birth, and having grown up just across the Mississippi from the Budweiser Brewery, he didn’t much care for beer. Not to fear, I explained to Dave that Red Bud was a cautious consumer and he brewed up a tasty purple punch, right before our eyes.

The ultimate moment in most Otis shows was usually in the second encore, and long after bar time. Jim would pull his pearl top Strat close to his body, tuck his elbows in, rock back on his heels, drop his head, and kick it off. With Mark “Toupee” Zehr on bass they would lay down the groove and, in one writhing mass, the crowd would move. After ten minutes of soaring guitar and in a fashion Mother Goose could have never intended, he would hammer a chord, the band would pause, crowd go silent and Jim would attack the microphone, “Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was black as coal, yeah…” And the crowd went wild.

Jim once told me, “Bill, if you stand on your head every night, you got nothin’ left for the next show.” Like his mentor, Jim would always leave us begging for just a little bit more.

Having properly celebrated Jay, but being the academics we were, mid-terms loomed. So we filtered to the street below. Thankfully, it was an easy quarter mile down Green Street, past the statue of the Alma Mater back to the dorm. Our teetotaling chemical genius Red Bud needed a little guidance, a couple of shoulders and a few breaks. Dave’s purple punch had hit him hard.

In hindsight, there was a twinge of guilt. At breakfast the next morning we watched him try and hold his head in a way that didn’t hurt, all the while swearing never to do it again, and hoping the bacon grease, scrambled eggs and shredded cheese would displace or absorb the toxins inflaming his brain. The intention was always to tell him that Dave’s concoction was Welch's Grape Juice and a splash of 7-Up, on the rocks. The time just never seemed right.

To be continued...

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