Friday, April 21, 2017


I saw today that the Gainesville Sun is running an essay contest to choose a nurse of the year for Nurse’s Week beginning May 6. I clicked on the link to the page containing the full rules for the contest and was disappointed to find that the contest was limited to nurses who were currently working in the nursing profession and the essays were limited to 300 words. That presented two problems. The person I had in mind for nomination is now retired, and 300 words is not enough to describe what an excellent nurse she was and still is.

She set her sights on becoming a nurse at an early age and never wavered from pursuing that goal. In high school she worked nights as a telephone operator to save money for college, and continued to work through two years at Lake City Junior College and Forest Ranger School, now Florida Gateway College. There was an Associate Degree nursing program at LCJC, but she wanted a bachelor’s degree. Upon graduating LCJC she enrolled in the University of Florida and entered the nursing program. Before she graduated from UF she had married, and as soon as she graduated she went took a job at the VA Hospital in Lake City and began working on her P.H.T. (Putting Husband Through) degree from the University of Florida Law School.

Rotating shifts and the strenuous physical labor of being a hospital nurse did not mix well with rearing a young child, and when the second came her husband talked her into leaving her profession for full-time motherhood. I don’t recall how long that lasted, but it wasn’t long. She and her husband disagreed about her going back to work, but they reached a compromise with the agreement that she would try to find a job with reasonable hours and weekends off.

She found that job at LCJC on the faculty of the Associate Degree Nursing Department, where she served for the bulk of her career. Beginning as the most junior and least experienced member of the nursing faculty, when she left the college she was the Director of the Associate Degree Nursing Department.

During the time she taught at the college, her husband had the opportunity to get a P.W.T. degree as she earned a Master’s Degree in Allied Health. I tried to talk her into going ahead and studying to become a Nurse Practitioner, but she was satisfied with what she was doing at the college.

One of her accomplishments while at the college was to put together an A.D.N. to B.S.N. (Associate Degree Nursing to Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing) program at what had by that time become Lake City Community College. I recall how tirelessly she worked putting the program together, and how many obstacles she had to overcome, but she finally got the program in place and began the process of turning A.D.N.’s into B.S.N.’s. More than a few B.S.N.’s today obtained their degree through that program. My only complaint is that she worked the program in conjunction with F.S.U. (Just kidding).

One incident from the early days of that program exemplifies her dedication to duty, compassion, level-headed good judgment, and coolness under fire. She was leading a caravan of students over to Tallahassee for a class on the F.S.U. campus when they drove up on a horrific wreck on I-10. A prison bus loaded with chained female inmates had overturned. Almost all of the prisoners had been seriously injured, and the injuries had been magnified by the fact that they had been manacled. The wreck had occurred so recently that no emergency vehicles had arrived on the scene. The caravan of nursing students stopped and went into action as first responders rendering whatever aid they could.

With no equipment of any kind, and nothing but their knowledge and their bare hands, she and her students began rendering what aid they could. When E.M.S. personnel arrived they continued to assist until the situation had been completely handled. When it was all over, she called F.S.U. and advised that they would not be coming to the Crisis Management Class that night, they had held their class on the side of I-10.  She later wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Corrections about how the use of manacles in transporting the prisoners had compounded their injuries and cost some of the prisoners their lives. Her plea to unshackle prisoners once they had been locked into a transport bus fell on deaf ears.

She taught hundreds of students over the course of her career, and not a week goes by that we don’t encounter one of her former students. Seeing so many of her former students who have done so well in the nursing profession gives me a sense of great pride that she has made a significant contribution to the betterment of society.

Sometimes seeing former students can be amusing. The lead-in to this story is a little long, but bear with me: Lane (yes, I’ve been talking about my wife) used to have bad migraine headaches. They had come out with a shot for migraines that was very painful to administer, and they had given Lane some syringes to take home. She got a migraine so bad that she couldn’t administer the shot to herself, so she told me I would have to do it. I’d given shots to cows back in my days as a farm boy, but never a shot to a human being. I didn’t want to do it. I also didn’t want her to suffer, so I screwed up my courage and gave her the shot. She screamed. I nearly fainted. I told her the next [expletive deleted] time she needed a migraine shot we’d just have to go to the emergency room.

Sure enough, not long after that she got another bad migraine. I packed her up and took her to the emergency room, and the doctor prescribed a shot. (So far I’ve neglected to mention that this shot did not go into the arm). The job of giving the shot devolved onto the E.R. nurse, a man whom Lane had taught in nursing school. My reluctance to give my wife a shot was nothing compared to his reluctance to give his former professor a shot that wasn’t going into the arm. His hand was actually shaking a little bit as he approached to give it. He somehow accomplished the task of giving her the shot. Lane didn’t scream. And I bit my tongue to keep from laughing because I knew neither he nor Lane would see any humor in the situation.

After she left the college, Lane worked as the Associate Director of Nursing at Northeast Florida State Hospital for a few years before finally retiring completely. In retirement she’s nursed our parents and our children, our grandchildren, and a multitude of other friends and relatives. And when I say nursed, I don’t mean just giving them a Band-Aid and an aspirin—I’m talking about roll-up-your-sleeves, carry-the-bedpan, etc., etc. nursing. More than once I’ve been a bachelor for weeks at a time while she has gone to a distant city to nurse a sick friend or relative. She has accused me of enjoying my occasional stints of bachelorhood, but I’m always glad to meet her at the airport and take her home.

I’ve tripled the Gainesville Sun’s word limit already, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the good things Lane has done as a nurse. Suffice it to say that she has my vote for Nurse of the Year, Nurse of the Decade, and Nurse of the Century. But then I may be just a little bit prejudiced.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Southern Illinois University Press just sent me the copy for the dust jacket of the book, Prairie Defender, asking me to look it over and see if I approved of it. I read the copy and thought "Dad gum, that sounds like a good book. I'd like to read it." And I really would like to read it again--even though I've read it countless times already getting it ready for printing. That's the way I am with a book I really like, I read it and re-read it numerous times. When I was a kid, I read my grandmother's copy of Swiss Family Robinson until the covers fell off.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Prairie Defender, and I thoroughly enjoy every re-reading of it. I certainly hope the reading public gets as much pleasure out of it as I do. Here's the copy that's going to be on the inside flap of the dust cover:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.