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Life Without Louella

Homer wakes up a little late one morning only to discover that his principal culinary benefactor and good friend, Louella Hightower Hess, has failed to arrive at Faded Glory Farm.

It wasn't a rainy, gray, or dismal morning that caused me to oversleep. To the contrary, bright shafts of sunshine were already beginning to sift through the trees surrounding the Inn when I finally yawned, snorted, scratched and woke up. There was a strange and eerie silence in the kitchen of the Inn. It was slightly after 6 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and the sounds of pots and pans crashing in the kitchen were not to be heard. All was silent. Something was terribly wrong!

I was already waiting at the door of the Inn when Micah arrived at 6:30 a.m. and, instead of pushing past him to go into the yard, I followed him through the common area and through the swinging door leading into the kitchen. Micah stopped and looked around quizzically as he began to grasp the fact that Louella was indeed not at her usual spot in the kitchen baking her biscuits and working on her pie dough.

Seconds later, I heard the steady pulse of Matthew Tipton's diesel powered US Forest Service SUV as he pulled into his accustomed spot by the rear entrance to the kitchen. Micah heard it too, and he moved quickly to open the door to greet Matthew immediately after starting the coffee in the Inn's huge double urn coffee maker. Just seconds later, Sheriff Kenny Payne pulled in behind Ranger Tipton's truck with his concealed grille-mounted blue lights flashing wildly. As it turns out, Kenny was responding to an earlier call made by Isabel when she discovered that Louella was missing. Isabel joined us as we moved out to the small porch to greet Sheriff Kenny who was just emerging from his County Patrol Car.
Isabel spoke first, "Do you know anything yet about Louella, Kenny?"
"Not the best of news, folks, but she's in the County Ambulance headed toward Fannin County Hospital as we speak," Kenny responded.
"She's one tough lady though, and the paramedics think that except for some cuts and bruises and a possible broken leg, she's going to be okay; of course we'll know more once they get her into the emergency room and clean her up."
Isabel frowned and shuddered visably at the news.
Sheriff Kenny, with his battered clipboard in hand, climbed the stairs to the porch and heaved himself heavily into a chair just outside the kitchen and gratefully accepted a steaming cup of coffee that was shoved his way by Ranger Matthew Tipton.

"Why don't I just cut to the chase and tell you everything we know so far about Ms. Hess' accident. Then, you can ask me all the questions you want to, and I'll do my best to answer them; is that fair?" asked Kenny lifting his fresh cup of coffee to his lips. Isabel nodded and sat down at the table next to Micah. as Matthew Tipton turned off his two-way radio and sat back expansively in his chair, ready to listen. I stayed close to Matthew's side, hoping for a good scratch.

Kenny took a sip of his coffee and continued. "Dispatch got a call from a resident out on Rte. 60 just outside of Dial at around 4:30 a.m. saying that she had a motorist at her front door who was reporting an overturned vehicle with it's lights on and it's horn blowing, down in a ravine just up the way near mile marker 55. When my deputy arrived on the scene twenty minutes later, he was met by Officer Pete Warren of the Georgia State Patrol who had arrived about six minutes earlier and had already begun to set out flares to warn oncoming traffic. My deputy says that when he and Officer Warren finally rappelled down into the ravine, they found Ms. Hess - Louella - conscious, lucid, and madder than a wet hen. She had several lacerations, her head was bleeding, and she was pinned by her right leg between the front seat mechanism and the steering wheel. They got her free and made her comfortable until the County EMS vehicle arrived about fifteen minutes after that. Due to the steep incline and the heavy brush, it took three EMTs to haul Ms. Hess back to the roadway on the transporter. Deputy Zimmerman, whose parents are both German, said that he learned some expletives in German from Louella that he had never heard before . . . tough lady! As I say, Louella was not very happy."

Sheriff Kenny continued; "The County Rescue Unit found a huge, dead buck deer further down the road, and right now we are assuming that Louella hit it head-on at high speed and left the roadway upon impact. Her car is a total loss, but according to Zimmerman, it was pretty well ate up with rust before the accident. We cleared the scene about thirty minutes ago, and I came straight here. I have instructed the EMTs to keep me posted if there is any major change in Ms. Hess' condition, and we will know a lot more once they get her into Emergency; and that's pretty much all we know."

Isabel sighed and thanked Sheriff Kenny and got up to pour more coffee, as Matthew Tipton rose from his chair and turned on his now-silent two-way Motorola. Micah headed for the kitchen and went about setting up the waffle irons in preparation for breakfast time for the Inn's guests.

Until this morning nobody fully realized that Louella Hightower Hess is truly the heartbeat of Faded Glory Farm most mornings until 10 a.m. Until this morning, Louella had never missed a day of work over the past three years of her employment at the Inn. Funny how you take good, dependable people for granted. Isabel immediately moved into Louella's role, but Louella's absence would leave a large hole in the very fabric of Faded Glory Farm. But life must go on, and Isabel's and Micah's day was already cut out for them.

To be continued . .

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