Tailboard Tales + Wordless Wednesday

Many of you know Vince Garcia. Many of you don’t, but I wish you could.

Vince is a Newton, Kansas firefighter. I say IS, because once you’re a FF, you’re always a FF.  And though he is no longer able to check in, he is still very much a part of that brotherhood that defines a firehouse.

Vince has ALS. There’s no easy way to say it, and there’s not a day that goes by that his brothers don’t think of him, pray for him, wish there were some way they could all wake up from this very bad dream and things would be all better. 

Recently the department acquired a new fire truck. And a new engine is like a brand new toy. 

Yesterday, some of his brothers made sure he got to play with this new rig. And I’m not sure who had the most fun—Vince or his playmates.

P.S.  PLEASE click on these pics so you can get the full picture. Look at the faces of each of those men. And please pray for Vince and his family, and his brothers at the firehouse. 

The hardest thing a FF ever has to do…is leave one behind.

Vince Garcia…You Are Loved

Tuesday’s Tale from the Tailboard

To the Rescue—Again

It was one of those days. Our Lori was slowly, very slowly, improving after being in a coma, the result of a car wreck. (Lori would never allow us to call it an ACCIDENT.  Over and over again, when she was able to communicate, she reminded us that there were NO ACCIDENTS with Jesus.)

And though she was improving, she still required a respirator to breathe. Even before her wreck her incurable neomuscular disease made it necessary to use the respirator at night. Now, because of her head trauma, she needed it during the day, too. 

We were tired. All of us. But we were encouraged that at least she was out of the coma and making some progress. 

The down side to this day—there was freezing rain. While we didn’t need to be out in it, we did need the electricity to stay on for the respirator. There was an emergency battery backup, but there was only a short window of ‘help’ we could expect. 

Peering from window to window didn’t still the storm. 

Opening the door and hearing the crackle of the frozen branches did nothing for our anxious hearts. 

When the lights flickered, we felt so very, very vulnerable. 

And you guessed it!! The electricity went off. 

Alarms buzzed. 

Our hearts pounded.  

We were on an emergency call list for the electric company, but the outage was so widespread, and weather becoming worse by the hour, that there was no way they could get to us any faster than to any of the others whose lives depended on electric power.

That’s when we called for HELP. One phone call, and the Fire Department was there with their generator. 

These were the same fellas who made it possible for us get Lori home by ambulance plane from Indiana after her wreck. 

These were the same fellas who worked extra shifts so that Bob wouldn’t have to lose his sick days. 

These were the same fellas who came to our door with money they’d collected to help. 

And the same fellas who sat with Bob, on more than one occasion, when the days seemed never to end and the mornings brought no visible relief.

Oh, how blessed we were to have them. What comfort those yellow coats brought us. Their slipping and sliding on the ice to hook up the generator. Their smiles, hugs and assurance that all we had to do was call if we needed anything else. Their tender greetings to Lori. 


Much needed, and greatly appreciated help


Tales From the Tailboard

It’s Not All Work!

Because they live together 24 hours at a time, firefighters become very much family. And in each family there is a certain amount of tomfoolery that occurs. Imagine a household of four or five boys, and then multiply the mischief by lots of ten because these are no longer boys, but grown men.

Like family, most of the rowdiness occurred when the Chiefs weren’t there. So Bob questioned the fact his Chief hung around one evening, and even sat down at the table with them for their evening meal, which happened to be pancakes.

Bob’s first bite of pancake was uneventful. But when he tried to cut a second bite his question was answered. The chef for the evening had put a milk strainer in Bob’s pancake. Of course, his attempt to cut the second bite was thwarted…but it took a bit of ‘sawing’ for him to realize what they’d done.

I don’t know how many of you know what a milk strainer is. It’s not unlike a coffee filter, though more fiber dense. That’s how Bob felt–a bit dense.  But it was good for a laugh–and still is.

For the past several years, the Newton Fire Department has hosted a special luncheon for the retired firefighters and ambulance personnel. It’s a great time of reflection, of remembering members who have gone before them, exclaiming over how things have changed.

Most of all, it’s a grand time of recounting stories like this over and over again, and laughing as though they were hearing them for the first time.

It’s the brotherhood.

And it’s what got them through the times they don’t want to to remember.

Retiree  luncheon, 2014.  Bob is standing, 7th from the left
Retirees and their sons who are still active Newton firefighter/paramedics
Bob and Rob on the left

Tuesday’s Tale From the Tailboard


There is a certain type of relationship that grows among the men in a firehouse, not unlike the military. Personalities either blend, or not, but the bottom line–when the alarm rings, or a fellow firefighter is in need, they work as one. 

Christmas 1983: Bob and our sons went to Michigan to bring our youngest daughter home for Christmas and on the way home they were stopping in Chicago to pick up Bob’s niece. Simple enough–if things hadn’t gotten so complicated.  

It was the day before Christmas Eve, early evening traffic around Chicago, already dark, and they got headed the wrong direction on the toll road. Finally were able to get turned around, and then the fuel pump gave out. It was so cold the windows frosted over on the inside of the car. Fortunately, they hadn’t been stopped long before a Highway Patrol came along and loaded them all into his car and took them to a service station, and had the car towed in and a new fuel pump installed. 

They made it to Chicago, much later, much colder and with much less money. We didn’t use credit cards and not a lot of money in the bank. They made it to near Springfield, Illinois, and the alternator light came on.  It was now near midnight and very, very cold. After the light came on, Bob took the next exit hoping they could find someplace to check it out. They couldn’t find anything open, and the car was running fine, so they decided to continue on. Then–on the ‘on’ ramp to get back onto the interstate the transmission gave out and the car quit moving. He could go backward but not forward. There was snow everywhere, but from their vantage point on the ramp they could see the lights of a motel in the far distance. This was before cell phones, and a fence separated the interstate from any businesses, but their only recourse was to walk. To make matters a bit more complicated–Lori’s normal mode of transportation was a wheelchair, and for her to keep breathing at night she required the use of a respirator, a turtle-shell type of contraption that had a suitcase size power supply that had to be plugged in. 

They wrapped Lori completely up in blankets, even her head (pneumonia was a real danger for our daughters), put her in her wheelchair and Bob sent the ‘kids’ on ahead while he gathered the respirator, etc., they would need.  I can’t even imagine how they must have appeared. And it must have aroused the suspicion of another Highway Patrol as well. He stopped them and asked what was in the chair. When Kip replied, “my sister”, they were once again loaded into a patrol car and this time taken to a motel.  Bob witnessed this ‘taking away’ from behind…but the patrolman did come back after him. 🙂 

This time, the call was a bit more frantic. They probably weren’t going to make it home Christmas Eve. And since he wasn’t going to make it home, could I pick up his paycheck? Problem–he had the car. Well, sort of a car. 

I called the station the next morning, explained the mess, and that’s when the ‘brotherhood’ kicked in. Before noon there was a knock at our door, and two firefighters delivered not only the paycheck, but a collection of money they’d taken among the others.  It was Christmas. Every one of those men needed that paycheck as badly as we did. 

But they gave…because. 

P.S.–They went beyond the giving of money. Bob was working at the airport for his part time job.  Two other ‘brothers’ also worked there. We never found out how, or who arranged it,  but one of the pilots (with Bob along)  flew Lori back to South Bend, Indiana where her fellow workers met her.  And this same pilot bought Bob’s niece a commercial ticket to fly on into Chicago. 

We’ll never forget.

Kip and Lori