Out on a
Out On A Limb
Author of Party Line
Out on a Limb
1946, by Louise Baker
With a grand sense of humor and great
spiritual courage, Louise Baker faced life
with a seemingly irreconcilable handicap.
OUT ON A LIMB, her personal story, is not
only one of the most stimulating and amusing
books of the season; but even more, it will
be a revelation to all who have at any time
been faced with personal disaster.
As a child, her parents, in fact, the whole
town had shed tears over her lost youth.
Gradually, as Louise Baker's strength came
back after the accident, she got a glimpse
of her new power over people and how to and
not to abuse it. She quickly learned that to
play on her injury would bring in a great
quantity of loot from tenderhearted friends
and relatives. A welltimed spanking from an
indulgent but realistic father and her honey
moon with a handicap was over.
Louise Baker mastered her tragedy and had a
whale of a lot of fun doing it. One moment,
she would play the part of a dare devil
female parachutist; the next, a fearless
alpine skier whose foot had been frozen
rescuing a snowbound childshe had to
fabricate the most fantastic tales to crush
the typical little boy question, "Hey, Lady!
Where's your leg?"
She made her very crutches a part of woman's
vanityusing different colors for different
ensembles. She did everything that a normal
woman could do and more: competed with other
reporters on a news beat; discovered her own
and highly unconventional means of holding
her beaux in college; went to live with her
new husband in the wilds of Arizona; set out
on an hilarious trip to Europe. Whenever the
world seemed totally against her, she could
console herself with Webster's definition of
"handicap": "A race... in which an
artificial disadvantage is imposed on a
OUT ON A LIMB has a special significance for
these times. Louise Baker's story is told
with sympathy and understanding for all who
have suffered similar misfortunes. Her life
was not one colored with unhappiness, but
filled with energy and purposethe picture of
a woman who enjoyed and enjoys each day to
Miss Baker is the author of last year's
national bestseller PARTY LINE, now in its
sixth large printing.
I Honeymoon with a Handicap 1
II On Foot Again 10
III Best Foot Forward 20
IV The Leg and I 34
V Off with Her Leg 45
VI The Road to Buenos Aires 53
VII Some Horses and a Husband 63
VIII The Game 82
IX "Watch Your Step" 91
X All at Sea 98
XI In No Sense a Broad 119
XII Wolves and Lambs 128
XIII Reading and Writing and Pig Latin 142
XIV So Much in Common 151
XV Skidoodling 164
XVI Having a Wonderful Time" 174
XVII In Praise of a Peg Leg 182
XVIII Gone to the Dogs 195
XIX The Face on the Cuttingroom Floor 205
Honeymoon With a Handicap
I became a minor celebrity in my home town
at the precocious age of eight. This
distinction was not bestowed on me because I
was a bright little trick like Joel
Kupperman, nor because I could play the
piano like a velvetpantalooned prodigy. I
was, to keep the record straight, a
decidedly normal and thoroughly untalented
child. I wasn't even pretty. My paternal
grandmother, in fact, often pointed out that
I was the plainest girl in three generations
of our family, and she had a photograph
album full of tintypes to prove it. She
hoped that I'd at least be good, but I
didn't achieve my fame because of my virtue
either. My memorable record in the annals of
the town was the result of mere accident.
Completely against parental advice, I took
an unauthorized spin on a neighbor boy's
bicycle. It was a shiny red vehicle that I
admired inordinately but thoroughly
misunderstood. I couldn't even reach the
pedals. However, I started a perilous
descent of a hill, yelling with giddy
excitement. At the bottom, I swung around a
corner where I entangled myself and bicycle
with an oncoming automobile. As part,
apparently, of an ordained pattern, the car
was piloted by a woman who was just learning
to drive. Her ignorance and mine combined to
A crowd gathered. Strong arms lifted me. I
had a momentary horrified clarity during
which I screamed "Mama!" as I got what
proved to be a farewell glimpse of my right
When I regained consciousness ten days later
in a white hospital bed, with the blankets
propped over me like a canopy, I had one
foot in the grave. It was a heavy penalty to
pay for my pirated first and last ride on a
However, I was famous. My name, which in the
past had excited no stirring sentiments, was
mentioned with eulogy in ten county
newspapers; five doctor had hovered over me
in consultation; twelve churches and one
synagogue had offered up prayers for my
recovery; and I had been in surgery three
The last trip was the fateful one. My old
friend Dr. Craig, who had never administered
anything more serious than pink pills to me
during my brief and healthy span, in final
desperation for my life, amputated my right
leg above the knee. He then, if there is any
truth in local lore, went into his office
and had himself a good cry over the whole
There were many tears shed over me in the
name of my youth. I was, it was mournfully
agreed, too young to have such a
lifeshattering tragedy strike me. Since no
one has wept over me in a long time, it is
nice to recollect that I once provoked a lot
of strong emotion.
However, the emotion bolstered a false
theorythe theory that I was too young. I
was, I am convinced precisely the right age.
I am not one of those cheerfully smiling
bravehearts who claims to be just too too
happy about a handicap and grateful for the
spiritual strength that bearing my burden
has bestowed on me. Spiritual strength bores
meyou can't dance on it, and I'm certain it
never receives the wholehearted admiration
accorded a wellshaped gam. I'd much rather
have two legs, even though a pair of nylon
stockings lasts twice as long when you're a
uniped. But, granted that Fate has cast an
evil designing eye on an appendage, let her
make the graceful gesture and snip while the
victim is young!
I understand that it was a tossup for a
while whether my family would have to invest
in a tombstone or a pair of crutches for me.
But ten weeks of concentrated medical
attention combined with my normal healthy
resiliency, and I was issued to the world
again as damaged goods. Even then, I think I
suspected what I know now. Fate, for all her
worst intentions, was foiled in some
fantastic way. She had her pound of flesh,
to be sure, but she left me primed for a
unique adventure in living that I should
never have experienced with the orthodox
number of legs.
Perhaps I realized the new turn life had
taken when my sister sat by my bedside and
sobbed out an illmade promise that I would
never have to help her with the dishes again
so long as I lived. Instead of shoving an
affidavit at her, I was feeling just sick
enough to fancy myself Elsie Dinsmore or her
first cousin, Pollyanna. I light-headedly
assured her I'd be back at the pan as soon
as I got some crutches. Within a few months
we were striking blows at each other over
that regrettable exchange of sisterly
If I had been a little sharperwitted and had
possessed a more pliable pair of parents, I
believe I might very well have developed
into the most thoroughly spoiled brat the
world has ever seen. As it was, I made a
close approximation to that pinnacle before
I fell under the weight of my own
Even before I left the hospital my sudden
power over people was showing itself. First
of all, with completely unconscious
brilliance, I chose rather inspired subjects
to discuss during my five days of
postoperative delirium. I rambled on
feverishly but will moving feeling about a
large doll with real golden hair and blue
eyes that opened and closed. I even
conveniently mentioned the awesome price and
just where such a doll might be purchased,
and I sighed over my father's attested
poverty which prevented him from buying me
this coveted treasure. My delirious words
were passed on promptly. The head nurse
quoted my pathetic plea to our local
telephone operator. The news spread. "That
poor little crippled child in the hospital,
a breath away from death, wants doll. . . ."
Our local toy merchant was no fool. He let
ten customers buy identical yellowhaired
dolls at $7.98 apiece, even though he knew
well enough for what child they were all
destined. He also sold seven dark haired,
porcelainfaced beauties when he ran out of
blondes. And he did a regular Christmasbulk
business in doll beds, parcheesi games,
paper dolls, puzzles, paint boxes and books.
People averted their eyes, understand, when
they passed the Super Ballbearing Flyer
roller skates that I had also mentioned
during my providential spell of wistful
delirium. The sight of the roller skates
brought a tear to many an eye and usually
raised the ante assigned for a present to me
by at least a dollar. The merchant decided
it might help business to put bicycles in
When I left the hospital it took two cars to
transport my loot. I was as well equipped
with toys as a princess. Everybody in town,
including owners of flower beds on which I
had trod and windows which I had broken,
suddenly loved me and came bearing gifts. It
was a warmhearted, friendly little town.
Although it claimed no psychologists or
occupational therapists, it was, I believe,
the ideal environment for the normal
adjustment of a handicapped child.
By putting different colored ribbons on the
ten blonde dolls, I was able to tell them
apart and I named them Alice, Virginia,
Araminta Ann, Elizabeth, Caroline, Janet,
Shirley, Phronsey (after a member of a
distinguished fictional family named
Pepper), Gwendolyn, and Hortensea hateful
name, but I poked Hortense's eye out so she
didn't deserve anything better. It didn't
occurred to me to share the dolls with my
less lavishly endowed friends. I merely
displayed them smugly and let my playmates
swallow the water in their mouths.
It took me just ten weeks in the hospital to
acquire seventeen new dolls and a very
selfish disposition. In time, of course, my
parents made me give away the dollsall
except Hortense whose handicap eventually
appealed to my better nature, and Aramirrta
Ann who was, for some reason, my favorite.
As for my selfishness, that was spanked out
of me when my parents finally came to the
conclusion that they were going to have to
live with me for a long, long time, and the
prospect was anything but cheering.
The first spanking was the hardeston Father.
Later they were much harder on me and easier
on him. I'll never forget the shock of that
first, firmhanded discipline.
I arrived at the sly conclusion very soon
after I came home from the hospital that I
didn't really have to be delirious to get
what I wanted. Three months before, I was a
reasonably wellmannered child who even
hesitated to hint for cookies when visiting
my own grandmother. Now I was a precocious
little golddigger, and anyone was my fair
game. I possessed a magic lamp, a wishing
ringor something just as efficient and much
more realistic. I could sit in my wheel
chair and watch the normal children playing
outdoors. All I had to mumble by way of
magic words was, "I'll never be able to run
again, will I?" This sad little
speechrhetorically speakingflung everyone
within hearing flat on their faces in abject
servitude The moment was ripe to make almost
any demand. As a cousin of mine in
reminiscing about our youth once said, "You
sure were a little stinker!"
On the particular occasion which was to
prove a prologue to the inevitable ripping
off of the velvet glove, we had a caller. It
was Mrs. Royce, an old friend of the family.
She made a great emotional flutter over me.
She sniffed into her handkerchief and
claimed to have a cold, but she didn't fool
menot for a minute! "And what shall I bring
to this little girlie next time I come?" she
cooed at me between her attacks of
"Well" I pondered carefully and
commercially. "I can't run or anything any
more, you know. I can only sit on the floor
and play all by myself." Long sigh. Pause.
"I think I'd like to have you bring me an
I knew well enough the financial magnitude
of my aspiration. Electric trains had been
discussed frequently in our household. I had
about as much chance of getting an electric
train from Father as I had of getting
fiftyone per cent of the preferred stock in
the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe. However,
I could see that my speech had worked new
havoc on Mrs. Royce's cold, and I was
confidently expectant. But although I didn't
know it, I had at long last taken the fatal
step back to normalcy.
Father cleared his throat noisily and said,
"Louise isn't going to have an electric
"Oh, nowreally!" Kind Mrs. Royce was a
childless widow with a solid bank account.
"I'd love to give the poor little girlie an
"No," repeated my father, warming to a role
that had once been very familiar to him. "We
don't want her to have an electric train."
"You see," Mother brought up reinforcements.
Obviously, in her own mysterious manner, she
was reading Father's mind. "We think
electric toys are dangerous. She might get a
"Oh, yes a shock. She might at that," Mrs.
Royce agreed reluctantly. "I'll think of
something just as nice and more suitable for
a little girlie." (The next day she
presented me with a satinlined sewing basket
equipped with colored thread, blunt
scissors, and a red strawberry in which to
embed needles. A splendid thing, that
basket, but alas, I wasn't that kind of a
Farewells were said and Mrs. Royce departed,
after patting my cheek.
"I won't either get a shock!" I cried, as
soon as the door closed.
"Not from an electric train, you won't!"
said Father, and there was a regretful but
determined look in his eye. "But you're due
for a shock right now."
He headed straight for me. He lifted me
gently out of my wheel chair and carefully
tilted me over his knee. I saw the tortured
expression on Mother's face and heard her
gasp. But she didn't make a move to rescue
me, even when I screamed, "Mama! I'm
crippled!" with all the wicked chicanery of
my little black heart.
Father spanked me. The honeymoon with my
handicap was over.
On Foot Again
I occupied a wheel chair much longer than
was actually necessary merely because there
were no crutches readily available in my
size. Although the local drugstore carried a
few rental crutches to accommodate the
temporarily disabled, it was apparently
assumed that no one as small as I would ever
be clumsy enough to need props. Mr. Bennett,
the pharmacist, stopped by one evening to
measure me and he sent off an order to a San
Francisco orthopedic supply house. It
happened that the California distributor was
also temporarily out of my size. So my first
pair of crutches came all the way across the
continent from a crutch manufacturer in
Newark, New Jersey.
Waiting for the crutches to arrive was a
slow and tantalizing ordeal. I looked up
Newark on a map and it seemed more remote
than the North Pole. I felt I might get
better results by writing to Santa Claus.
I was certainly ready to walk! My strength
was definitely back. In fact, it was as
gusty and explosive as a hurricane bottled
up in a barrel. Dolls went dull on me. I had
read all the children's books in the public
library and I knew my own books by heart. I
was headed through the Encyclopedia
Britannica on the theory that I would learn
a few facts every day until I knew
absolutely everything, but the going got
grim before I'd made a dent in the A's. I
was sick of playing jacks on the front
porch. I was even bored with mumbletypeg,
the most vigorous and hardy sedentary game I
knew. The only recreation I could tolerate
was plowing up the front lawn while rolling
my wheel chair over it in a selfinvented
polocroquet. To play this game I required
two or three competitorsalso mounted on
vehicles of their choice. The lawn was
beginning to look somewhat haggard, and so
was Mother. I was already a veteran hopper.
I bounced all over the house, much to the
concern of my grand mother, who was
convinced I'd disarrange all my internal
"And then where will you be, young lady?"
she popped the moot question. "No legand
queer things wrong with your insides, too."
Grandmother's complete lack of tact was
undoubtedly good, rugged training for me.
Certainly after Grandmother, no one was ever
able to embarrass me.
Every afternoon my sister Bernice pushed me
to the corner where we had a clear,
threeblock view of Father's direct route
home from the office. Usually several of the
neighborhood children kept the vigil with
Finally, one day when hope was almost dead,
we spotted Father looking very jaunty. When
he saw us, he waved and held up a brown
paperwrapped parcel. Then he abandoned all
dignity and sprinted down the street.
"They've come!" I shouted. "The crutches
from Newark, New Jersey!" Johnny Nesbitt,
who lived next door to us. took up the
tidings and ran with them up and down both
sides of our block. Children spewed out of
houses. By the time we got home, a large
audience had accumulated. You'd have thought
I was about to uncrate a Shetland pony.
I probably never in my life unwrapped a more
significant package than the one that
contained that first pair of yellow pine
crutches. One dollar and twentyfive cents'
worth Mr. Bennett let us have them
wholesale. They must have been very small
crutches, but they seemed frightfully heavy
and cumbersome as I freed them from the
paper and twine. Eagerly I slid out of my
"Maybe you'd better wait until later to try
them," Mother suggested nervously.
"Wait!" I gasped. What had I been doing for
the past interminable month! Then I saw the
fear on Mother's face. She thought I'd fall.
It was obvious my silently pitying audience
shared her dire expectation. Suddenly, so
"Of course, she won't wait!" Father
announced sensibly. He slipped one crutch
under each of my arms. He knew I was a
showoff and would try harder in front of my
friends. I grasped the handles.
"Now lift the crutches ahead of you," he
instructed me. "You've seen people walk on
crutchesremember when Jim Ralston broke his
ankle. Just swing your foot up in front of
them. That's all there is to it."
My knee shook, but I walked alone across the
room. I was incredibly clumsy, but I was
once more selfpropelling and I felt
My father, I think, recognized from the
start that other people's fears and pity
would always be more threatening to my
security than my own. He worked hard at
concealing his personal concern over me and
he was singularly successful. So successful
that some of our neighbors regarded him as
unfeeling. So successful that he even gave
me the comforting impression that he thought
children with two legs were just a little
"It's easy." I said breathlessly. "Very
easy." I started to sit down on the
davenport and made my first technical
discovery. Crutches won't bend. They must be
put aside before you start to fold up.
Father rescued me as I tipped over backward.
"I sure bet it's fun to walk on crutches."
Johnny Nesbitt sighed enviously.
"Oh, it certainly is!" I crossed my fingers
to protect myself from the boldfaced lie.
Actually, I spoke the truth: walking on
crutches is great fun, as I discovered
"Could I try them just for a second?" Johnny
asked. "Me, too!" It was a chorus.
Crutches are invariably fascinating to
children. It surprised Mother, I am sure,
that they were immediately treated like a
new velocipede or a scooter. Everyone lined
up and took turns for the remainder of the
afternoon. The children in my immediate
neighborhood and most of my classmates in
school all became quite adept at walking on
For Johnny Nesbitt, at least, the skill
proved useful. Last year he wrote me from an
army hospital where he was convalescing from
a leg wound received in the Pacific war
theater. "The eyes nearly popped out of the
nurse's head when I put the crutches under
my arms for the first time, whinnied at her,
and then did the fivegaited horse act down
the hospital corridor." The five gaits were
a spectacular and horsey bit of fancy work
that I invented early in my career on
Lending the crutches, it is true, became
something of a burden. A person dependent on
crutches likes to have them in sight every
minute, and preferably in hand. I have no
more menacing, though innocent enemy than
the restaurant waiter who politely snatches
my sticks as he seats me at a table and
rushes off with them to a check room or some
other mysterious place of concealment. It
gives me the frantic feeling a normal person
might experience if some fiend padlocked his
feet together and then, with a hollow
chortle, tossed the key out the window.
A rule was eventually laid down in the
neighborhood that a child might, with
permission, borrow the crutches providing
they didn't go beyond the range of my
vision. The crutches were my only possession
with which I was allowed, and even
encouraged, to be selfish. As Father pointed
out, "After all, you don't go around
borrowing other people's legs. It amounts to
the same thing."
The only sharethecrutch plan that was
completely successful was the one worked out
by Barbara Bradley and me. Barbara and I
were best friends, but we were prevented by
my crutches from walking to school side by
side, holding hands, or arms entwined. Our
scheme solved this problem. Barbara put a
crutch under her left arm and I put one
under my right. By resting our free arms on
each other's shoulders, we supported each
other in the middle. By this complicated
arrangement, we walked to school every day,
and resembled for all the world, a badly
damaged pair of Siamese twins.
Grandmother telephoned the night the
crutches arrived. "I hear the crutches have
come." She sighed deeply and with apparent
regret. Grandma was a cynic. "I expect
you'll be tramping around the neighborhood
into all kinds of trouble again. Now, listen
to me, you probably think you know it
allabout handling your crutches but let me
remind you that there are plenty of older
and wiser heads than yours." Grandma was
argumentative, even in monologue.
"I can walk just fine, Grandma," I bragged.
"That's what you say," Grandmother sniffed.
"You are to go over and see Mrs. Ferris
tomorrow, and she'll teach you how to walk
like a lady, if you've got sense enough to
Mrs. Ferris was eightythree and had been bed
ridden for seven years, ever since she came
to town to live with her daughter. It seemed
beyond possibility that the withered, little
wisp could teach me anything least of all,
how to walk.
But Grandmother and I had an agreement. I
minded her implicitly, in the expectation of
deferred reward. When I got to heaven a
possibility that Grandma didn't
wholeheartedly anticipate she would of
course, already be there and she promised to
put in a good word for me. Grandma and God
were on excellent terms although,
regrettably, the same couldn't be said of
Grandma and anyone else. I sometimes vaguely
wondered what God saw in Grandma.
"All right, Grandma," I agreed, "I will go
over and ask Mrs. Ferris how to walk." It
wouldn't have been good form to demand what
Mrs. Ferris knew about the business.
As a matter of fact, Mrs. Ferris knew a
great deal She had been injured in an
accident and for fifteen years of her active
life, she had walked on crutches.
I don't have a Phi Beta key; Mr. Powers
never cast a covetous eye in my direction;
and I can't do parlor tricks; but I do allow
myself one immodest extravagant vanity. It
is the conviction that no one in the world
can handle a pair of crutches better than I.
I have my own bag of tricks collected during
twentyeight years of experience. It was a
little old lady, ten times my age, who
really planted my foot and my crutches
firmly on the ground and started me on the
quest for a wing for my heel.
Mrs. Ferris's advice was practical and
sound. and included the basic technique that
distinguishes an experienced lifer on
crutches from the temporary timeserver.
"First of all," Mrs. Ferris instructed me,
"do not lean on your armpits and do not
swing your whole body when you take a step.
Experts can walk easily with no saddletops
at all on their crutches. Lean all your
weight on the palms of your hands. The only
time when it is necessary to bear weight on
the tops of your crutches is when you are
carrying something in your hands."
Not only is it much mare graceful and
comfortable to "walk on your hands," but it
is protection against injury of the brachial
nerves, particularly vulnerable in the
armpits. Injury to these nerves, with the
resultant socalled "crutch paralysis," is
the blackest specter that haunts a permanent
Mrs. Ferris and I spent an hour together
every day for several weeks. I strutted up
and down her bedroom while she criticized my
technique. My most persistent error was
spreading the crutches out to form a wide
tripod and swinging my whole body with each
stride instead of stepping out with my foot
in a normal walking motion.
"Hold them close to your sides! Make them
look as if they grew there!" Mrs. Ferris
repeated over and over. "Keep your body
perpendicular! Walk with your foot, not with
Mrs. Ferris's methods were not only
practical but aesthetic. Making the crutches
as nearly anatomical as possible, crowding
them to my sides, also prevented me from
planting a booby trap with them. Flung out
one on each side, in the instinctive stance
of a beginner, they created an infernal
device for tripping up unwary pedestrians.
Not that I haven't, with design, upset a few
minor enemies in my time. This trick is a
mild version of the perfect crime. The
victim always assumes that he was in the
wrong and, even sprawled out on the
Before Mrs. Ferris graduated me from her
kindergarten, she had me walking with a full
cup of water in my hand and two books on my
"When you can recite your multiplication
tables as you walk down the street, without
once thinking about your crutches, you have
really succeeded," Mrs. Ferris told me.
I didn't know my multiplication tables, but
I took her literally and started studying
them, By the time I'd mastered my eights.
I'd practically quit walking in favor of
running, and so I never did learn my nines.
Best Foot Forward
Grandma said it was an outrage. "One of two
terrible things will happen," she predicted.
"She'll either kill herself, or worse yet,
she'll get along fine and end up in
vaudeville. We've had six clergymen, a
smattering of lawyers and doctors and a raft
of school teachers and good honest farmers
in this family. We've never had a show
"What about Greatgreatgreatcousin Thaddeus?"
Bernice demanded, just to keep things
"Hah! That was on your mother's side."
Grandmother nodded her head with
satisfaction. "And even that rascal wasn't a
"But he was a perfectly marvelous outlaw and
shot a man in cold blood," I bragged.
"That's just as bad."
"It's not just as bad." Grandma stated with
"Now, listen to me, Mother." On rare
occasions Father was bold enough to stand up
"We're off the subject. Louise is nine years
old and she wants some roller skates for her
birthday. Is there anything so strange in
that? Bernice had roller skater when she was
"That's different. Bernice didn't make an
unnatural spectacle of herself using them.
Everyone will stare and first thing you
know, Louise will become a disgusting little
exhibitionist and skate off with a carnival
or something and you'll never see her again.
It's a pity she isn't a little lady, content
to learn to sew and do water colors and read
good literature. I never skated when I was
her age, and I had both my limbs."
When Grandmother spoke of her own legs, she
called them limbs, as if they were slightly
more refined than ordinary appendages.
In reality Grandmother wasn't the
sharpbladed battleax she pretended. She was
really fond of me and every new hurdle I
wanted to leap seemed twice as hazardous to
her as the last one.
But Father bought me the skates. I had
already experimented with Barbara Bradley's
and knew I could manage. With a skate on my
one foot and a crutch on each side, I
propelled myself. My balance was
exceptionalas is most every uniped's. This
is a natural physical compensation that
develops quicklyas do strong shoulders and
arms. After a few good shoves, I could lift
up my crutches and coast along easily on the
one skate, pushing with my sticks only when
I needed fresh momentum. For a child of nine
supposedly sentenced to a plodding
pedestrianism getting back on wheels was
Of course, I fell frequently while
developing skill on roller skates. Every
child sprawls when learning to skate. I am
not convinced that I spread myself out on
the sidewalk any more often than a normal
child does. But this is the curious fact: my
playmates wise in their childhood, accepted
my spills as inevitable to the process of
learningbut adults didn't. No army of
rescuers advanced doublequick time to pick
up any other youngster on the block when he
came a cropper. But whenever I took a
header, for all the turmoil the minor
catastrophe created, it might have been a
fourcar smashup at a busy intersection. All
the women in our neighborhood must have
squandered their days with their eyes glued
to a crack in the window blind while I
learned to roller skate. For a brief time, I
was as prominent as a lurid scandal.
Whenever I fell, out swarmed the women in
droves, clucking and fretting like a bunch
of bereft mother hens. It was kind of them,
and in retrospect I appreciate their
solicitude, but at the time I resented and
was greatly embarrassed by their
interference. It set me apart and emphasized
my difference. For they assumed that no
routine hazard to skatingno stick or
stoneupset my flying wheels. It was a
foregone conclusion that I fell because I
was a poor, helpless cripple.
"What must her mother think!" was a phrase
with which I became very familiar. I know
now what my mother thought. Inside our
house, she too kept her eye on the crack in
the blind, and she wrung her hands and took
to biting her fingernails while she
developed a lot of fortitude. For Mother
differed from the other women in only one
particular. She never ran out and picked me
up. I believe that Father, a normally
devotedhusband, threatened homicide if she
Eventually, of course, nobody paid any
attention to me. The women abandoned their
watchful vigils at windows and went back to
more pressing problemstheir baking and dish
washing. I rolled up and down the street
unheeded and was no longer good box office.
However, the rollerskating incident left its
mark on me, and consciously or
unconsciously, it influenced my future
approach to physical activity. I was, by
nature energetic and athletic. I wanted to
engage in all sorts of "inappropriate" games
and sports, but I became overly sensitive to
failurefoolishly so. I had a stubborn pride
that was wounded by any hint that my
handicap was a "handicap." It really wasn't
much of one, compared to the frustrating
handicaps many less fortunate people carry.
Still I was practically neurotic over The
Word. My feathers ruffled at the drop of it.
A wise psychologist friend of mine has since
put a name on this attitude of mind. She
called it a tendency to overcompensate.
When I learned to swim, I insisted that
Father drive me out to the country to a
friend's ranch where, in guarded privacy, I
went through my dogpaddling period in a
muddy irrigation ditch. I forewent the
greater comfort and the companionship of,
the public swimming pool until I not only
swam as well as other elevenyearolds (the
age at which I took to the water), but
better. Then, when I made a public
appearance, no one even noticed my handicapI
My swimming ability, in point of fact,
probably was more conspicuous than utter
ineptitude would have been. But blissfully,
I had no such realization. In the water. my
arms and shoulders, disciplined into extra
strength by my crutches, compensated in the
Australian crawl for my onecylinder flutter
kick. I felt completely anonymous happy
moron, me! Actually, I wasn't the least bit
anonymous, although my family encouraged me
in this wild surmise. My sister tells me
that my red bathing cap, bobbing about in
the water, was invariably pointed out to
bystanders. "See the little girl in the red
cap? Would you believe it, she only has one
The same was true of tennis, which I learned
in semi secrecy. Father taught me in the
early morning hours when the courts were
unpopular. My father didn't permit me to
luxuriate in a lot of fancy complexes, but
he was sympathetic with my reluctance to
display physical clumsiness. Tennis presents
more limitations for an amputee than
swimming. The basic constraint is the
necessity of holding one crutch with just
the upper arm, leaving a hand free to
manipulate a racket. I heard of a man with a
left leg amputation who played tennis with
only one crutch. I always used two since I
am both righthanded and rightcrutched and
could not control both a racket and a
completely weightbearing crutch with one
In spite of restrictions, I did fairly well
at tennis as a child. I even competed, with
average success, in a few junior
tournaments. This brief period of minor
distinction was not the result of
exceptional skill, however. It was rather
the happy aftermath of the advantage of
earlier and better instruction than my
contemporaries. Father was a very able
tennis amateur. He was infinitely patient in
developing in me a good serve and a strong,
deepcourt drive to offset my inadequate
technique at the net. In playing tennis I
discovered that it is essential to hug the
serving line. It is easy to run forward, but
not backward, on crutches. I am completely
vulnerable at the net or even midcourt where
a lob over my head spells defeat. I can't
readily retreat to get it on the bounce and
the alternative, a high aerial stroke,
invariably makes me drop a crutch.
I enjoy tennis very much, but stacking up
all the good points of my game against the
poor ones, I come out a mediocre performer.
"A good, average housewife tennis player."
someone dubbed me and that is no enviable
distinction. I usually compete with people
who are better than I, so am rarely
victorious which is perhaps just as well.
Friends who know me, and with whom I play
frequently, don't care whether I win or
lose. We just play tennis. Some of them
avoid cutting and lobs because it keeps our
game more rallying, but they are in no way
offensively patronizing to me.
Pit a stranger against me, howeverespecially
a male strangerand he will methodically do
one of two things, according to his basic
character. He will make the gallant gesture
and let me winwhich is easily detected and
humiliating. Or, he will kill himself before
admitting defeat by a onelegged woman.
I once confronted across a net, by the
conniving conspiracy of some school friends,
a boy who was notoriously cocky on the
tennis court. The essence of the cunning
plot was that I must defeat this
selfadvertising fireeater so ignominiously
and completely that he would never again
hold up his arrogant head. I had no
confidence in my ability to do this and
frankly, neither did my conspiring boy
friends. It was such a superb scheme,
however, that they were all willing to
cooperate on its success. They concluded
that if I won, it would be magnificent
ironya baby stealing candy from a man, for a
Two boys were assigned to pound away at my
backhand for a week. and spies reported my
unsuspecting enemy's weaknesses and
strengths. He was definitely not the ball of
fire he advertised, but he was better than
I, it was mournfully agreed. However
everyone hoped that I could at least give
him enough competition to make him feel
foolish. I was pledged to outplay myself,
even if I folded in complete collapse.
I didn't even know Charlie, the victim, but
it all seemed solemnly important to me... at
the time. I was fifteen, and the primemover
in the plot was a very handsome muscular
gent of seventeen for whose smallest favor I
would gladly have given my last leg.
By the most contrived casualness, I was
introduced to Charlie at the tennis courts.
where he was loudly quoting what Bill Tilden
said to him and what smart repartee he
handed Bill. The game was arranged; We had
decided to contract for only one set, as my
well wishers in their wildest dreams, didn't
hope I'd last longer than that.
In analyzing mine and my opponent's
weaknesses, one great big one was
overlooked. The outcome of that game was not
traceable to technique and tenacity and my
newly polished backhand, although all these
helped, no doubt. The game was won on temper
both mine and Charlie's. To start with, The
Cock's first sentence contained fighting
words. as far as I was concerned. He said,
with a patronizing air, "Sure, I'll take her
on if you guys don't want to bother. I don't
mind a bit."
I let this go by unchallenged. I merely
seethed. Then he suggested that he should be
handicapped if he played me. "I'll give you
fifteen," he offered pompously. This was red
flag to my bull!"
"Pooh! I'll give you thirty," I counter
offered. This was red flag to his bull!
We marched out on the court as mad as if
we'd just blacked each other's eyes. Temper
warms up my reflexes, but it completely
melted Charlie's. He belonged to the
I must have been dropped on my head as a
baby. I can't imagine any other explanation
for squandering exertion as extravagantly as
I did on that occasion. I wouldn't work that
hard today if I were promised the Davis Cup
for keeps. Somehow, I got the psychotic
notion embedded in my halfamind that nothing
matter so much as beating Charlie.
As soon as Charlie and I spun for serve, all
the tennis games in progress on the other
courts stopped immediately, and the players
became our spectators. They all belonged in
my camp and they helped me by
nonetoosporting maneuvers. They worked poor
Charlie into impotent fury by catcalls and
When he missed a shot or netted a serve,
they'd all yell, "What's s'matter, got a
CharlieHorse?" This was regarded in our high
school intellectual circles as
overpoweringly witty. Everyone hooted and
"Maybe you need some crutches, Charlie!"
"Fault!" they'd yell before Charlie's serves
even bounced. To ensure a modicum of fair
play, I had to call all the shots myself.
In spite of the tremendous nuisance value of
my audience and the demoralizing effect on
Charlie of his own temper, I had a desperate
time beating him. We ran the set, most of
the games long deucescore ordeals, to
twelveten before I won.
When it was over, my breath was coming in
rattling gasps and I looked like a dripping
hot beet just out of a stew pot and dragged
home by an insensitive cat. Charlie walked
off the court and broke up his racket by
bashing it against a steel post. He wasn't a
very lofty character.
I rode a brief wave of delirious ecstasy
while a crowd of what I regarded as
exceedingly smooth boys banged me on my
aching back and shouted my praises. Then I
staggered home to soak my weary heroic bones
in a hot tub.
Father peered at me over his paper as I came
in and collapsed on the davenport.
"Good God!" he gasped. Father was not a
swearing man so I must have resembled a
sister of Grim Death. "What in a holy name
have you been doing?"
"I beat Charlie," I puffed proudly. "Been
practicing for over a week to do it."
"Well you look as if you'd been beaten by a
bunch of strongarmed thugs. Why was it so
important to beat Charlie?"
"Because he's so darned cockythat's why.
Jerry and Frazier and Donald Manker and some
other kids thought it up and planned the
"Why didn't Frazier beat him?" Father asked
with deliberate denseness. "Frazier's the
best player in high school."
"Father!" I groaned. 'That wouldn't have
meant anything. It had to be me."
"Oh because you're a girl. I see." Father
again used his annoying simpleminded ruse.
"Why didn't Helen Fitzgerald take on this
Charlie? She's twice the tennis player you
are. She could have beaten him without
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Father, are you
dumb or something? Can't you see how much
worse this dope would feel having me beat
"I get it." Father sighed deeply. "Well. all
I can say is that I'm disappointed in you."
"Disappointed in me! Every single person in
this whole town thinks I'm wonderful, that's
"Well, I don't!" Father snapped. "I thought
you'd long since decided it wasn't sporting
to take advantage of people because of your
"Father for heaven's sake, what's the matter
with you? I didn't take advantage of him. I
beat him fair and square. He played just as
hard as he could. The score was
twelvetenthat shows you. The kids called a
lot of the shots wrong but I corrected every
time in Charlie's favor. And he offered me a
fifteen handicap but I threw it right back
in his face."
"You certainly salted his wounds, didn't
you?" I stared, incredulous, at Father.
"You know" Father paused to frown at me.
"You present a very complex moral problem
and I don't have any good precedents to
follow in rearing you properly. But of this
I am convinced: you took greater advantage
of that boy today than if you'd frankly
cheated him. You had a physical and
personality advantage over him that must
have made his defeat insufferable. If he'd
beaten you twelveten, you'd have walked off
.the court the victor, just the same."
"That's absolutely silly!" I protested,
although this was true and I knew it. We'd
counted on just that in our ingenious plot.
"It's complicated, I grant you, but not
silly. This isn't complicated, however. I'm
glad you can swim and play tennis and ride a
horse, but the only reason I'm glad is
because these things are fun. That's why you
and everyone else is supposed to do them.
When you play a game just to demonstrate
what hot stuff you are on your crutches,
it's time you quit and took up china
painting, as your grandmother would have you
do. Remember Grandma and your first roller
skates? She was afraid you'd join a carnival
if you learned to skate. Wellfor my money,
you were too close to the carnival for
"Honestly, Father, you surprise me!" I
protested even as my mind touched the
peculiarly devious truth toward which he was
leading me. "I suppose you just never want
me to win anything." I continued perversely.
"Of course, I want you to winbut only the
game. Now, beat it! Take a bath and go to
bed. Get out of my sight. I can't stand
I started to cry as I left the room.
"By the way, you must have played inspired
tennis today," Father called after me.
"I was hot, all right. I played much better
than I am able to play."
"Hum. . . ." Father sighed with what seemed
almost wistfulness. "I wouldn't have minded
seeing that game."
"You'd have put a stop to it though, I
suppose You and your ideas!"
"That's right," agreed Father, "I would
He was furious enough with me to cheerfully
shakeout my molars. But at the same time,
reluctantly and in spite of himself, he was
proud. The ethics of being crippled were, I
decided, exceedingly complicated and
obscure. But clear enough, nevertheless,
that I never bragged to anyone about beating
The Leg and I
Even before I'd mastered crutches, I was
restlessly eager for the day that I'd trot
smartly down the street on an artificial
leg. Enterprising companies which dealt in
mechanical kickers, from Minneapolis to San
Francisco, apparently had alert spies in the
field, or more probably, they subscribed to
clipping bureaus that gave them immediate
notice of accidents resulting in
amputations. Anyway. before I was well out
from under the anesthetic, I was deluged
with literature that described some
miraculous wares. The family censored my
incoming mail to protect me from this
advertising matter. However, much of it
arrived in plain envelopes and the nurses
occasionally slipped up and delivered it to
me. Contrary to parental expectation that
this material might upset me, it was like
most contraband reading and I reveled in it.
I hadn't been home from the hospital very
long before slightly limping salesmen began
calling on Father. It is customary for
artificial limb companies to employ men who
can make practical and personal
My parents, like me, had no idea in mind
except to get me onto an artificial leg as
promptly as possible. It was our complete
expectation that I would go through life
with two legsone detachable. Crutches were
only a temporary substitute to keep me
ambulatory while I waited impatiently for
over a year. on the advice of my surgeon.
before being fitted.
This delay was undoubtedly unfortunate. It
was responsible in great part, I am sure,
for the fact that I habitually walk on
crutches today. During that year my yellow
pine sticks became almost anatomical. For
all practical purposes they were as good as
grafted under my arms.
However well I walked on crutches, I was
still convinced that I would do much better
on a leg. I was fretful to get going. Father
studied all the brochures carefully,
interviewed the salesmen, and solicited
impartial advice wherever he could get any.
There was only one artificialleg user in our
town, a recently handicapped woman of about
fiftyfive. Mother and Father called on her
but she was not introduced to me because my
parents were afraid her ineptitude would
I read all the success stories in the
advertising pamphlets and gazed with awed
admiration on the cuts of legless wonders
who endorsed the various appliances. My
choice was a concern which claimed as one of
their happy customers a cowboy, a onelegger,
photographed with two guns attached to his
belt. I somehow dreamed up the notion that
the guns came, like premiums, with all
purchases. It war an appealing misconception
and sold me completely on that company.
Father, however, was not as romantically
inclined. I grew very impatient with his
deliberation. He finally selected an
excellent small firm in Oakland, California,
to fashion my first prosthesis. They were
reliable; their product was soundeven if
they couldn't claim any gunlugging clients.
Moreover, Oakland was the most conveniently
located city for me to go for fittings. It
was only a scant hundred miles away.
A very easystepping representative from the
company called on us to make preliminary
arrangements. He not only was minus a leg he
was minus two. My eyes bulged when he rolled
up his trousers and displayed his artificial
limbs. No gentleman had ever rolled up his
trouser legs in our parlor before. Much more
fascinating than his exhibitionism, however,
was the fact that he had his socks held up,
not with garters, but with thumbtacks. The
pleasant picture immediately crossed my
mindme, sitting in the midst of an admiring
circle, pounding nails into my leg while my
horrified audience waited breathlessly for
me to bleed.
The salesman was very much on his timber
toes. He was jovial and lively. He even
rakishly grabbed my startled sister and
waltzed her around the room to some vocal "tumtetahs"
that were vaguely Straussish.
If this remarkable sprite could cavort so
impressively on two artificial legs. what
couldn't I do with only one? I visualized
myself on a flying trapezea member of the
Russian Ballet with a fancy professional
name like Marca Markavitz disguised as a
brave drummer boy marching off to the wars a
cowgirl with the coveted two guns. . . .
The salesman didn't call my attention to his
sites of amputation. He had both his natural
knees. Regrettably, the great advantage of a
surviving knee is usually skimmed over
lightly or ignored when artificial limbs are
being advertised or when morale is being
lifted by its bootstraps.
A great wave of slick stories has pounded
the public recently in which disabled
soldiers bounce out of their beds, strap on
artificial legs, and promptly dance off with
pretty nurses. In one such stirring piece of
amazing fiction, I recall a wounded veteran,
with some trying complexes and a new wooden
leg, who was lured onto the dance floor by a
very swish female moralelifter. She was a
magnificent pinup type, graceful and svelte,
and she danced like a veritable Pavlova. She
not only affected a miraculous cure of the
poor boy's complexes, she practically put
blood and bones in his wooden leg. A few
days later, the susceptible soldier, cheek
to cheek with this SongofBernadette healer,
was also tripping the light fantastic like a
gilded playboy from a follies extravaganza.
Only then did this deceitful slick dish
break down shyly, under the influence of
moonlight, and confess that she too had an
artificial leg. The soldier nearly died of
the shockand even I, who wasn't there and
just read the story, threw up!
Lots of people dance on artificial legs and
dance well. but the smoothest of these
talented unipeds invariably are those who
still retain a Godgiven knee. Whether the
authors assigned to whip up these fantasies
exaggerate from wellintentioned motive or
from ignorance or from both, I don't know.
It is much more blasting to morale, however,
to discover, only after bitter experience,
how superior a real knee is to a mechanical
one. In my opinion, it would help rather
than hurt morale to point this out.
I reread the story of the onelegged blonde
operator no limper she! I pointed out each
word with my index finger and sounded it
phoneticallyto see if ever once the author
hinted as to the site of this remarkable
girl's amputation. I would have come close
to adoring that glamorous heroineand on
feminine principle I'm against glamorous
womenif she'd announced with forthright
candor, "I've still got my knee, you know,
and I'm so astonishingly adept that I don't
have so much as a distinguished limp."
Also, I sometimes toss fretfully through the
black night speculating about the Yank. He
was supposedly terrifically redblooded
American. Didn't he look at her legs? Maybe
he had a hollow head as well as a hollow
leg. The author didn't say.
But to return to our parlor demonstrator, he
took me out on the lawn and kicked a
football way down the street. "That's what
you'll be doing one of these days," he
assured me. He got much more kick out of his
leg, however, than I ever did out of mine.
Inside the house again, he took all my
measurements. He traced the shape of my
surviving leg as a pattern for my new model.
He gave Mother instructions for binding my
stump with elasticized bandagean
uncomfortable but apparently necessary
procedure for shrinking it to fit the socket
of a prosthesis. Father agreed to take me to
Oakland for a twoweek stay when the
appliance neared completion so that the
final fitting would be exactly right, and so
that I could learn from experts the
technique of walking.
Father drove us to Berkeley, where Mother,
Bernice, and I were to be the guests of some
old friends. Father returned home to keep
things going at the office and fill the
kitchen sink with dirty dishes.
Every day Mother and I took a trolley ride
to the leg makers in Oakland. It was a
fascinating place. Every employee, from the
owner down to the lowliest chore boy, wore
some sort of a prosthesis. This situation
has been common to every orthopedic
appliance concern I have visited throughout
When Bernice went with us, she and I played
an engrossing game while waiting in the
reception room. Whenever anyoneemployee or
customerwalked through, we tried to beat
each other calling the handicaps. "No
legs""One leg""One arm"we whispered. It was
a variation on "Beaver"; twenty points for a
legless woman; ten points for a legless man,
My new limb was made of wellseasoned English
willow, a material that has apparently
proved very successful. Every leg I have
ever purchased from a variety of makers, was
contrived of that same wood.
I had presented a right shoe to the
manufacturers so that they could build the
new foot to size and adjust the ankle
mechanism to heel height, but we forgot all
about stockings. I habitually wore half
socks, and I felt somewhat crestfallen and
oldfashioned when Mother dashed out and
bought me the long, ribbed white cotton
stockings necessary to conceal my new steel
joints. My first leg didn't have a
hipcontrol belt. This efficient device was
not yet invented and also, I had no
consequential hips at the age of ten. I wore
a rather complicated overtheshoulders
harness onto which the appliance was
fastened by snap hooks.
From the beginning I managed quite well.
Every day I paraded up and down a back room
at the shop, supporting myself on the hand
rods of a walking lane which had a mirror at
one end so that I could watch myself. I
wasn't particularly impressed. I was
surprised that I limped. A very kindly
onelegged man who also had a thigh
amputation, supervised me. I tended to throw
my leg stiffly offside, avoiding the
complication of the knee. Patiently, he
taught me to maintain proper posture and how
to swing the leg to facilitate the knee
I was finally permitted to wear the leg back
to Berkeley, although I used my crutches as
safety props on the trip, and we went by
taxi rather than trolley. Although everyone
was delighted with my aptitude and progress,
we were advised to remain in Berkeley a few
more days to be certain that no hip or groin
pain developed to indicate an improper fit.
For practice, every morning I walked round
and round the diningroom table, an excellent
training place since the table edge served
as an emergency support. Every afternoon
Bernice and I went out for a little walk. If
I grew tired, she put an arm around me as an
auxiliary aid on the way home. It became
easier every day, and our expeditions were
daily farther afield. I figured with
unwarranted optimism that it was only a
matter of time before the leg would begin
running with me.
One afternoon we were on our usual stroll
through the university campus when an
"unusual" California rain began to fall. We
were in danger of being drenched, and since
my leg hadn't yet started to run our
progress was slow and laborious. In
hurrying, I slipped precariously on the
pavement. The new knee was cutting perverse
My sister had on a new and very becoming
pink challis dress. Bernice was fifteen and
very pretty and consequently thought
constantly about her appearance "My dress
will be ruined!" she yowled.
"I'll tell you what!" I was inspired. "I'll
take off the leg and hop home." I was an old
handor rather an old footat hopping.
Providentially, the streets were pretty well
deserted since sensible pedestrians had all
sought shelter. Against her better judgment,
Bernice, who was a strict conformist,
agreed. I hid behind some bushes, lifted up
my dress, and unhooked my hindrance. Shades
of a good sadistic ax murderBernice then
slung the very realistic stockinged and
shoed leg over her shoulder! She glanced
furtively in all directions, and we started
home as briskly as the somewhat unusual
We must have presented a startling picture.
Certainly the staring astonished policeman
at our first street crossing looked as if
he'd just had a runin with a ghost.
Not by design, I am sure, but by sheer
confusion, he chose his perfect lines.
"What's coming off around here?" he demanded
Bernice, in her acute embarrassment,
promptly dropped her encumbrance. It was her
first guilty encounter with The Law.
The policeman leaned down and warily touched
the leg before picking it up. "Thank the
Holy Mother it's wood!" he said. His breath
smelled somewhat peculiar, which may have
had some bearing on his next and, to us,
incomprehensible speech. "Cold day, you
know. Been trying to keep warmbut no matter.
This break off or something?"
Bernice explained fully and apologetically
while her pink dress wilted in the rain.
The policeman propped my leg against a wall
and put us under a store awning. He then
talked into one of those fascinating boxed
phones attached to a light post. In a few
minutes a black Maria pulled up at the curb.
Bernice and I were chauffeured home at the
Not being a shy little mite, even caught out
with my leg off, I suggested to the driver
that it would be nice if he blew his siren
and also made a little better time.
"O.K., kid," he agreed cheerfully. "This
don't happen every day on my beat. I expect
you could call it an emergency."
With satisfactory fanfare, we sped through
the quiet Berkeley streets. "Isn't it lucky
I took off my leg?" I whispered to Bernice.
"I always wanted to ride in a police car.
Let's try in Oakland tomorrow, shall we?"
"Oh, Louise!" my sister gasped. "I'm going
to tell Mama on you. You are a very wicked
For this, I suppose, there was no really
sound argument. Since that day, I've never
ridden behind a siren. Nevertheless, there's
my formula for turning the trick. And like
any ethical scientist, I hereby present it
to the world.
Off with Her Leg
Home again, I called in all the neighborhood
gang to see the new leg and listen to me
brag about our Berkeley adventures. However,
the new kicker was only a oneday wonder,
since it wasn't something that could be
passed around for everyone to ride on.
I limped off to school on the following
Monday, without so much as a cane. I was an
exceptionally good walker, but walking was
the only thing of consequence I ever
accomplished on the leg. I no longer went
places in a dashing hurry, and either I or
the leg stayed home when long hikes, or
fishing in the creek, were the attractions
of the day.
Although Grandma sighed her pleasure and
said, "She looks like a little lady now. We
may even be able to marry her off when she
grows up," to me, the only tangible
advantage of the leg was that I had my arms
free. When I swatted a baseball, I was able
to put much more umph into it than I had on
the more restraining crutches. However, I
now suffered the indignity of having someone
run bases for me. The attachment was
superbly adapted to volley ball which
requires little active leg work but lots of
Whenever a new child showed up at grammar
school I startled him goggleeyed by pushing
thumbtacks into my leg. (Mother refused to
let me use nails and a hammer. After all,
the leg represented a substantial investment
of about one hundred and twenty five
dollars.) I could also slip my stump out of
the leg's socket and twine the leg around my
neck. This was good box office, and I often
did a routine of grotesque contortions that
passed in my social circle for very
accomplished eccentric dancing.
For a while the new leg accentuated to the
point of real discomfort my "phantom limb."
This is a curious sensation that most
amputees experience in various degrees. The
stimulation of the sensory nerves in the
stump results in the sensation that the
amputated member is still there.
I was in the hospital when I first felt the
phantom limb. It didn't, however, astonish
me in the least. I had just recently made a
prayerful suggestion to Jesus, whom I knew
by reputation to be very good at miracles
and tremendously compassionate of even a
poor small sparrow's suffering. I thought He
might oblige by doing a small job for me
along the line of spontaneous regeneration.
When I felt my toes under the sheetssomewhat
numb, and prickly as if they'd been sat on
too long but nevertheless thereI rang for
the nurse. I asked her to pull back the
blankets for me to see.
"My leg just grew back." I announced without
my faith a whit. After all, this wasn't
anywhere near as big a jot, as bringing back
"Poor, poor little dearno." she said.
"Oh, yes." I assured her. "Jesus did it."
That was when I learned about the phantom
limb and revised my expectations for divine
On and on, I felt it in varying degrees. It
usually accompanied fatigue, and I could
also feel it merely by thinking about my
missing extremity. The sensation was almost
constant, however, during the first few
weeks I wore the new leg, it was so
realistic that, without thinking, I
frequently leaned down and scratched my
In a very short time this uncomfortable
phase passed, and the new limb gave me
neither psychological nor physical distress
of any kind. I can still summon my specter,
but it rarely comes uncalled.
In other ways the leg was well behaved.
Nothing mechanical went wrong that a screw
driver or an oil can couldn't promptly
Then, after only three months, my mother
noticed that my right shoulder was sagging.
It wasn't the leg's fault. I was growingand
like a weed apparently. Off we went to
Oakland, where I was once more measured
carefully. We left the leg to be lengthened.
Even for adult users. it is a great
advantage to live in a city large enough to
support an artificialleg shop where quick
and efficient service is always available
for repairs and adjustments.
The leg was in Oakland three weeks, during
which interim I went back to the more lively
crutches. This was the first step in my
reversion. When the leg returned by express
I gave it a rather frosty welcome, but I
donned it again.
The lengthening had been done in the shank
only, and a solid rather than a hollow piece
had been inserted. The result was a much
heavier load than I was accustomed to. Also,
as a consequence of extending only the lower
leg, the overall device wasn't quite
properly proportioned anesthetically to my
natural leg. I wasn't satisfied, but I wore
In a few months, my posture was once more
beginning to show mild distortion. The local
shoemaker helped me temporarily by putting a
slight raise on the right shoe sole. But
Nature being as onetracked as she is, I kept
right on growing.
When another alteration was again inevitable
Father decided after consultation with
factory experts that I'd better have a
completely new leg. The family budget had to
be revised to accommodate itself to two legs
a year instead of one. Father was an illpaid
social worker. I know that both he and
Mother went without new winter coats to
compensate for this added expense, but they
never admitted it nor begrudged it. They
would have mortgaged our house gladly, I am
sure, so that I could luxuriate in new legs.
Two weeks in Oakland appealed to me much
more than the prospect of sporting the new
model. The handwriting was already on the
wall but we were all too stubbornly attached
to our preconceived notions to read it.
For another year the warfare waged between
my physical growth and my leg's
inelasticitywith my active athletic
ambitions throwing their weight in with my
physical growth. With each lapse in use,
during the leg's necessary absences in
Oakland for repairs or lengthening, I grew
more attached to my crutches. Finally, I
pleaded with my parents to let me abandon
the appliance completely. They agreed, and
we hung it on a nail in the garage, not
knowing the proper disposal of a defunct
leg. There it stayed for years coming into
prominence only on very rare occasions when
we children used it as a prop in some
macabre bits of imaginative play.
It was indispensable in a "mystifying" magic
performance in which I was a full financial
partner with a little towheaded boy,
Chadwick Augustus Barnes, named for an
admirable relative on his mother's side who
happened to own a bank. Chadwick's friends
called him Gus and his enemies called him
Fish Face. He looked like the banker. Gus
was the brains of our corporation. He wore a
big black mustache and did card tricks
inherited from his father, a famous parlor
bore. He also turned water into unpalatable
wine, with the help of a Junior Chemical
Set, presented to him one Christmas by his
aunt who lived in Detroit, well removed from
the foul smells her generosity stirred up in
California. It was during the high point of
Gus's Houdini buffoonery that I figured and
earned my half of the pins and pennies. This
was a modest variation of the sawing of the
beautiful damsel in twain. Gus sawed off my
legor at any rate he made sawing motions,
accompanied by an effective buzzing motion
which, in his cleverness, he could
accomplish without moving his mouth. He then
effected the severance. Of course, this
never fooled our audience any more than the
card tricks fooled them, but they always
savored the savage artistry of Gus's
technique and my own dramatic contribution
which consisted of anguished groans and
My mother didn't exactly condone this
hankypanky. But she tolerated it in the name
of harmless childish fun. However, she drew
a firm line and withdrew the leg from its
promising theatrical career following
another little drama in which it was
there was a bad threecar smashup on the
highway south of town one afternoon.
Although I was perishing to run down there
and get a glimpse of the gore, I was not
permitted to. Mother had the strange
aberration that such things weren't proper
sights for a nice little girl. The
aberration, of course, was that I was a nice
"You just never let me have any fun, Mama,"
"You have plenty of fun," Mother said.
Goodness! I did too. By the end of the day I
had had so much fun, I took my spanking
stoically and still figured I'd had the best
of the bargain. Several of the bigger boys
on our block outwitted their parents and did
get a look at the demolished cars.
Regrettably, the bodies, both live and dead,
had been removed. These delightful little
lads came back from the wreck with their
imaginative scheme. It was beautiful and
appealed thoroughly to my fine, sensitive
We worked in Father's respectable garage
performing our grim task. We dressed my leg
in an old white stocking and shoe. We
borrowed a bottle of catsup from Mother,
without a byherleave, and splattered it
liberally over the stocking. Then we stowed
this charming "souvenir of the accident"
into a carton and lugged it around the
neighborhood, displaying it as something we
just happened to see lying by the roadside
at the scene of the crash.
Of course, my leg was fairly prominent
locally, but even so, on this occasion it
invariably brought forth a feminine scream
and a doubletake before it was recognized.
Several slightly neurotic ladies were
somewhat upset over the proceedings and made
their disquietude known to my mother.
The only irony in this story is that I was
the only participant who was spanked. No
matter what trouble that leg ever got itself
into, I had to take the rap.
Had I been adult when my accident occurredor
even sixteenI probably would have walked
gracefully and happily through life with the
constant help and the aesthetic advantage of
an artificial leg. Certainly I approve of
them, and I really wish this had been the
case. As it was, the best prosthesis in the
world simply wasn't able to keep up with me.
It is regretful that those youthful years on
crutches set this situation into a permanent
pattern. I have worn legs since then.
According to the manufacturers, I walked
exceptionally well. I have even been called
upon to demonstrate on a few occasions for
discouraged users. I make this boast not out
of vanity but merely to point out that it
isn't any sane reason that keeps me off an
artificial leg. On a leg I feel conspicuous
and crippled. On crutches I don't. I ought
to have my head examined.
The Road to Buenos Aires
Early in my Teens our family migrated from
the San Joacquin Valley to Los Angeles where
Father was offered a much better job. None
of us wanted to go. Father could orate
stirringly, at the drop of any expensive
suggestion, on the subject, "Money Isn't
Important." My sister and I actually took
him to task for this flimsy whimsy. But when
we brought up his old saw about money being
just negligible green stuff, as a supporting
argument against moving, Father got very
tightlipped. In rebuttal, he offered another
of his quaint lectures"The Educational
Opportunities for My Daughters." Frankly, I
suspect Father arranged positions for no
reason more complicated than the more
comfortable weight of his new pay envelope.
Since he was in the service of humanity,
however, such heresy was never hinted.
Whatever the reason, Los Angeles became our
new home. It was for me, anyway, a very
difficult adjustment. I was no longer a
novelty in our small town. Everyone was
accustomed to me and my crutches and knew my
complete history right back to Mother's
first labor pain. But here was a huge city
of strangers, all staring at me, or so I
surmised. My surmise was not too exaggerated
either, for the more curious often stopped
me on the street: and made blatant inquiry.
"My poor girl, whatever happened to you?"
Strange men offered me rides. I am sorry to
admit that probably not one of these
misunderstood gentlemen had so much as a
mild flutter of bad intention toward me. In
my middy blouse marching myself to high
school on my crutches, I am pretty sure I
didn't set the baser instincts spinning.
Having been warned, however, that a city man
behind the wheel of an automobile was
definitely not the same cozy dish of tea
that my father was, I always went into a
panic when a car pulled to the curb and some
harmless man stuck a head out and yelled,
"Little girl, can't I drive you to school?"
I refused always, just as promptly as my
chattering jaws would allow, and at the same
time I backed off down the street as fast as
I could navigate in reverse.
I was so accustomed to treatment exactly
like that accorded all the other boys and
girls in our town that it didn't occur to me
that I was singled out for gratuitous
transportation because I was crippled. This
was surely the evil city I'd been warned
With some reticence I finally broached the
delicate problem to my sister, who was by
this time a very worldly freshman at U.S.C.
I dared not mention it to Mother who
supposedly had known the facts of life for
some time but was still acutely embarrassed
"Are the white slavers after you, too?" I
"Louise!" My sister grabbed my shoulder and
shook me in her horrified astonishment.
"What are you saying? Of course they aren't
after me! What do you mean?" She paused in
her tirade long enough to reassure herself
by looking me up and down. "They couldn't be
Bernice didn't often give me her unwavering
attention, but I had it now. "Yes, they are
so after me," I insisted with just a touch
of pride. "And you'd better believe it, so
there!" I proceeded to tell her how almost
every day some sinister fiend, disguised in
respectable pinstripe or navy serge, pulled
up and offered me a ride.
Bernice released her breath with a long,
"Do women ever offer you rides?" she
demanded, completely calm again.
"Oh, yessometimes women offer me rides, too.
I get in with them. They drive me to
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe the men
want to drive you to school too, you little
"Oh, they say they dobut I wasn't born
I squinted my eyes to give the impression of
vast sophistication. Bernice proceeded
thoroughly to blast my ego. "It's because of
your crutches, silly. They're just being
nice to you."
"Oh, my goodness!" I gasped, remembering
with embarrassment the awful imprecations I
had heaped on several innocent heads. It
suddenly seemed so simple. "I might as well
ride then, I suppose."
"Oh, no!" Bernice said firmly. "Better not
ride. Heaven knows, I think you're quite
safe." It didn't sound flattering the way
she put it. "Still there are some queer
characters in the world. Just say, 'No,
thank you,' but for goodness' sake, be
polite about it!"
The very next day a man offered me a ride,
and in consequence of his kindly insight,
made a great contribution to both my
transportation problem and my popularity. He
pulled up, tendered his invitation, and was
refusedthis time with elaborate courtesy.
"Your mother doesn't let you ride with
strangers, does she?" he asked. "I don't
blame her either, but I go directly by your
school and I'd very much like to give you a
lift. See those boys coming down the street
there? Do you know them?"
I was too new to know anybody. "No," I
admitted, "but that middle one's the captain
of the football team at high school."
"If I offer them a ride too and they get in,
will you? I'm a frail fellow and those three
lads can finish me off thoroughly, if I get
fresh." He laughed.
This was the first of my wouldbe abductors
that I'd ever paused to study. He didn't
look the least bit like a disguised
procurer. As a matter of fact, he looked
very nice although not as exciting as his
predecessors who I had imagined were tapping
me for the life of shame.
"Hey, fellows!" he yelled. "How's about a
ride to school?"
They came running and leaped in. I got in,
too still a bit wary. The trip wasn't the
Road to Buenos Aires, however. We were
deposited without mortal struggle at the
From then on the captain of the football
team said "Hi" whenever we met. It helped my
social standing, as a newcomer, no end.
When I told Father about this, without
elaborating on my former experiences with
the white slavers, he gave me permission to
ride with strangers who would pick up a
From then on, whenever a driver stopped and
offered me a ride, I suggested that he also
take whatever boys and girls were near by on
the sidewalk. He was always amenable. Before
very long no one was more popular as a
walking companion than I. It was actually
the way I first got acquainted in high
The years from fourteen to eighteen are
probably the darkest ones that a handicapped
person must struggle through. Adolescence is
not only a period of mercurial moods, it is
also a period of great conformity. Any
deviation from the norm is felt most acutely
at this time in life. A batch of schoolgirls
are likely to be almost monotonous in their
similarity. If an oversize man's shirt with
the tails flapping in the breeze is the chic
rage of the hour, all the girls promptly rig
themselves out in such monstrosities. If
"wizard" is the momentarily approved
adjective and anything exciting is supposed
to "send you," all adolescent girls recite
by rote, "It's wizard" "It sends me." They
only feel secure in complete conformity. It
is much later that the equally strong urge
for individuality develops. Soduring my
adolescence I suffered inwardly because
crutches weren't sufficiently fashionable to
start a wave of amputations.
The weight of my crutchborn individuality
was heavy upon me. However, if I had only
recognized the fact, it served me well. I
was easy to identify. I could never have
been a Pinkerton operator, but no one who
met me once, forgot menot because of my
memorable personality and my ravishing
beauty but because of my crutches. In one
semester in that large metropolitan high
school of some four thousand students, I
became almost as well known as the best
quarterback. I was also friendly by nature
and became a sure thing on a political
I began to be nominated and elected to all
kinds of school and club offices.
Practically everyone knew my name and was on
speaking terms with me. Also I had the solid
political support of all the smooth girls in
school. They were willing to vote for me
because they liked me, of course, but also
heavily weighted in my favor was the fact
that I was no Menace. They figured I'd never
beat their time with any of the boys who
rated sufficiently to serve with me on the
Student Council. I am not obtuse enough to
insist that my crutches alone made me "The
People's Choice" but I do know they had a
great deal to do with it.
This tendency for success in student
politics carried right through college. I
got quite a reputation for being executive.
Actually, I was about as executive as a
spring fryer trying to outwit the man with
the ax. I didn't actually yank myself out of
this compensatory political bingeing until I
was mature enough to see the horrible humor
in Helen Hokinson's cartoons. I decided I'd
better pull myself together or I'd turn out
to be a "club dowager" or worse yet, a
Congresswomanand then, God save America!
Now, even under the unscrupulous spell of a
hypnotist I don't believe my wellbehaved
tongue would say "Yes," if someone asked me
to serve temporary as sixteenth alternate on
an unimportant subcommittee.
But in high school, dashing about managing
things helped me a great deal
psychologically. I was president of one
thing or another twelve times before I
graduated. But the sad truth wasI would much
rather have been "right" than president. I
was all wrong.
Adolescent boys are precisely the
conformists that adolescent girls are. My
male classmates all picked carbon copies for
girl friends. At the age when the height of
achievement is leading a prom grand march
with a gangly pimpled youth, I was a great
gal with the gavel. It wasn't adequate
compensation. I was pretty enough, all
Grandmother's direst prophecies to the
contrary. My wardrobe was tasteful and
adequate and magnificently reinforced by
illegal pirating of my sister's closet. So
far as I know, I had none of the awful
afflictions that advertisers lead one to
believe make wallflowers out of glamour
girls. However, I led the sort of life that
prompted Mother to say, "Isn't it wonderful
that Louise isn't boy crazy? Remember
Bernice at that age? My goodness, we
couldn't sweep the place clean of boys.
Louise is so sensible."
Dear Mama! I was about as sensible as a
Mongolian idiot. I was just as boy crazy as
Bernice, but I was infinitely more
frustrated since I didn't have Bernice's
Oh, I got my hand squeezed a few times. Boys
took me to the movies occasionally and
played tennis with me, and I regularly
helped several classy dunderheads with their
homework. A couple of boys even kissed me
when I was sixteen, but one of these was a
Lothario who made a bet that he would kiss
every girl in the senior class who didn't
have eczema or buck teeth. And with the
other, I suspect, kissing was a reflex
action that came automatically with the
words "good night." I was just a "dandy pal"
a nauseating phraseto the boys. I even
maneuvered dates for them with the ladies of
their choice. But I wasn't the least bit
pleased with my "wholesome relationships."
For all the good it did me, moonlight might
have been an impractical invention of the
Mazda Lamp Company. I certainly would have
had one hell of a time becoming a juvenile
"Make her practice her music lessons,"
Grandma used to say. "Or teach her
stenography. She'll never get a man." I took
my second husband out to Grandmother's grave
a couple of years ago, just to show her! I
heard Grandma rotating like a whirling
However, in my teens I shared Grandma's
grimmest expectations. I decided to be an
intellectualthe toast of Bohemian salons! I
even took to writing poetry a charitable way
of putting it. My effusions were of the "Oh,
Love, let us fleeour souls are stifling"
school. I read booksuninteresting,
uplifting, deep ones, with now and then a
detective story tossed in, just to keep me
in tune with the world. I would much rather
have misspent my youth in riotous living.
But, like a lot of badtasting medicine, all
this dosage resulted in eventual good. The
reading made a permanent impression on me.
More important at the timeor so it seemed to
meI got a masculine following! The long
hairs, who likewise had stifled souls, began
taking an interest in me. They were mostly
pastyfaced lads who just despised football.
They got straight A averages in school but
ran to drooping shoulders from carrying
heavy books, and thick glasses from eye
strain. I'd have traded them three to one,
for a really dangerous musclebound deadhead.
However, at sixteen, a girl on crutches
counts her blessings by quantity not
"I wonder where those boy friends of yours
go at night?" my sister once asked. "Into
dank holes? I bet they weren't born eitherI
bet they were spawned!."
"You're just jealous!" I raged. "Just
because nobody ever admired your mind. They
are brilliant, misunderstood boys. They are
stifled" I ran down suddenly and faced
reality. "Oh, Bernicedo you think, with only
one leg, I'll ever get a really wonderful
man without brains?
Some Horses and a Husband
In due time I had a high school diploma
proudly clutched in my hot little hand. As
questionable reward for an honorable
scholastic record, I was permitted to stand
up on the stage on graduation day and
deliver myself of my uplifting opinions. The
general gist of the soulstirring oration
was, "Face life squarely." Recited in the
safe security of the family circle, my
collection of cliches clocked off three
minutes to the second, the precise time
allotted to present my philosophy to the
public. However, on commencement day, I
distinguished myself by winning some kind of
a record and poured out my memorized
sentiments in jive timefinishing in one
minute flat. I suspect that my listeners
went forth inspired to face life on the
To make the adjustment to higher learning as
easy as possible for me, my parents packed
me off to Pomona, a good, small,
coeducational college in a country town.
Father, with his usual studied approach to a
problem, digested the brochures of countless
colleges and universities and carefully
selected one with high academic standing,
high moral tone, and no sororities. He was
afraid I might not be bid to a sorority and
would consequently have my life warped.
By the time I was seventeen, however, it
would have been hard to warp my life. I had
tossed off most of my adolescent complexes
and so, apparently, had my contemporaries.
In collegesuch is my trusting opinion,
anywayI stood pretty solidly on my own
personality, without either excess support
or excess unbalance from my crutches.
I was no raring, tearing charmer, but I
don't mind saying I even began appealing to
brainless men. In fact, Father says that for
a year or so there, he doesn't think I had a
nibble from anyone with an I.Q. over
seventyjudging by their conversations.
But, being completely perverse, I promptly
started admiring mentality, a tendency that
got completely out of hand, in fact. During
my junior year at the age of nineteen, I
fell flat on my face, with frightful
coronary symptoms, for a professor. He never
had peaceful moment, poor man, until I had
him at the alter three years later. From
then on he never had a peaceful moment until
he escaped via the divorce court.
He was such a nice man, quite undeserving of
his fate. A British colonial, born in Burma,
he looked, to my misty eyes anyway, exactly
like Clive of India (a la Ronald Colman). He
made some lasting contributions to me for
which he got little substantial return. His
mother gave me her magnificent recipe for
Indian curry, and he, being not only proper
British but also a professor of English,
reformed my manners and my grammar
considerably. He also taught me a couple of
colorful bad words in Burmese and
From my encounter with him, I also learned
the comforting fact that no one dies of a
broken heart. Put together and given a
reasonable rest cure, an old ticker will get
you into almost as much fascinating trouble
as a brandnew one. I must have left some
sort of an impression on him, too. I know I
improved his taste in neckties, and
apparently I didn't embitter him permanently
against amputees. After our divorce, anyway,
he started dating a onearmed woman.
Grandma couldn't get over my snagging a man,
and she thought I ought to be committed to
an institution when I let him off the hook.
"What are you thinking of!" she gasped.
"What did they teach you in college? You
ought to know that lightning never strikes
twice in the same place. Besides," she added
as a pious but unconvincing afterthought,
"divorces are wicked. Stillhe isn't a
citizen. That would have parted you
eventually. Kings and such likealways having
to call on God to save them." Exactly what
Grandma meant I am not sure. She was an
isolationist. It was her studied opinion
that only sixthgeneration Americans were
admitted to Heaven, and even then, it helped
outwit the red tape at the Gate if they
happened to be her blood kin.
On registration day at college, the head of
the women's physical education department
made me a tempting offer. "Would you like to
sign up for an hour of rest every day, in
place of required physical education
courses? We'll allocate full credit."
Today if such a pleasant proposition were
put to me, I would not only say "yes"
without hesitation, I'd bring my own pillow
and offer to major in the subject. But since
I was still a little huffy about myself, I
assured her that with some leeway in
selection I could undoubtedly fulfill my
physical education requirements, if not to
the letter, at least to the spirit of the
law. Skipping formal gymnastics and team
sportswhich all my friends regarded as rank
privilege I concentrated on swimming,
riflery, archery, tennis, and riding. With
the exception of tennis, the limitations of
which I have explained, all these sports
were very well adapted to my abilities. I
captained my class swimming team and earned
part of my more frivolous expenses at
college, lifeguarding the girls' swimming
pool during open hours. I was also on the
archery team. In riflery I was mediocre and
did fairly well only in the prone position.
If I were ever threatened by a fiend and had
a rifle handy, I'd have to ask him politely
to wait to be shot until I flung myself flat
on my stomach.
I never approximated the career of National
Velvet, but horseback riding became my
favorite recreational activity. Prior to
college, I was on cozy terms with one burro
and two kindly but senile retired horses
owned by a rancher friend of ours. Freshman
year, however, I signed up for riding
classes. Miss Margaret Pooley, the
instructress, had never confronted a problem
like me, but she was imaginative and took a
very kindly interest in working out a
technique that made allowances for my
physical limitations. Under her guidance, I
developed an equestrian skill that gave the
impression of good form while breaking most
of the timehonored rules of horsemanship.
Also during that first year, thanks to my
friendship with Marion Cox, an Arizona girl,
who I suspect could talk to horses in their
own language, I fell into the Horsy Set.
This bunch of boys and girls, many of them
from Western ranches, and some of them just
crazy on purpose, practically slept with
their boots on. They took me in hand.
I think we'd gladly have occupied box stalls
and munched a straight diet of oats. We
arose at odd and inhuman hours and rode
before breakfast, and blissfully we cantered
around in the moonlight. We wore our riding
clothes right into the sacred halls of
learning. I suspect we smelled habitually
like an essence that Saks Fifth would
probably call "Fatal Stable" or "L'Amour
Equine." Saturdays we made worshipful
pilgrimages to various nearby horsey
meccasCarnation Farm Stables, Kellogg's
Arabian Horse Farm, Diamond Bar Ranch, etc.
We weren't even on nodding terms with any of
the owners of California's flashy
horseflesh, but we were chummy with all the
grooms. We were privileged to pat some very
aristocratic flanks. When a horse show was
scheduled anywhere in Southern California,
our little crew, without owning so much as a
Shetland pony between us, usually had
exhibitors' badges and occupied
complimentary boxes. These were presented to
us by some softhearted hostler who figured
I'd never be able to climb up on the
grandstand. None of us discouraged such
gentle instincts. In fact, I could go
becomingly fragile whenever the situation
seemed to demand it sighing and lifting my
crutches wearily, as if they weighed two
tons apiece. Father would have slain me.
Riding is an excellent sport for an amputee
although it does necessitate special
techniques. To start with, there's the
elementary problem of getting on the horse.
I usually mount by having some friendly
weightlifter give me a leg up. Frequently I
use an orthodox box; or with one supporting
crutch, I can step my foot into the stirrup
and swing up. The flashiest way for a uniped
to mount is with a flying leapin the manner
of a cowboy in a B Western. I never was able
to do this impressive little stunt on
anything higher than a pony.
Onelegged and crutchless, once in the
saddle, I stay there (Heaven helping) until
my ride is over, unless accompanied by a
stalwart companion, ready to assist on the
remount. It is impractical to carry along a
I have no knee grip. Posting a trot,
therefore, is not a sound practice. I
learned to approximate the rhythm and made a
poor pretense at posting by lifting my
weight from my one stirrup. Probably the
most sensible management of the trot is to
abandon the flat saddle and ride a Stock or
a McClellan and sit the gait, cowboy style.
Even better is to ride any saddleEnglish,
Army, or Western but put it on a fivegaited
horse and then rack or canter, avoiding the
trot altogether. Now and again a socalled "slowgaited"
horse, a natural singlefooter, turns up.
That is a splendid mount for a onelegged
rider, especially for a beginner who can't
cope with the stylish intelligence about
signals that usually characterizes a
fivegaited horse. So, pick a singlefooter or
a fivegaiter, but always make careful
preliminary survey of his withers and spine.
A onelegger requires a horse with a good
sturdy ridge for a backbone. If not, the
saddle tends to slip when all the body
weight is supported in one stirrup instead
of divided between two. Every stable boy who
confronts a Singleboot for the first time
will argue this point, as he leads out his
most dejected nag. An obviously handicapped
person always has to fight for a decent
mount. I have ridden some bizarre plugs,
jovially called "horses" by their
custodians. The uninitiated groom will
invariably insist, "The way I cinch a
saddle, it can't slip." Hahmany a saddle
cinched so it can't slip has gone perverse
all of a sudden and slid off, taking me
right along with it!
However, a nice sedate easygaited horse with
a backbone that will hold a saddle reliably
can give an amputee a good safe ride. The
extra stirrup should be removed, for when it
bounces against the horse's flanks it is
likely to make him nervous. Also it is just
as well to avoid double reins. Both a curb
and a snaffle require two hands. It is
better practice to use just a curb, and
handle the reins in one hand, leaving the
other free for that most ignominious breach
ofriding etiquettepulling leather. Making
quick turns at a canter is likely to upset
balance. It is far less degrading to push on
the saddle with a free hand to maintain
equilibrium than it is to fly off into
space. Space is notoriously solid at the
bottom, as I know from coming down hard on
it many times.
An amputee who is bright in the head leaves
all fancy work on horseback to bipeds. It is
halfwitted for even a normal person to show
off on a horse, and it is stark madness for
a onelegger. I knowI'm a reformed maniac
In returning to the campus stables from the
bridle paths in the foothills, we went
directly by the college inn and the
dormitories. Since these two blocks were
paved, we weren't, of course, permitted to
flash by at a canter. Sensibly enough, we
were required to walk our horses in this
rather populated and busy area. This being a
pretty pokey regulation, allowing no
opportunity to startle bystanders, some of
us had a rather wicked little trick for
enlivening things. We made clicking noises
deep in our throats and at the same time
kept the horses' heads reined high. This
precarious practice excited our mounts into
lifting their hooves prettily, prancing and
dancing sideways. We thereby gave the
impression to the awed pedestrians on the
safe sidewalks, of magnificent management of
a herd of wild stallions recently roped on
the open range.
One day I rode through this parading ground
alone and, as usual. I did my quiet bit of
ventriloquism. My horse, normally gentle and
long suffering, decided apparently that the
time had come, not only to tell me off but
to throw me off. He opened his mouth, showed
his dentures, and whinnied a noisy
impertinent remark that even I who can't
speak "horse" understood perfectly. "O.K.,
smartypants, you asked for it!"
He lifted up his rear end three times, and I
described a parabola in the air and landed
on my fanny in the middle of an
intersection. Man's best friend then turned
his head and with a brief horselaugh
hothoofed it for the stables. Wise guyhe
knew that even if I could catch him, I
couldn't remount. If only I had been blessed
with a nice little concussion at that point
and had collapsed into a comfortable coma
everything would have been dandy. But not
me! Except for a certain indelicate numbness
that implied I might have a lost weak end, I
wasn't wounded a whit.
Anyone else could have arisen and fled the
scene of such ignominybut although I arose,
there I stood on one foot. To hop away,
flapping my wings like an embittered bird,
would only have heaped hot clinkers on my
already faming embarrassment. People
screamed. Old ladies and gents leaped out of
their rocking chairs on the porch of the
inn, and students raced across the campus. I
didn't even have the virtue of being funny.
Nobody laughed except one dear, dear friend
who went into a rollicking display of
disgusting good cheer. I felt like Old
Hogan's Goat tied to the railroad track,
seeing all those chugging rescuers closing
in on me.
Not one of them shouted with outrage, "That
dangerous wild bronco threw her!"which, God
forgive, he did technically. It was like a
horrible ghostly visitation of my old
rollerskating days. All the good people
lamented in chorus, "That poor, poor girl
Just in the nick of time I was spirited
away. A cab came toward me, and with all the
savoirfaire of a confirmed hobo, I flung out
my thumb. The cab braked to a stop and I
"Hiyah, Babe," the stranger said, and leered
at me. He wasn't local talent. He looked
like a graduate of Alcatraz, now that I
ponder on his charms, but at that moment he
was Galahad on a white charger. When I got
to the stables, the horse was quietly
munching hay. When he saw me, however, he
paused long enough to laugh his fool head
"That'll learn her!" he remarked
ungrammatically to a mare in the next stall.
He was right, tooit learned me goodbut be
got his comeuppance. He didn't get to finish
his vitamins. The stable boy, to discipline
both me and the horse, promptly hoisted me
up on him again, and I walked sedately back
by the inn. I didn't hand him my usual line
of deepthroated chatter this time. however.
In fact, my conversational wit with horses
from that day hence has been limited to
"Nice horsy! Nice horsy!"
When I wasn't out courting the horses or
compromising the faculty, I did the usual
things that lead to an A.B. degree. My major
academic interests were in sociology and in
English. I figured I'd do the world good
with one and do myself good with the other.
I didn't distinguish myself scholastically.
When the faculty members sit around on a
cold winter's night nostalgically
reminiscing about students who have made
their years of teaching richly worth while,
my name is not mentioned. I am more generous
with them. When I sit around on cold winter
nights reminiscing about the teachers who
have influenced my life, there are several,
that I didn't even marry, who always come in
for praise. In spite of the recorder's
office's convincing evidence to the
contrary, I got quite a bit out of college.
During those four years I learned a good
many odds and ends that were not in the
curriculum but which helped me to get ahead
in the world. For one thing, it was in
college that I quit buying stockings.
My roommate, Lucille Hutton, pointed out
that she regarded me as something of a
simple sucker for investing in hosiery when
I could just as well beg castoffs from my
friends. Whenever she got a run in one of a
good pair, she presented me with the odd
stocking. She very kindly spread the word
around the dormitory and before long there
were so many contributions, I never
purchased any stockings myself. I doubt if I
have bought more than half a dozen pairs of
hose since. I am quite definitely spoiled.
When emergencies have forced me to support
my leg in the manner to which it has become
accustomed, I have greatly resented the
expenditure. During the war when even rayons
were hoarded like jewels, I resembled a
Black Marketeer. From Pearl Harbor to VJ
Day, my leg remained a prewar aristocrat. I
wore nylons. Suddenly stockingconscious, my
friends from all over the country sent me
their last odd, surviving sheer.
During college I also learned that it was
sharp to send my boy friends off to the
dances with other womeneven when they
perjured themselves by swearing their
eternal faithfulness to me. Prom night in a
girls' dormitory can be a bit grim for a
handicapped person. I used to putter about
hooking slinky dresses, powdering bare
backs, and pinning on corsages and acting
just horribly ecstatic about everyone
dashing off without me, for a large evening.
Along with a smattering of unlovelies, I was
dependably free on the evenings of dances
and so I usually operated the dormitory
switchboard and let all the late homecomers
in the front door. This was a neat device
for checking up on what hour my own beau
deposited his partner.
My insistence that my current follower date
someone else on these evenings did not surge
from a noble nature. I didn't subscribe to
the theory that virtue is its own reward and
that I could have myself a high old time
making others happy. It was sound technique.
I could dance a little on one crutch, but
only a partner who had practiced with me in
private could make any real showing in
public. At a dance I was a misfit and I knew
it, but I never allowed anyone to get the
idea that he was saddled with a burden who
limited his pleasures. Often overly zealous
devotion prompted some unsuspecting young
man to make the supreme gesture. When my
insistence finally convinced him he should
go with someone else, he would ask me for a
suggestion as to whom he should date.
Then I exercised my greatest generosity. I
always carefully selected someone who might
possibly have been a pretty baby, who was
known to be good to her mother, and who
would make someone, who had sense enough to
recognize sterling virtues, a splendid
little helpmate. Who could complain about
that? There is often more to an ugly mug
than meets the eye, I always say, and what's
a lumpy figure anyway if it harbors a heart
I went to college during that dangerous
period in the late twenties when easy money,
Prohibition, and a hideous collegiate
philosophy were madly dancing around, hand
in hand. "It's not the grades you make but
the college life and the contacts that are
important." That little ditty, I am sure,
made many a natural A student shift into C
out of sheer apology, and it abetted me in
my already deplorable habit of running for
Our college town was fresh out of fleshpots,
however. It reeked of wholesomeness.
Besides, I didn't have enough money to be
artistically madcap. My family has always
cleverly managed to be respectably poor,
even in times of great national prosperity.
The only relative we ever had who
accumulated an impressive pile of cash was
an industrious greatuncle. He was lavishly
rewarded with riches for being a vestryman
on Sundays, and weekdays paying
starvation wages to his employees and
working them ten hours, in a cozy place said
to resemble the Black Hole of Calcutta. He
became something of a baron.
However, he got nervous about his hope for
Heaven or else so annoyed with his kin, who
looked lustfully eager every time he
sneezed, that when finally he died, at the
tantalizing age of ninetytwo, he left his
illgotten gains to the church. With proper
sentiment, he did preserve for his posterity
the family Bible, some bad paintings of grim
ancestors, and a silver tea service. I got
the service, which I must admit was
preferable to the ancestors, but even it
turned out to be quadruple plate, not
sterling. SoI was pretty well imbued with
the knowledge that life was real, life was
earnest and knew that the minute I graduated
from college, I'd have to stand on my own
two crutches and dig into my own pocket for
Although I was occasionally lured onto some
rather distracting bypaths during my college
years, I was fairly well oriented to the
straight road to occupational preparation. I
am grateful that no one with ideas about
"suitable jobs" for the handicapped ever
hedged me in with prejudices. I was
fortunate that I was never tantalized with
warnings that there were vocational fields
in which my handicap made me ineligible.
Nobody has to point out to a crippled person
the things he can and cant do. I certainly
didn't aspire for a spot in a dancing
chorus, but I never felt any restrictions
about choice of vocation either. I was
allowed to follow my own bents.
Although some handicapped people must
inevitably compromise with their ambitions,
I firmly believe that, in general, they can
at least approximate their
objectives in the field of their natural
choice. It may, of course, involve a shift
in emphasis, and they should be prepared for
occasional rebuffs. Although I suffered few
of these, I was unprepared for them.
An acquaintance of mine, a girl victimized
by polio in her teens, has been committed to
a wheel chair for life. When she began
protesting the completely unproductive
existence she was forced to endure, her
family humored her in great style. They
allowed her to became the unhappy pawn of a
spinster cousin of her mother's who fancied
herself an able amateur occupational
therapist. This wellmeaning relative kept
the poor girl bored but busy making pot
holders, stringing beads into hideous
novelties, and weaving baskets. Only when my
friend finally revolted against her helpful
advisors did she achieve the independence
"I simply wasn't meant to be a bead
stringer," she told me. She loved books and
had planned, before tragedy touched her. to
major in library science at Simmons College.
With the assistance of a very small loan for
working capital, she started a lending
library in her own home. In addition. on her
own initiative, she learned shorthand and
typing. She ran a successful
dual businessthe library, and a
publicstenography and notary public service.
It was not precisely the culmination of her
original plans, but it was a close enough
substitute to give her personal
satisfaction, as well as economic
I was unhindered by planted misgivings. With
complete freedom of choice, I surveyed
occupations for womenor rather, careers for
women. (For what girl ever expects anything
less than a career, complete with a fresh
gardenia daily on a superbly tailored suit,
and a big blond Philippine mahogany desk in
which to keep her lipstick?)
I made my first trifling but unhesitating
step into economic independence while I was
still in college For the munificent salary
of thirty cents an hour, I did a few small
chores around the campus. In addition to
operating the dormitory switchboard and
doing a little lifeguarding of the girls'
swimming pool, I also could be had as a baby
sitter. Summers I guided the young, as a
counselor in a girls' camp. For, absolutely
free and with unrestrained rapture, I also
worked every day on the college newspaper. I
didn't actually contribute very heavily to
my own support; I merely eared the money for
a few frills.
But this brief prologue to economic realism
jolted me into recognition of the elementary
fact that a pay envelope was a nifty
proposition, but getting it could be
almighty dull. I decided to go into
newspaper work which, I thought and still
believe, wasn't the quick formula for riches
but was certainly a fairly entertaining way
to eke out an existence.
Those were the days when opportunity didn't
knock she walked right in and sat down
cozylike in the kitchen and had a cup of
coffee with you. All you had to do was tell
her what you had in mind. But by 1930, when
I actually had the sheepskin in my fist,
Opportunity, the fickle wench, was off on a
long vacation. When I finally went out to
work my wiles on employers, the depression
Although I still regarded life as a bowl of
cherries, I knew the horrible truth:
cherries had pits in them that sometimes
broke the teeth. All I wanted was enough
money to pay the dentist's bill. Any job was
a good job; It's true, I never desperately
got down to contemplating taking a blind
partner and sitting on the sidewalk with a
couple of tin cups. the last stand of the
handicapped. But I did spend some time
listing all the occupations that didn't
require ten toes There were lots of them and
they all looked mighty entrancing to me.
However, with the luck of the onelegged, I
landed on my footright smack on a newspaper.
But I didn't start jobhunting for six months
after I got out of college for the
incredible reason that I promptly pranced
off to Europe with a money belt bulging with
traveler's checks around my middle. How this
came about is a complicated story. Even with
the knowledge that I may endanger the morale
of poor normal people, I must admit that my
exceedingly memorable junket was a direct
reward for being onelegged. I went to Europe
because I used crutches and because, about
seven years prior to my date of sailing,
when I was fourteen, our car broke down.
In a tempestuous tantrum, I was made to
cross town on a trolley with Mother. We had
an appointment to dine in formal splendor
with a stiff relative who wore a little
black band around her neck to restrain her
excess chinnage. The prospect didn't send me
into rapturous ecstasy. On such feeble
threads hung one of the most important
events of my life.
The trolley was crowded. I sat in a glum
pout on the open platform and Mother sat
inside, glaring at me. Another trolley
rider, who also proved to be a refugee from
a temperamental automobile, pushed himself
through the mob and hung onto a strap
directly in front of Mother. When a seat
became vacant next to her, he took it.
Finally, with a good deal of diffidence, he
"Is the little girl on crutches your
daughter?" he whispered quietly.
He didn't quite fit the role, but Mother too
promptly tagged him. He was, she assumed, an
artificialleg salesman. They frequently
nailed her in public places when she was
unwise enough to be seen with me. Their
approach, however. usually had a certain
slither to it. You almost expected them to
whip out a card with an address on it and
breathe in your ear, "Slip around some
night, knock three times, and ask for Joe."
With understandable reluctance, considering
how brutishly I was behaving at the moment,
Mother confessed her maternity. She didn't
warm up to the stranger. In spite of his
charm, for he had a lot of it, Mother
resisted him. When she discovered he wasn't
a salesman, I think her next assumption was
that he said, "Your daughter charms me."
Such a mad sentiment, reasonably enough,
made Mother wary. And then he continued, "I
wonder if you would be willing to allow my
wife and me to call and get acquainted with
her? We are very much interested in girls
who use crutches."
Mother Was not one to pass out our phone
number promiscuously. Although she insisted
later that she trusted the gentleman on
sight, she made no exception in his case.
She gave him a polite quick freeze, intended
to make Birds Eye spinach out of him. I
marvel that the poor man ever thawed
sufficiently to do his detective work.
But he evidently had a sharp Sherlock mind
and a couple of handy Watsons. In a mere
matter of three days, anyway, an impeccable
professional colleague of Father's
telephoned and said that a very dear old
friend of his was eager to meet our family.
He brought him around to Father's office. It
was Mama's "insane leg salesman." He turned
out to be a prominent and highly esteemed
Los Angeles professional man, the president
of the Harvard Club, the president of the
University Club, and a good Episcopalianthe
latter being godly enough convoy to satisfy
even Mother He was also, I am personally
convinced, the most thoroughly kind and
gentle man who ever lived. Moreover, he and
his equally lovable wifestrange as it seemed
at the timewere minor collectors of
onelegged girls. I say "minor" because I
have since encountered several curators of
much vaster collections of such curiosa.
This collecting may sound like a form of
madnessbut if it is, the quite harmless
syndrome invariably afflicts exceedingly
Mr. and Mrs. Fultz were a childless couple
who first became interested in onelegged
girls when one such served them very
efficiently as a private secretary. Also
they were influenced by a charming little
tale published in book form in 1912, called
The Girl with the Rosewood Crutches. This
was a touching firstperson account,
anonymously signed, of a young woman's
triumphant victory over the handicap of a
right leg amputation. She was properly
modest about herself, of course, since she
was a perfect lady.
Nevertheless, she didn't let the fact escape
her readers for a moment that she was just
about the most tantalizingly beautiful, and
at the same time chaste package that ever
titillated a susceptible male. She walked
like a queen, dressed like Mrs. Harrison
Williams, sing like head bird at the Met,
and had a brilliant career, as well as a
devoted lover whom she coyly referred to as
My new friends gave me the book to read, and
I too was greatly impressed by the romantic
girl's autobiography. I even decided that if
I ever got a sweetheart, I would call him
"The Boy." I yearned to meet the author,
even though I knew that time was afleeting
and she was probably now a faded doddering
old crone of at least thirty.
Several years later, by one of those
coincidences that make life so entertaining
for a person on crutches, I did meet "her."
The book proved to be the bastard brain
child of a big and bouncing and very jolly
New York businessman and writer. He does use
crutches, having s pair of unreliable knees,
and he also possesses one of the country's
most impressive collections of unipeds. But
he is definitely not a fascinating little
feminine hopper. Although he admits openly
to a new legitimate book every year or so,
he never confesses his paternity to The Girl
with the Rosewood Crutches, that poor love
child of his careless youth.
I don't know the chemistry of rapport. But
whatever the element is that prompts
strangers to recognize kinship with each
other, it was bubbling to the point of
bursting its beaker when I met Mr. and Mrs.
Fultz. I loved them immediatelyand more
remarkable, they loved me. They became
almost an extra pair of parents to me.
So to roam back to my original premise,
because I used crutches and because Father's
ancient Buick balked at precisely the right
time, a couple of angels on lendlease to the
Earth gave me a trip to Europe for a
This was a trifling contribution to my
happiness, however, compared to the
priceless onethe subtle contribution of
influencing my attitude of mindthat they
handed me on the installment plan over the
years. Mr. Fultz gave me a healthy
transfusion of his own rich imagination. He
taught me how to use my crutches as tools
for having a perfectly hellraising good
He began, mildly enough, by attempting to
put some artistry into my crutches. He
presented me with my fist pair of stylish
sticksbeautiful rosewoods on which I
strutted forth to claim my high school
diploma. Prior to that I hadn't given
anything but the most practical
consideration to what sort of crutches I
wore. I wanted them lightweight for ease in
handling, and strong because I frequently
broke them. I didn't care what they looked
like. I even let my friends carve their
initials all over them.
I was very cautious about the rubber tips
worn on the ends, however. There are a great
variety of these available, and I learned
that the bigger and bulkier they were and
the redder the rubber that went into them,
the better. I always had spares on hand so
that I could replace them promptly when one
wore out. A crutch end protruding through a
wornout rubber tip is as dangerous as a
planted banana peel on the sidewalk. and
works precisely the same havoc. Giving up
the big red suctionbottom safety crutch
tips, and using substitute black synthetic
ones, constituted the greatest commodity
sacrifice I was called upon to make for the
war effort. I'd rather have a car with no
tires than crutches with inferior tips.
Mr. Fultz didn't settle back satisfied after
giving me the rosewood crutches. He turned
out to have a hidden talent. He became a
sort of Adrian to the Handicapped. It
occurred to him. like an inspiration, that
crutches should be regarded as smart
accessories to a costume. He suggested that
with my chocolate colored rosewoods, I
should wear a brown suede pump, purse, and
gloves. and a brown felt hat. That was all
the guidance I needed. In a few years, I had
a crutch wardrobe: black. blue, brown,
green, etc. Crutches don't come in gay
colors but any good enamel works the
enhancing transformation. I am now just as
likely to complain, "I haven't got a crutch
I'd wear to a dog fight," as I am to say, "I
haven't got a decent dress to my name."
Others beside Mr. Fultz made contributions
to the chic individuality of my crutch
wardrobe, but it was he who first made me
styleconscious. I have never possessed a
really close friend who didn't take a
tremendous critical interest in my crutches.
The "Father" of The Girl with the Rosewood
Crutches gave me a very sprightly pair of
red ones. My brotherinlaw; an engineer,
really put some science into his improvement
of my walking gear. He designed, cast saddle
and handle connectives, and made me some
beautiful slender crutches out of hollow
Duralumin tubing. This material is
magnificently suitable since it is light and
very strong, and takes a neat baked enamel
finish. These custombuilt Duralumins are now
my prime favorites for dress crutches. They
have the virtue of almost perpetual life;
they don't get creaky with age; and they can
be sent off for a new bake job to eradicate
the ravages of rough use or to comply with
current color schemes. Once, I even had a
giltcolored pair to match my gold evening
Another friend designed crutch cases for me.
He had them custommade to match my luggage.
I can now conveniently carry two extra pairs
along when I travel. These crutch carriers
resemble gun cases and frequently on trains
people ask me if I'm going
hunting. I always say. "Yes, I'm a biggame
hunter and have a den at home that is
absolutely haunted with glassyeyed heads."
Mr. Fultz's ideas, however, were not only
aesthetic and practical, but lighthearted.
Ingeniously, he carved out a little secret
cache cabinet under the saddle of one of my
wooden crutches. He said. "This will come in
handy if you decide to be a diamond smuggler
when you grow up, or an international spy
who has to conceal the plan for the bomb
sight." In the meantime, while I was still
treading the paths of virtue, he suggested
that I could always carry a dollar bill in
it for mad money.
He, probably more than anyone I ever knew,
embedded the conviction in my mind that
there was nothing I couldn't do on crutches.
He even whipped out Webster and gave me a
consoling definition for handicap;
"Handicap: A race or contest in which, in
order to equalize chances of winning, an
artificial disadvantage is imposed on a
superior contestant. To prove Webster's
point, he promptly set, about disproving any
limitation I admitted.
He taught me to drive a car, dance on one
crutch and how to master surf swimming. Many
were the dollars he invested in encouraging
my passion for horseback riding. More
deviously, he infused into my consciousness
recognition of my unique personal
opportunity for adventure in living. He
almost had me sorry for twoleggers.
Probably his greatest single inspiration in
the gay spirit was the question and answer
game which he dubbed "Ham and Legs." This is
an entertaining indoor and outdoor sport
from which ordinary people are barred
because of the handicap of their normalcy.
Occasionally friends of mine have
opportunity to indulge in the game but only
in the role of middleman.
Everyone who has walked on crutches knows
thoroughly the great streak of curiosity
that seems to be part and parcel of the
American character. From the time I hobbled
forth on my first pair of crutches at eight,
right up to yesterday, perfect strangers not
only have stared at me as if I were a
bearded lady from the circus, but they have
stopped me on the street, nailed me down in
railroad cars, accosted me in stations and
stores, and questioned me. I have become
very adept at recognizing the precise type
of individual who will pose this $64
question, "My poor young lady, whatever
happened to you?" In my mature dignitysuch
as it isI have also developed a frigid
unapproachable mien with which, when I
choose to, I can freeze the question unasked
in almost any throat.
But for many years, while I was younger and
more defenseless, I could scarcely walk a
city block without having someone pounce
upon me and demand all the bloody details of
my accident from the moment of collision
right up to the fee extracted by my surgeon.
This used to cause me acute embarrassment. I
didn't have the necessary defiance to say.
"It's none of you damn business." Besides,
Mother didn't allow me to swear. I always
paused and politely related my unimpressive
little bicyclemeetsautomobile fray.
It was Mr. Fultz who conceived of putting
drama into this situation. Drama was, in
fact, the essence of the game. I always had
a mildly wistful regret that I couldn't take
up acting, at least as a hobby. However
there are few roles that are suitable for a
one legged ThespianSarah Bernhardt's
advanced years on the stage as a uniped
"This is your chance to do a little acting."
Mr. Fultz told me. "Moreover you won't have
to run through all the minor maid's roles
before getting a chance to star. You can
play the lead every time You see, these
people aren't really interested in you
personally. They are merely starved for
excitement They pry, in the hope of
uncovering a lurid hairraising role. I'm
sure most of them are pretty well blasted by
the commonplace truth. So, why not hand them
precisely what they want? They're asking for
The game, Ham and Legs, provided all the
answers. For a couple of evenings Mr. and
Mrs. Fultz and I went into hysterics
planning my attacks. In the beginning I
wasn't very adroit. I felt a soapinthemouth
guilt the first time I explained to a nosy
old bat that I was the unfortunate offspring
of a circus clown and a lion tamer and that
I lost my leg by falling off a high
tightrope where as a child I habitually
played with my dolls.
Like most sinners, of course, I eventually
became quite cavalier about my personal
wickedness. The Ham came juicier and juicier
with the Legs. Even the dizziest legends
didn't give me the mildest prick of
conscience. I suffered not a qualm but only
the greatest pleasure from my premeditated
There is apparently only one trait in human
nature which is stronger than curiosity. It
is credulity. The things people will believe
One of my choicest little epics was the
heroic account of a swooping venture on
skis. Down a precipitous mountainside I
slalomed, a sick baby in my arms, only to
collapse at the doctor's door, the infant
saved, but my poor right leg frozen stiff as
a poker. It was so completely refrigerated,
in fact, that the doctor, without
administering so much as a whiff of
anesthetic, chipped it off with an ice pick.
Even unrehearsed repartee came easily. The
flappingeared recipient of the latter fancy
cheerfully swallowed the hook, and was all
agape for the line and sinker. How did it
happen that my left leg was so
providentially spared, she wanted to know,
not satisfied with what I already regarded
as a very generous slice of my imagination.
"Well, I've been educated about weather," I
said. "Me, I'm a Norska from Oslo. I was
smart enough to anticipate chilblains. I
decided I'd preserve at least one leg. Owed
it to myself, I figured. I skied on only one
foot, after pinning up my spare in a
"Well, I do declare!" The hypnotized
listener didn't bat an eyelash.
In this little intellectual sport one has to
carefully evaluate the proponents and the
circumstances of play. For instance, the
above choice item is best peddled in a sunny
clime, where a general ignorance about
skiing prevails. I recommend it as highly
suitable to Los Angeles, California, but not
quite so effective in Hanover, New
Hampshire. It's fairly good training in
psychology to estimate at a glance just how
tall a tale each individual sucker will
reach for. In general, the vocally
inquisitive aren't mental giants Sometimes,
however, I have to content myself with
something simple like leprosy or an
encounter with an illmannered shark off the
coast of Florida.
There is another important complication to
the game with special laws of honor. Mr.
Fultz was a very kindly man and he wrote
these specifications into the rule book at
the very beginning. An ethical player must
distinguish between the idly inquisitive who
deserve to have their ears pinned back and
the genuinely interested who frequently have
a heartfelt reason for inquiry. Often I am
approached by someone who has a similarly
handicapped member in his family. Strangely
enough, these querists are a breed apart.
They look different and their approach is
much gentler. There is a certain softness of
eye in contrast to the glittering
rapaciousness of the sensationseeker's leer.
"I hope you'll forgive me for speaking to
you, but I have a son" That is almost a
standard opener for these questioners.
Then the game is no longer Ham. "Let's sit
down some place where we can talk," I
suggest. In exchange for my own genuine but
rather mundane autobiography, I hear someone
else's story. Frequently these are heroic
histories that make me apologetic for the
happy simplicity of my own life.
Of course, the game is dangerous if played
too close to home. My legends occasionally
fly back to nest in my hair.
According to a rumor that I have reason to
credit, the world's a small place. Even in
New York City, where the chances are you'll
never meet your next door neighbor socially
even if you flit from party to party for a
lifetime, I had one of my stories return and
lay a doubleyolked egg on me.
In a beauty salon where I sat under a noisy
drier, a similarly trapped customer next to
me, apparently obsessed with her curiosity,
screamed, "What happened to you!" Anyone who
is nosy in a high cackle deserves the
"Parachutist!" I yelled back. "Stunt flyer!"
I threw up my hands as if the very thought
of the horrible details pained me beyond
She passed a frail white manicured hand
across her cheek, elevated her bosom in a
sympathetic sigh, and shook her hot head.
That was the extent of our girlish
Three days later I went to a cocktail party
in the apartment of a close friend. I
believe there are some eight million people
in New York City. Only about fifteen of them
were at the party, butall fancy with her new
permanentthere was Milady of the Drier. I
probably wouldn't even have recognized her
except that when I came tripping in on my
crutches, I heard her gasp to our hostess,
"Elaine, darling, you never told me you knew
that perfectly fascinating parachutist."
Elaine who immediately recognized one of my
wayward flights of fancy gave me a cynical
diabolical smile. "Oh, didn't I tell youdear?"
answered Elaine. "Sad, wasn't it? And losing
her teeth, too." She paused to click her
tongue sympathetically. "Did she tell you
about that? I think the dentist did a rather
neat job on her double dentures though. But
you should see her when they're out. Is she
a sight!" There was nothing I could do at
that point but show my allegedly false
biters in a horrible smile.
The only questioners who really ruffle me
are children. "Mama, where's that lady's
leg?" Junior invariably points his finger at
me. Very promptly, and as firmly as if he'd
just taken the name of the Lord in vain, he
is silenced by Mama.
Sometimes the child asks me directly,
however "Where's your leg, lady?"
Then I'm almost as tonguetied and twice as
embarrassed as a young thing out on her
first date. Usually I say, "It's all gone,"
and run like hell. If the dear little
inquiring mind belongs to a child old enough
to digest a good moral tale, I often pause
and deliver. With that hearty cheerfulness
that is so unbecoming to an adult talking to
the very young I croak, "When I was a little
girl like you, I didn't mind my mother when
she told me I mustn't playing the street and
I got very badly hurt."
"A car hit you and your leg broke off, huh?"
brought up on the bloody adventures of
current socalled "comics" can take a mere
loss of leg with unflinching calm. But I
can't hand it out with similar detachment.
"That's right," I agree and hotfoot it for
I like my adversaries to be of voting age.
Then they get no quarter. In this game there
are some very special gambits. My favorite
is the deathdealing Fool's Mate. This is
only applicable when some hopelessly snoopy
old biddy is stupid enough to leave herself
"My poor girl, I see you've lost your leg."
That's the opportunity for the touché. "How
careless of me!"
"Watch Your Step"
I don't want to imply that I harbor the
cheerful notion that being onelegged is a
privilege. It's a damned nuisance, of
course. Whether on an artificial leg or on
crutches, it always involves the constant
annoying necessity of draying something
along in the way of special walking gear. It
is much handier to be equipped with standard
attachments. Still, there is nothing that so
convincingly argues for the Law of
Compensation as traveling on crutches.
Before I hied myself off to Europe, I wasn't
a seasoned vagabond by any means. But I had
timidly taken a few Pullman rides to various
parts of the country. I learned from
experience that nobody got more for his
money in service, consideration, and
entertainment than I did. And when I set
forth alone for my grand tour of the United
States and the Continent, I had no haunting
fear that I wouldn't get along fine.
Both passengers and railroad personnel
always hover over me like guardian angels.
It is true that occasionally oversolicitude
upsets mesometimes literally. Pullman
porters, a noble breed of men, in their kind
eagerness to get me off the cars and off
their hands without casualty, are likely to
uncrutch me. When they have the cooperation
of a conductor in unloading mea doubly
effective teamthey can really work havoc.
One on each side, grabbing my arms or my
crutch. they frequently unbalance me. I am
always safer managing steps or stairs of any
kind without assistance. It is disheartening
to blast their generosity by ordering them
to unhand me. People simply glow with
pleasure when they help the handicapped, and
I have a theory that it is only decent to
let them have their silly fun. So if I think
the chances of survival, without broken
bones, are about fiftyfifty, I take the
gamble and endure the assistance, merely out
Once, however, with two of the goodwill boys
helpfully heckling me, I quite involuntarily
took off from the top step of a Pullman car.
By good fortune plus what I modestly fancy
was miraculous agility, I flew through the
air with the greatest of ease and made a
perfect threepoint landingone foot, two
crutches. Even though breathless over my own
accomplishment, I was able to pull myself
together sufficiently to pass out quite an
impressive bon mot. I turned to my horrified
helpers and said nonchalantly, "Don't worryI
always get off that way."
Another thorn in my flesh, who sports a
heart of gold, is the overzealous redcap who
spots me invariably as I am being knocked
off the train by a porter. He dashes off
like a breeze to get me a wheel chair. He
then offers to convey me right through the
station out tothe cab stand. Of course, I
don't want or need a wheel chair, and even
urged on by my obliging nature, I can't
bring myself to crawl into one.
On only one occasion did I ever succumb to a
redcap, with the standard equipage. This
occurred during the first stage of my trip
to Europe on my stopover between trains in
Chicago. This hero to whom I fell prey had a
most appealing, smiling, shiny black face
under his white hair. In spite of the
retarded gait of his advanced years, he
pulled up promptly with his proffered
transportation. He was so obviously pleased
with himself and so genuinely solicitous of
me that I couldn't flip off his beaming
light by refusing to ride. With resignation
and a great show of clumsiness, I got myself
into the wheel chair with both the train
porter and the redcap behaving like
derricks. I paid an extra dollar in tips for
my embarrassment and the drayage I didn't
"You just sit back now and relax," the good
Samaritan cooed at me on the way to the
passengers' gate. "You're gonna get along
just mighty fine. Is somebody gonna meet
Somebody was gonna meet her, Honey admitted
with some disquietude. My aunt was right
there behind the gate. She saw me as I
approached in my stylish chaise and grabbed
at the iron grill work as if she were about
to rip it out by its tap roots. She visibly
"Oh, my dear! My dear! You've had an
accident!" she gasped. "What happened to
"There, there, Auntie." I soothed as I
rolled my eyes roguishly in an effort to let
her in on my harmless ruse. "It's really all
right. I've just lost my leg, that's all.
But I'm going to get along just fine."
Auntie, dear soul, was not tuned in to catch
the most blatant innuendoes that morning.
"Heavenly Father!" she screeched for all
Chicago to hear. "Lost the other one?"
I kicked up my fine, genuine old ancestral
foot, to relieve her mind, but she still
looked ready to take off.
"Now, don't you go grieving this young
lady," the nice old redcap reproved. "She's
only got one foot and I expect it would'a
been better if she'd told you when it
happened so it wonldn't'a been such a shock
to you, but you'll only upset her if you
carry on like this. God moves in mysterious
ways." The old boy was quite a philosophical
gentleman. Of course, poor, mystified Auntie
had been notified promptly enough of my loss
thirteen years before.
"As soon as we get in your car, I'll tell
you all about it, Auntie." I twisted my
mouth into a horrible grimace, winked my eye
broadly, and shook my head. Apparently the
combination of contortions finally made some
senseor rather nonsense, from Auntie's point
"Oh, you are simply terrible," she announced
in her relief. "You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. You always were a difficult
If Auntie had taken a good look at the
redcap a that precise moment, she would, I
am sure, have fled in fright. He had her
death warrant plainly written on his face.
Her lack of feeling even shocked the
philosophy right out of the dear old man.
I can imagine him sitting among his fellow
burden bearers. "You sure run into all kinds
in this game," be probably begins. "But the
queerest character I ever sawbarring none"
And then, I bet Auntie gets a good going
My visit with Auntie was off to a bad start.
During my fourhour layover in Chicago, she
wouldn't even give me a peaceful
countrygirl's gawk at Marshall Field's
finery. She spent the entire time lecturing
me on how a lady conducted herself on a
With horrible detail she covered the
subjects of the insidious evils of strong
drink, cardsharpers on shipboard, and the
general depravity of the human race. Her
final admonition as she put me on the
Capitol Limited for Washington, where I was
going to get a glimpse of the Government,
was, "Now watch your step. Don't ever speak
to a strangerespecially a man." I believe
she expected me to spend the next six months
in dead silence.
I had a charming male friend staked out in
the club car, however, before we got to the
Englewood station. Only by crass discourtesy
or by investing in a compartment and never
leaving it, even for a breath of air or
breakfast, can a crippled traveler keep
himself aloof. My friend was a gentleman who
came under the category of honorable
opponent in the Ham and Legs game. He was a
United States attorney and he had a friend,
a Senator, whose little boy had just
suffered an accident which necessitated the
amputation of his leg. I always figure that
only the most respectable people have
handicapped friends or family. Besides, few
individuals ever plan to do wrong to a poor
little Nell who so obviously has already had
plenty of wrong done her. Crutches are a
When he invited me to dinner in the diner, I
hesitated only long enough to tell him about
my quaint aunt. "She told me just before we
pulled out of the station not to take up
with strange men. But my aunt is very naive.
She hasn't been around much."
"And you, my dear young lady, are very
sophisticated, I can see that," he answered.
"You look as if you'd just been 'round and
This put me in a genial mood. I even smoked
a told me to call him "Elmer." We had a
dandy time confiding the stories of our
lives to each other. He had a wife whom he
referred to as "Maze"short for Maizie, I
supposeand seven children all devoutly named
for saints. He told me exactly how to have a
big time in "Philly."
When we arrived he helped me locate my uncle
in the Philadelphia station. Whenever
possible, my family had carefully posted a
relative where I was scheduled to light.
Proudly I introduced Elmer to my uncle who
displayed a certain cold restraint. When the
father of the seven saints offered to take
us to a nice little speakeasy near by, Uncle
became actively antagonistic and spirited me
away. I waved back, however, and called "Goodby,
My understanding friend lifted his hook in a
jovial gesture, yelled "Olive oil, Louise,"
and implied by a genial wink that he knew
what I was in forand no hard feelings. Uncle
shuddered like a victim of the shakes.
Then began two days of lectures. Uncle was
very broad minded and sensibly tolerant. He
admitted readily enough that I couldn't seal
my lips with adhesive for six months. He
assured me, in fact, that it was perfectly
all right to speak to strangers on trains
and boats. But, he firmly pointed out, I
must watch for symbols of respectability in
men. I might fraternize, to the cozy extent
of discussing the weather, with the
following, listed in preferred order:
gentlemen of the clergy whom I could
identify by their collars, Kiwanians whose
identity he made plain by displaying his own
lapel button, and Masons. Generally
speaking, he distrusted women, especially
those traveling alone. A bad lot! He
confessed, however, that it might be safe to
converse with nuns.
"Oh, Boy, Unc!" I chirped happily. "Am I
going to have myself a time!"
He let me have a gander at the Liberty Bell
and bought me some excellent seafood fodder
in a place called Bookbinder's, which has
nothing to do with the publishing business
but means restaurant in "Philadelphian." The
rest of the time, he showed me around
socially among some worthy citizens of
Chestnut Hill who clucked at me over their
lovely china teacups and assured me I was a
fine, brave girl to flit about all by myself
on my crutches on treacherous trains and
ships and such like. They, too, knew the
chorus to the old refrain, "But watch your
step!" Uncle and his friends, I suspect, had
lived too long in close proximity to the
Liberty Bell. At least, it struck me that
they bore one delicate stamp of
similarityjust the tiniest touch of crack.
I had a good, wholesome time in Philadelphia
which led me to the conclusion that I'd
contrive cleverly to avoid the New York
family contingent. Relatives were so
overstimulating. I was afraid I'd give up
the whole trip and hunt up a good lively
Sunday School picnic as a substitute if I
were exposed to any more of my righteous
kin. I was supposed to wire a cousin in Rye
of my train schedule from Philadelphia. He
had promised Mother to come down to
Manhattan to meet me and then watch over me
like a fond father until I sailed four days
later. I hadn't seen this hazy sprig on the
family tree in some fifteen years and,
understandably. my memory of him was
So I only pretended to wire him. Uncle put
me on the train, with one last warning that
rang a strangely nostalgic note: "Watch your
step now." He was cheerfully relieved to be
disposed of me, I suspect. Triumphantly I
took over New York all by myself.
I discovered later on, however, that the one
relative I avoided so assiduously was a very
smooth and handsome piece of goods who must
have gotten into the family under false
pretenses or by some miscarriage of cargo on
the part of a careless stork. He tracked me
down before I sailed, sent me a brace of
orchids, and the only admonition he
administered was in the form of a neat
little list of French and German wines which
he commissioned me, with a fiftydollar bill,
to taste in his honor.
"Won't I get drunk?" I asked with breathless
"Not on fifty dollars spread around," he
assured me. And what if you do? If you
stagger, everyone will just say, 'Look at
that poor cripple. what a hard time she has
walking on those crutches.' My God!" he
chortled, warming to the thought, "What a
handy alibi they'd make."
He was such a nice man.
All at Sea
When I boarded the Leviathan, there wasn't a
soul lo see me off. I got to pondering on
this woeful situation while I watched the
abandon with which almost everyone else was
being kissed. I turned my morbid imagination
to California, where I pictured every woman
under fifty who was still sound of limb,
panting with eagerness to snatch my man
while my back was turned. After all, he
hadn't gotten around to making me an
honorable proposal. One dire thought marched
along behind another dire thought like a
funeral procession. I brooded over the
discouraging fact that I was on only a
temporary reprieve from unemployment. I got
frantic trying to remember how much I was
supposed to tip the deck steward. I was
certain I was going to be seasickin fact, my
stomach was already turning cart wheels. I
speculated on the chances of a repetition of
the Titanic disaster. I tried to recollect
the words of "Nearer My God to Thee’ and
could only plug the parody "Nero My Dog Has
Fleas." This, I knew, would never be
appropriate during that moment which I now
regarded as inevitablewhen I went down with
the ship after giving my place in the
lifeboat to a pregnant mother. I even
entertained a couple of terrified
reflections on Auntie's predictions about
Mickey Finns and cardsharpers. I yearned for
a clergyman, a Kiwanian, or a Mason to drop
by and mention the weather. I was in a state
completely out of The Union.
To escape the tantalizing view of people
mauling each other, I went into the deserted
lounge and sat down and cried and cried in
the most dejected misery. An impartial
observer might very well have assumed that I
had just been chained to first oar on a
"You want something to cry in, young lady?
No beerhow about a coke?" It was a steward.
"Your family making you go abroad because
you been raising hell? You in trouble, I
It should have cheered me that someone
thought I looked dangerous enough to have
been raising hell, but it didn't.The
sentiment only added to my misery. "No," I
sobbed on. "Darn it, I'm not the type that
gets into trouble."
"Oh, you're not that bad," he consoled. "I
betcha you'll be in real swell trouble
before we dock at Southampton. Drink up." He
shoved a CocaCola at me.
I fumbled for my purse.
"This is unofficial," he shook his head. "On
the house. Now pull yourself together and go
out on deck. We're about to get under way
and you don't want to miss that."
I sniffed, blew my nose and repaired the
awful red thing with powder. I got up and
tucked my crutches under my arms, still
feeling very sympathetic with myself.
"Look sharp for the coaming when you go out
watch your step." If he'd been a practicing
psychiatrist who'd had me laid out on a
couch for six months boring into my
inhibitions, he couldn't have hit more
I quit handing myself condolences. It threw
me right into a laughing fit.
He looked uneasy. "Was that good or
"Oh, very good," I said, "even though I have
heard it before. It's just an old family
joke that gets funnier and funnier. I'm
going to be fine now. Thanks."
"I'll keep an eye on you this trip."
"Swellyou watch my step for me."
He did, too. I never sat down in the lounge
for a drink or an innocent game of bridge
that he didn't slink up, squint his brows
suspiciously, and scrutinize carefully
whatever man I'd managed to snag. It was a
little disconcerting to me, and it
definitely made my victims uneasy. One
sterling Cornell boy, in fact, protested.
"That steward is certainly a queer duckand
rude if you ask me. The way he goes over me,
you'd think I'd just held up the purser. If
he dared lay his hands on me, I think he'd
As I walked out on deck, I thought I'd
suddenly gone to Heaven and was tuned in on
a choir of angels. The orchestra was playing
"Our Sturdy Golden Bear." Californians in
the crowd, even boys from Stanford who don't
go for that tune, were all lit up proudly as
if each one of them had personally planted
every orange tree in the Golden State. The
orchestra was a bunch of boys from the
University of California who were playing
their way to Europe. I, too, showed my good
California ivories in a broad smile. As the
ship weighed anchor, all the West Coasters
were shaking hands and banging each other on
the back. From a lonely wake, I suddenly
leaped into Wednesday of old home week.
Not at all surprising to a person on
crutches, some of these native sons and
daughters even recognized me. "Aren't you
from Los Angeles? I am sure I remember
seeing you shopping in Bullocks." Of course,
they didn't actually remember methey
remembered my identifying crutches.
Crutches, a sure tag, discourage a onelegger
from a life of crime, but they are likely to
be profitable in any situation short of bank
robbery. And even then I'm pretty sure
they'd soften up a jury almost as much as a
hunk of tasty cheesecake. Certainly they
gave me a good start socially on shipboard.
A bouncing, brightfaced man tapped me on the
arm and said, "How'd you like that chocolate
soda you had Friday in Schrafft's?" I looked
at him in astonishment.
"I was sitting right there beside you at the
counter," he said. "I had vanilla."
He was the social director of the Leviathan
and he regarded our former encounter as an
occult sign. He made me his protégée. Every
night he lifted the rope and let me and
several selected friends in on the sacred
revelry in first cabin. This was a dubious
privilege since the passengers in Third
while less heavily laden with lucre were
much lighter on their feet. It was also
comforting to hear "Our Sturdy Golden Bear"
every night, even though Ben Bernie's music
in First was perhaps eight beats to the bar
It is a curious eccentricity, but people
have a tendency to regard girls on crutches
as a special breed who behaveor should
behave, anywayentirely differently from
other humans. During one crossing I had a
charming old lady as my cabin mate. She was
very much concerned about my welfare. In
fact, I think it was her main interest in
life, since she didn't approve of much of
anything that went on aboard ship.
I was much more agile than she, but I
practically had to knock her senseless to
get her to take the lower berth. She was
solicitous of my metabolism and always
inquired daily about my diet and
elimination. "You can't be too careful on
crutches," she told me solemnly "You must
keep up your strength." What she wanted me
to keep it up for, I certainly can't
imagine. She had a disconcerting habit of
sitting bolt upright in bed when I came in
at nightchecking the time by her watch.
Then, apparently completely puzzled, she
demanded, "Now, will you tell me please what
a young lady on crutches does on shipboard
until one o'clock in the morning?" One time
I was bold enough to make a little arch
inquiry on my own. "What do you think young
ladies without crutches do?" I asked her.
"Oh, mercy goodness!" she gasped. "You don't
do that, do you?"
When I arrived in London from the boat
train, I became the ward of a professional
guide who took me and a varied bunch of
recalcitrant’s in tow for a tour of the
Shakespeare country. From then on, most of
my traveling in Great Britain and on the
Continent was done under the wing of some
such bird. These couriers usually could
chirp in several languages and they had
apparently been good boys in their youth and
read a chapter from Baedeker every night.
There was little of historical, Artistic or
ecclesiastical value that I was allowed to
escape. I was luckier than some, of course.
I only had one aching foot instead of two.
My first realization that I was marked for
special enchantment far beyond that afforded
by the British Museum and the Louvre came on
the way to Warwick. We all spewed out of our
sightseeing bus in a small village and
everyone scattered for an hour of freedom. I
went into a little shop that specialized in
charming, overpriced Bricabrac. A very
pleasantlooking man, obviously the
proprietor, gave my every move in his
establishment rapt, exclusive attention, to
the great neglect of all his other
I even got the rather disquieting notion
that he suspected me of being a shoplifter.
Finally, in my embarrassment, with a false
show of haughtiness, I started to leave.
When I reached the door, he called to me.
"Young ladypleasejust a moment." He was
obviously perturbed about something.
"There is an item, rather choice," he spoke
in a low voice, "that I keep in the back
room. I would like to show it to you."
Fascinated by his strange behavior and the
sudden conviction that it wasn't a
shoplifter he fancied me but a countess,
incognito, out bargaining for jewels, I
followed him. If his appearance hadn't been
so consolingly respectable. I am sure I
would have worried when he brushed his other
customers out the door.
"I'm closing shop for half an hour," he
announced curtly. "Please come back later."
They were all so obviously annoyed, however,
that I am certain none of them returned.
"Forgive my most discourteous behavior," he
pleaded when we were alone. "You see, I have
a little girl, just nine, who has a handicap
similar to yours. She is only five weeks out
of hospital. Would youcould you"
"Oh, of course," I interrupted him. "I would
be delighted to meet her. I was eight when I
was hurt. Maybe I can tell her something
He led me through a back door of the shop
and into a little walled garden where a
small pale child with a doll sat listlessly
in a wheel chair. A young woman sat beside
her with a book of fairy tales in her lap.
"Elizabeth," the shop proprietor said, "here
is an American lady who has come to see
They gave me tea while I talked to the
little girl. I walked up and down the garden
on my crutches and even went in for a bit of
fancy exhibitionism holding up my one foot
and using the crutches like stilts, a trick
that always appeals to children. I passed on
some of the things that I learned when I was
just about the age of the little English
girl. I quoted my old friend, Mrs.
Ferriseven to recommending the
multiplication tables. I told the little
girl that life was going to be lots of fun
for her. I am afraid it may not have proved
so, but I believed what I said in 1930 and
she believed me, too. When I left she
laughed and waved her hand and assured me
she would have her crutches and be ready to
race me to the corner the next time I came
Her father ushered me through the shop where
he paused long enough to take a delicately
beautiful unset cameo from a velvetlined
tray. "From Mary," he said, and handed it to
me. "Please take it," he urged, when I
Excess generosity is one of the problems a
handicapped person faces. I have found that
I am more likely to err in refusing than
accepting. Seats offered me in crowded cars;
special consideration in the queue at a
theater; porters rushing through trains to
open doors for me; shoppers giving me their
turn at a busy counter in a storeand even
cameos, presented by strangers. They all
pose a problem.
A handicapped person doesn't win any of
these on his merit, and frequently he
doesn't require any such thoughtfulness. In
my childhood and teens, I am sure I was very
rude in my constant huffy refusals of any
kind of aid. I have grown more mellow, more
sensible, and, I believe, more kindly.
Frequently I accept proffered places in
crowded buses or trolleys, from tired,
elderly men who I know need the seats much
more than I. But, according to faultless
authority, "It is more blessed to give than
to receive." For the most part, I am
convinced it is up to the handicapped person
graciously to let the giver be blessed.
I took the lovely little cameo, and I
sincerely believe that the Englishman was
just as happy over the gift as I was.
In No Sense a Broad
In Holland my crutches introduced me into
another family circle. This time, a very old
gentleman in Amsterdam started talking to me
at a great rate in Dutch. Grandma, dear old
cynic, had especially warned me against
"Don't believe a word they say. You mustn't
trust a man who can't speak English. You
never know what nonsense he may be handing
"It is true, I didn't know one word of
Dutch, but I am sure even Grandmother would
have understood the old gentleman. For one
thing, he held his two hands folded together
on his chesta protuberance which blended and
lost itself in a tremendous stomachand he
bobbed his head and smiled in a manner
completely benign. As his conversation
continuedor rather his monologue. for I
didn't say anything except, "American,
American" he made gestures.
He pointed at my leg and then made a violent
slashing motion at his own, and surprisingly
enough for one of his age and bulk, he did a
few deepknee bends. I decided he must wear
an artificial leg or which he was obviously
an agile performer.
He grinned broadly, pointed into space and
made a beckoning motion. "Speak English." he
put in as a lure, but there was no doubt he
was referring to some one else's talents. I
followed him across the street and halfway
down the block where he paused in front of
an orthopedic supply shop. The window
displayed the usual obscenely naked legs,
trusses, braces, crutches, bizarre corsets,
etc. At the door we were met by a square,
blond Hollander who wore a leather apron and
who limped slightly Here apparently was the
artificial legnot on the old man. The
elderly gentleman still beaming contentedly
once more gave out a great mouthful of his
The younger man then turned to me and spoke
in excellent English. "This is my old
father. He brought you here because he
believes that in America they do not have
the artificial legs. My father thinks only
the Dutch are so smart." He laughed. "He
wanted you to see the Dutch legs such as I
wear. My father believes the Indians still
fight the white people over the sea and that
maybe you were shot with the poisoned arrow.
He thinks I am the very important people
because I make the legs."
"Well, I think you're very important, too,"
I agreed. "I'd very much like to see your
shop. Do you have your knee? You walk very
This is a question always of prime interest
among artificialleg wearers.
"No knee," he told me. "Do you have the
This conversation between strangers may seem
somewhat off the polite path of small talk,
but it is a typical opener between amputees.
The young Hollander took me into the back
room and gave me a stool to sit on while he
proudly demonstrated his machine tools by
shaving the epidermis off a couple of
halffinished thighs. His father got out some
polish and carefully rubbed a shine on my
rosewood crutches. As he worked he muttered,
"Good, good, speak English, good, good,"
under his breath, smiling all the while in a
way that would have satisfied even
The old man followed us around and once more
began pouring out his Dutch. He raised his
voice to a higher and higher pitch,
apparently of the conviction that if be
spoke loud enough I'd eventually understand
"My father wants to give you the beer or the
chocolate," the younger man interpreted.
Again I was the cause of a shop closing at
an odd hour. The three of us walked down the
block to a confectionery where we imbibed a
thick delicious chocolate drink.
The incident wasn't, I suppose, especially
significant. I have seen many shops similar
to the one in Amsterdam, and I had the price
of a cup of chocolate in my purse. But
during my European travels, stopping in the
favorite tourist hotels and invading museums
that had already thoroughly bored the local
citizenry, I met only Americans. I like
Americans. They're dandy, but they weren't
exactly a novelty. I'd been running into
them for years.
It was fun to meet the natives, a privilege
that was mine merely because I didn't wear
two shoes. The fact that the Hollanders
behaved precisely like Americans put special
meaning in the incident. It gave me evidence
that there are no national boundaries to the
appeal in a pair of crutches.
My prize experience, in which the crutches
played the leading role, occurred in Paris.
It was a very startling case of mistaken
identity. I am frequently taken for some
other onelegged girl. In Los Angeles, for
instance, I have a friend, Ruth Wright, a
very clever decorator, who also has a right
leg amputation. I have been mistaken for her
upon a number of occasions for no reason at
all except that we both use crutches and
frequent the same haunts. We don't resemble
each other in the least. She has been
mistaken for me, too. On several occasions
acquaintances of mine have asked me, "Who
was that distinguishedlooking bearded man I
saw you with the other night?" Ruth's
husband is a distinguished gentleman with a
beard, but I don't go out with him in the
evenings. I should have remembered this
tendency to misidentify, that day in Paris,
but it didn't occur to me. I was strolling
along the Place de L'Opera one afternoon,
decked out in my best navy and white print,
my white hat and white crutches. I was
happily minding my own negligible business
which consisted in gawking at people and
marveling at the continually amazing fact
that I was in Paris strolling along the
Place de L'Opera, in my best navy and white
All of a sudden, I felt someone touch my
arm. Startled, I turned to look into the
serious face of a thin, bespectacled young
man. He looked as if he'd been reared in a
library and eaten the leaves from
dictionaries in lieu of lettuce. Except for
the fact that he seemed to be speaking
fluent French, He might have been an
academic genius from almost any American
"Je ne voudrai que causer avec vous,
mademoiselle," he said. Je vous payerai
l'honoraire habituel. Je suis e'crivain vous
voyez et je vais ecrire un livre dans lequel
il y a un caractere comme vous."
His recitation seemed to cause him acute
discomfort, but I didn't recognize his
complaint from my avid study of a valuable
volume entitled, "BRIGHTER FRENCH,
Colloquial, Idiomatic, and (mildly)
Technical for BRIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE" (who
already know some). This was a splendid
little collection of witty repartee, and
although I learned a bright saying from it
daily, I never seemed to choose one that
came in handy.
The young man appeared to be suffering from
somethingfrustrated love, I decided, or a
Being loath to admit my shocking ignorance,
I said, "Oui, oui," and pointed off vaguely
in the opposite direction. Apparently this
was a satisfactory reply.
"Epatant!" the young man said, and hung onto
my arm like a leech. He seemed increasingly
distressed about life.
"Epatant, your own self!" I shook myself
free. "What's the matter with you anyway?"
I fell naturally into English since I
couldn't fall naturally into anything else.
"My gosh!" he gasped and blushed to the
roots of his blond hair which, incidentally,
could have stood the services of a good
barber. He pulled himself away from me as if
I were a fallen woman who'd threatened his
spotless celibacy. "You're an American
"What do I look likeEthiopian?" I snapped.
"You don't look so Latin yourself."
"Oh, I'm an American, certainly. And
honestly I do beg your pardon. But, you
know, reallylet me tell you something. 'You
shouldn't use those white crutches. My
goodness, I should say you shouldn'tnot in
"I certainly don't know what concern it is
of yours." I said primly, and stiffening my
back I hastened off down the street. But he
came plodding right along behind me.
"Honestly, I'm telling youdo what I say" he
gasped. "Don't use the white crutches. I'd
say the same thing to my own sister."
"Well, you just run along then and tell your
sister not to wear her white crutches."
"Oh, my sister doesn't use crutches. You
"I see all right," I announced righteously.
"You are intoxicated and if you don't let me
alone I'll call a copI mean a gendarme."
In sheer desperation I got in a taxicab.
Nothing was so distracting to me as trying
to count the proper tip for a Paris cab
driver. The dejected lad just stood on the
sidewalk shaking his head sadly while I
I almost forgot this peculiar performance in
the excitement of getting ready to go out
that evening. I was invited to a very gay
and very "Latin" party with Benny Tompkins,
a dreamylooking boy with a beard from
Brooklyn. That is, Benny was from Brooklyn.
The beard was pure Parisian. He was in Paris
studying art. He was cleverly learning to
paint familiar things so they couldn't be
recognized. I imagine he came in mighty
handy in camouflage during the war.
I dressed myself up all fancy, including a
horrible pair of dangling, bizarre earrings.
It struck me pleasantly that I looked
exactly like an exotic temptress. I was very
elated over this pending festivity since it
was going to be just terribly "Frenchy." As
a matter of fact, there wasn't anything
there more French than a fouryear major in
the subject from Harvard, U.S.A. Still, it
satisfied me. I felt that I was living
dangerously part of the fast International
Set. We sat on the floor in a dank apartment
and drank wine, and the girls didn't look
quite nice to me. However, when I recall my
own getup for the occasion, I suspect we all
looked about the same.
Shortly after I got there, in came the
woefulfaced complainer with the whitecrutch
"My goodness!" I whispered to Benny. "that
man who just came in is crazy."
"He's nuts all right," Benny agreed. "He's
trying to write a book that is just
chockfull of sin and I don't think he's ever
done anything more daring in his life than
get intimate with an irregular verb."
"Well, he acted very queer to me today." I
told Benny all about it.
"Oh, my Lord!" Benny howled. "He probably
wanted to interview you. I bet he mistook
you for the famous onelegged French
prostitute. She always uses white crutches."
"A pros" but I couldn't even say the word.
"One of those?" The very idea appalled me.
This was precisely the case.
I didn't regard the confusion as flattering.
My idea of a prostitute was none too
glamorous. I pictured a figure by Reubens,
with a hipswish like Sadie Thompson,
packaged in sleazy satin and draped with a
feather boa, and over it all a suffocating
aroma of cheap perfume. Since then I have
heard about and read the sketchy accounts of
this same French prostitute's courageous
activity and leadership in the Paris
underground during the Nazi occupation, and
I am quite proud of that brief mistaken
Wolves and Lambs
WHEN I returned from Europe, the ship had
scarcely scraped its dock before I began
worrying because I didn't have a job.
Actually, a solvent family, a comforting
number of generous friends, and a reasonable
chance of earning my own living, stood
firmly between me and starvation. But I had
the quaint notion that if I didn't get an a
pay roll promptly my only alternative was
the bread line, with a vitamin deficiency,
scurvy, and the immediate decalcification of
all my bones.
Carefully preserved throughout my journey
was a letter in my purse which introduced
me, with some flattering phrases, to the
field secretary of a large national girls'
organization whose headquarters were in
Chicago. I had operated for four summers on
the Pacific Coast as a counselor in the
camps of this organization, according to the
Los Angeles executive, my work was highly
satisfactory. She had used me in various
capacitiescamp craft, handicraft, swimming,
hiking, etc. The children liked me and I had
no discipline problems. Aside from the fact
that I couldn't light a fire by rubbing two
sticks together and wasn't particularly
quicktongued at naming all the feathered
friends who winged over, I had an honorable
record behind me.
In fact, the Los Angeles executive was
sufficiently impressed to express the
opinion that I had something of a talent for
leading the young. She encouraged me to
consider seriously the possibility of a
career in her organization. With this in
mind, she equipped me with the introduction
and suggested that I stop over in Chicago on
my return long enough to discuss the matter
with the national executive.
Although I had gotten an alluring sniff of
printer's ink and fancied the idea of
flourishing a press card in the faces of
policemen guarding recently murdered
corpses, I still was not averse to
considering an offer along more uplifting
lines. The national economy, as well as my
own, being what it was, I was eager, in
fact, to consider anything. I squandered two
days in Chicago for this mission.
With due respect for my first interview, I
scrubbed myself into a fine scent and shine,
manicured my nails, gargled Listerine,
touched my face chastely with makeup,
arrayed myself in tailored navy blue with
the traditional touches of starched white,
and went forth with my letter clutched in a
properly gloved hand. I was not
overconfident. In fact, I was terrified. But
my qualms were only those of facing a new
experience. I didn't actually expect to be
hired on the spot. since jobs at that time
were about as plentiful as crown jewels
floating in the gutter. But I thought de
chances were fair that I would be turned
down with sincere regret. I had seen a good
many of the sturdily built spinsters in
their healthy shoes and middy blouses who
gave forth their light in the name of this
organization. Frankly, I felt that the sight
of me, sleek and slim and all abloom with
red corpuscles, might even inspire the lofty
national secretary into a few ladylike
I was completely unprepared for the blasting
brush-off I got. I've never experienced one
like it since, I am glad to say. I hope no
other handicapped person in the world ever
emerged from his first job interview as
thoroughly banged up emotionally as I was.
Three or four such shiny moments in a row
would have settled me permanently in a back
room cutting out paper dolls. The incredible
aspect of the situation was not that the
Leader of Youth sincerely believed that it
would be impossible for me to carry one of
her torches on crutches, but that she told
me off with a hiss that would have done
credit to a desert diamondback rattlesnake.
I handed her my letter in the reception room
where she was introduced to me by one of her
henchmen. She had just returned from
luncheonan interlude which I suspect she
spent stuffing herself with chocolate
éclairs. It may even have been indigestion,
not malice. that motivated her.
She did not invite me into her office, nor
did she sit down or suggest that I sit down.
I was all primed modestly to mention my
I.Q., my college honors, my .church
affiliation, and the names of several
sterling characters who thought I was just
dandy. But she didn't ask me any questions.
She scanned the letter briefly and dropped
it on a table. Then she let me have it with
two guns, shot straight from her generous
She told me that with my horrible handicap I
should never for a moment consider an active
job that involved leadership of young people
or contact with the public. Her implication
was not only that I was halt but that the
very sight of me would warp a sensitive
In frantic haste to justify my mad
entertainment of such ridiculous heresy, I
tried to tell her how fast I could swim, how
far I could hike, and all about my four
summers in camp and the serenely happy and
uncomplicated reactions of all the children
I had shepherded.
I didn't talk very well because there was a
sob suffocating its lonely self in my tight
throat. I finally left and walked twentytwo
blocks to my hotel rather than get in a taxi
and let the driver see me cry. Feverishly I
condemned my father. Mr. Fultz, my high
school teachers, and my college professors
for misleading me with the ludicrous myth
that I had not only a fair, but a
betterthanaverage chance for success in the
This woman who had so brashly told me the
Truth was the head of an organization
founded on Christian principles whose sole
purpose for existenceaside from supplying
salaries to her and others of her ilk was
helping girls who were not many years
younger than I. Where else could I possibly
expect a gentler reception and a more
cautiously kind letdown than right there?
The very thought of what a hardboiled
newspaper editor would say to me when I
brazenly asked him for a job terrorized my
nights. If I had only started out on one of
those hardboiled editors, what a difference
it would have made in my psychology! I've
been turned down by some of the reputably
toughest and most artistically blasphemous
editors in the business, but not one of them
ever took the spring out of my step and sent
me home to sop up my tears in a pillow.
Compared to that first female werewolf who
bared her teeth at me, the editors were a
frolicking bunch of cozy, cuddly lambs.
When I finally got home to Los Angeles, I
was scared of my onelegged shadow. I bit my
tongue with my chattering teeth many a time
during the next month while I jobhunted.
Nobody advertised for help in those days.
Father gave me exclusive use of his car and
I drove all over Southern California.
apologetically peddling my talents to
suburban and smalltown newspapers.
I am sure I don't know how manyif anyeditors
turned me down because I used crutches. None
of them inflamed my nerves by admitting to
that point of view anyway. They all put
whipped cream and maraschino cherries on
their refusals. Everyone gave me a real
hearing, comfortably seated, with plenty of
time and advice thrown in free.
One editor did hint that the crutches might
prove a hindrance to my career, but he made
the comment under the most comforting
circumstances possible. "One of my reporters
is leaving to be married in three months."
he told me. "I'll hold the job for you,
unless you let me know that you're
satisfactorily located elsewhere by that
Then he went on: "I think you'd do very well
here. This is a small town and I imagine you
make friends readily. I'd love to have you
work for me. You'd never get anywhere on
this paper, however. There's just no place
to get, and I expect you have large
ambitions. Frankly, I think you should be
advised that a big metropolitan daily
probably would hold your crutches against
you in a straight reportorial job. It's a
pretty lively business."
He could have told me I was crosseyed at
that point, however, and it wouldn't have
ruffled me a bit He was my dream mandear old
septuagenarian that he was, with his bald
pate and silverrimmed spectacles. He'd
offered me a job with a salary. Twenty
dollars a weekfor that he could burn me on
an altar if he had a mind to.
I didn't have to wait for that job. however.
Three days later the California Newspaper
Publishers Association notified me that the
Citizen in Covina, twenty miles from Los
Angeles, needed a reporter. I phoned for an
appointment with the editor James Wickizer,
a young man fresh from the Columbia School
of Journalism and determinedly precise and
full of progressive ideas. He practically
swore me in on a style book.
Two hours later I sat down at a typewriter
and began knocking out the most dangerous of
all smalltown copy, the society news (pinkpinkpinkflowers
candles and ice cream). I rented a spare
bedroom for fifteen dollars a month from the
local sheriffs' wife, opened a bank account
with the fifty dollars Father gave me for a
stake in life, and, poor fool that I am,
I've been selfsupporting ever since.
I never did forge ahead to my ambitiona
byline on a frontpage murder story in the
New York Times. I was detoured by a variety
of positions that were laid out on salvers
and served to me. I stayed just a year on
the newspaper and then went back to
Claremont, my college town, to marry my
professor and take a proffered job in the
Admissions Department of Scripps College.
There, subsequently, I also assisted Dr.
Mary Eyre, a psychologist, with a mental
hygiene clinic and a childguidance center.
I doubt if the editors of large metropolitan
dailies tossed sleeplessly when I was lost
to the newspaper world. They probably never
would have flung themselves at my foot with
pleas that I work for them. But I did
discover during my year of reporting that
the handicap was a help, not a hindrance, to
In the first place, crutches are very
disarming. They seem to have unique power to
open close mouths. Women bared their secrets
to me and cheerfully ripped the garments off
their neighbors' souls as well. Nobody likes
to turn a crippled person away from a
doornot without first inviting him in to
rest a bit. They asked me questions until we
were cozy. Then I asked them questions and
they invariably opened up.
On a few occasions I went into Los Angeles,
to cover stories with a local tiein, where I
ran into the resistance and competition that
characterizes city reporting. I could slip
in without struggle where a pair of muscular
legs wouldn't have carried a kicking prize
fighter. I once stood at a carefully guarded
door with the exasperated and frustrated
press. The granite Horatio with the police
badge didn't look as if a tender emotion
could possibly sprout on his hard surface,
but he reached out with his nightstick and
touched me on the shoulder.
"There's a chair right inside here if you'd
like to sit down while you wait." I didn't
want to sit downor wait. What I did want
terribly was a sprinter's chance at the
corridor on the other side of the entry. I
hesitated, however. It certainly was a
situation offering unfair advantage. Honor
reared its haloed head.
A tweedylooking mess standing next to me
gave me a poke. "I suppose you're not tired,
you sucker!" he whispered out of the corner
of his mouth that wasn't occupied by pipe or
chewing gum. He was a remarkable personhe
could chew and smoke simultaneously. "You're
young, kid, but you're never going to make a
newspaper woman if you don't get in that
door, rest your fanny for five seconds on
that chair, and then take off. That lump
isn't going to chase you because in the
first place his feet hurt and in the second
place he knows we'll all storm in if he
does. He won't shoot you, dearieyou're a
"Oh, my" I whispered back. "But what will
"They're probably planning to use crutches
next time themselves."
"Thanks very muchI would like to sit down" I
said and walked through the entrance. My
friend Baggy Tweeds was right. I touched my
derriere to the chair to make it legal.
"I'm rested now." I announced forthrightly,
just to give the sergeant a fighting chance;
and then I was off and quite unpursued. The
reporters approved, apparently. They all
yelled, "That's a girl!"
"She's only on a stinking little country
sheet anyway," someone said. "That guy in
the D.A.'s office is from her town. They
probably don't go to press till next
That was right on the nose. The L.A. papers
had the story on the street three days
before our paper was laid out in the forms.
But nobody can ever argue me out of the
conviction that crutches aren't a handy
accessory to a reporter's costume.
And now, page Ripley! That blasting initial
interview I had in Chicago netted me a job.
It was the damnedout crutches that did it.
too. I had been performing on the newspaper
for only a few weeks when I got a letter,
postmarked New York, from a total stranger.
A minor and more benign executive who had
overheard that fatal brushoff repeated it,
in substance, to an acquaintance. She picked
precisely the proper ears into which to pour
her story. A twocrutch man himself, Edward
Hungerford of the New York Central Railroad.
regarded me, I suspect, as a cause. Any
insult to crutchusers stirred his fighting
blood like a battle hymn.
He wrote me, sight unseen, that he was
building an organization to stage "Wings of
a Century." a big transportation pageant at
the Century of Progress and that he felt
there might be a place for me if I were
interested. He would interview me on his
next trip to California and in the meantime,
if I cared to consider his offer, please
submit credentials. I submitted.
Two years later when the big bulldozers
moved in on Michigan's lake front, I moved
in on Chicago. It was a swell job. I worked
on publicity and watched the Fair sprout out
of the barren ground, and flower.
Among a few things that I learned from the
Century of Progress, I will pass one
profitable trifle on to posterity. A
onelegger can make a fool out of a weight
guesser. Scattered around the midway and in
odd corners of the fairgrounds were a
smattering of minor concessionaires whose
equipment consisted of s swing like seat
attached to a set of scales, a stack of two
pound boxes of stale candy, and some
horrible pallid Kewpie dolls. plus the
brains in their heads. These bright boys
offered, for a price, to guess your weight
within three pounds. Failing to do this,
They paid off in their pretty premiums.
Their technique was to feel the arms of
their victims, look pensive a minute, and
then state the approximate avoirdupois. They
didn't throw their weights around either.
They were hitting very close to the
There is nothing so hard as a crutch user's
biceps. He walks on his arms, and it's fine
exercise for developing muscle. I've often
wished wistfully that I had an excuse to
pack a wallop to someone's jaw, just to test
my own strength.
The first weight guesser who fell into my
trap was collecting quarters at a great rate
and hanging onto his horrible wares. I
stepped up and he felt my arm and gave me a
respectful bow. "Solid," he announced.
He made no allowances for my soft placesand
he apparently didn't consider just how much
a wellsetup gam weighs. He guessed me 132
poundsjust 27 pounds over.
I played every weight guesser on the
grounds, for a sucker. The winnings,
however, a carload of ghastly chalky
grinning Kewpies and the inedible
chocolates, were hardly worth the effort.
It was at the Fair in Chicago that I met an
engineer who built for me what he called
"The Royal Nonesuch ne Plus Ultra Pedal
Coordinator" for my car. This kindly genius
decided that although I drove a standard car
skillfully, using the technique of throwing
my car out of gear, before pushing on the
foot brake, that both the public and I would
be considerably safer if my clutch and brake
were coordinated. This was prior to the
marketing of the Bendix freewheeling device
which, in spite of some weaknesses,
subsequently proved a boon to onelegged
With a great deal of trouble and expense,
and with clever ingenuity, my friend
invented, built, and installed a brake and
clutch coordinator in my car. It was
designed to fit a Model A Ford and was
highly successful, but unfortunately it was
not transferable to another make. I did,
however, have Bendix install freewheeling in
a Chevrolet that I owned later.
At the present time I drive a car with
standard equipment. Come the millennium,
however, I hope to possess the new
Oldsmobile with the best of all devices for
safe onelegged operationthe hydramatic
drive. The Cadillac, to which I frankly
don't aspire, also has this exceedingly
Insurance companies are a bit cool in their
reception of handicapped drivers. Even with
a spotless record and a fistful of
operators' licenses from a variety of states
staring them in the face, they are reluctant
to write policies for onelegged drivers. I
have always managed to get coverage, but I
have shopped around for it and I have gone
through some devilishly contrived tests to
prove my skill.
The handicapped drivers that I know, all
share my exceptional caution behind the
wheel of a car. They realize, as I do, that
in a court case, a onelegger would have a
tough time convincing a jury that he wasn't
at fault, irrespective of the circumstances
of accident. The new automatic clutch in the
Oldsmobile and the Cadillac should eliminate
this prejudice completely.
Reading and Writing and Pig Latin
THERE Was one profession to which I never
gave serious thought during that
preemployment period when I digested the
Want Ads along with my breakfast coffee.
That was school teaching. In fact, to insure
myself permanently against such a fate, I
had carefully avoided in college all courses
labeled "Education." The one symbol of
achievement that I didn't aim to hang in my
study, alongside my deer antlers, was a
teacher's certificate. Also, after the
advice handed me so vehemently during my
first job, interview, I regarded it as
providential that I had never aspired to a
career of wielding the ruler.
But I stumbled into teaching when my husband
was asked to take over the headmaster's
position at Norton, a boarding and day
school for small boys, in the country just
outside Claremont, California. I am not sure
just how capable I was as a teacher. I've
never had a chance to make a survey of the
adult spelling and punctuation of my
charges, but I do know. in spite of that
harsh warning I had, I didn't leave the
landscape littered with little twisted
The only twisting that was done was by the
boys. They twisted me around their little
fingers. I'm always a fool for a handsome
man, and I discovered I was a complete
pushover for the particular brand of charm
peddled by males between the ages of eight
and fourteen. Even with a toad in grubby
hand and a snake crawling out of a corduroy
pocket, any little disheveled tenyearold
could sell me an ice concession in
I am convinced that the most delightful
method of being driven crazy is by a horde
of small boys. Their consistent clatter and
vocalizing proved even more musical to my
ears than my formerly toptune favorite the
roar of presses.
It wasn't the teaching itself that I liked
so much it put an awful tax on my spellingor
the salary, which was negligible. It was
just that I met so many interesting people
and it was all so broadening and
educational. I learned to associate in a
manner quite cozy with snakes, and in pure
selfdefense, I developed a fancy for
crawling things and white mice. I was taught
to spin a top and shoot a fair game of
marbles. I learned to speak fluent Pig Latin
and Op, a much more erudite language. I also
learned that a face like a Botticelli angel
was a thing of beauty but not necessarily a
joy forever. A head that would have looked
perfectly natural with a halo cocked over
it, could, I discovered, contrive most
delightful and devilish mischief.
This idyllic job had the slight disadvantage
of requiring duty approximately twentyfive
hours a day, and it also necessitated, for
purposes of noble example, consumption of
vast quantities of oatmeal and other
healthy, uninteresting delicacies. But the
life was too active to encourage fat, and I
was too entranced to be wearied by my long
Such was my enthusiasm for this kind of
punishment that I insisted upon being
flailed in the summertime too. I pooled my
strength with that of two masters and ran a
camp for boys at Lake ArrowheadCamp Robin
Hoodcomplete with lethal weapons, bows and
I have s friend, only very slightly
handicapped by infantile paralysis, who is a
magnificent teacher. She didn't choose
teaching as a profession because, like so
many girls, nothing more imaginative
occurred to her. She decided to teach
because it was the one thing she wanted most
to do. That rare attitude of mind, I am
convinced, should have influenced every
school board in the country to barter for
her services. She is now a successful
instructor in a large metropolitan system
where she has thoroughly proved her merit.
But she had a long and discouraging struggle
getting a jobfor no reason except a slight
weakness in her knees. A childhood illness
resulted in disability and disfigurement
that was so slight as to be negligible. A
twentyfourlegged muscular centipede,
miraculously endowed with the mind of a
genius, couldn't give more lavish gifts to
children. But for a number of years, it
looked as if she'd never have a chance to
distribute her gifts. There is a tendency to
scream for normalcy in the public school
systems. Handicapped teachers are more
likely to be found in the more resilient
private school organizations.
I am, of course, not in a position to argue
against this prejudice by presenting
statistically reliable evidence. All I can
say is that the young boys I taught took my
handicap in their stride. They gave it
little if any thought. Similarly they took
in their stride the handicap of another
member of our teaching staff.
The most thoroughly beloved and most
successful master we had. was a young and
vigorous man who had one crippled foot.
victimized by polio. The boys admired, with
the typical enthusiasm of their age group,
the stronglegged athletic young men who
supervised their play hours, but they loved
the master who carried the physical handicap
and who also carried a much more damaging
handicap to popularitythe school master's
weightiest burden, the teaching of Latin.
It was not perverted sympathy either, that
prompted their devotion. The master was
completely worthy in every respect to be top
favorite with his students. The lameness had
no bearing one way or another on his
position in the hearts of the boys. His
attractiveness of personality, his rich
understanding, and his skill and discipline
in the classroom, would have made him a fine
teacher, without his handicap; they made him
an equally fine teacher with his handicap.
In fact, his disability may even have
enhanced his value as a teacher in a subtle
way that perhaps was neither recognized by
himself nor his pupils. I feel sure that the
children in their natural experience of
identifying themselves with this thoroughly
beloved teacher achieved an understanding
attitude toward the handicapped person in
general that no amount of instruction or
moralizing would have implanted.
Also, should it happen that any of these
boys in later life suffered some disability
themselves, there is no doubt that their
mental recovery and acceptance would be more
rapid and complete because of the
fortification of the memory of this
welladjusted, happy, useful man.
To me, the following incident significantly
demonstrates a schoolboy's attitude toward a
handicapped teacher. Recently I happened to
run onto one of our old Norton students, now
grown into quite impressive manhood. Our
conversation inevitably led to this favorite
"I hear he's married now." the boy said,
"and has a bunch of kids. I bet he's a swell
father. I've never had a teacher who held a
candle to him."
"He was remarkably active for a man with a
handicap. too," I added, with the
coldblooded intention of prodding for an
opinion on this subject.
"Why, that's right" The boy looked
quizzical. "He was lame. wasn't he?"
I certainly do not follow this idea through
with the recommendation that all handicapped
people promptly start plugging for
schoolteaching jobs. I merely subscribe to
the theory that, granted the qualifications
of personality and training which make a
normal person a good teacher, a physically
handicapped person is at no disadvantage.
This point of view may be applied to any
other profession as well.
Paradoxically, if a handicapped person is
not basically warmhearted and likable, his
physical abnormality may prove an
insurmountable mountain to him in the field
of teaching. Children are likely to choose
an obvious peg on which to hang their scorn.
I once knew a teacher in my own early school
years, who behind her back was referred to
as "Old Droopy Eye." Even I, as a onelegged
little girl who should have had more natural
compassion for a handicapped person, called
her that without any consciousness of irony.
She had an injured muscle in her right
eyelid that gave her a permanent semiwink,
but her personality was such that she never
for a moment misled anyone into thinking her
merely flirtatious. She was a veritable
tartar, with not a modicum of softness in
her nature. She shouldn't have been a
teacher. She probably knew her grammar book
by heart, and I don't doubt she could spell
every word in Webster's Unabridged, but she
didn't like children. I think it would have
given her the greatest pleasure to hang her
entire class by their thumbs. We pupils felt
this and returned the sentiment with
enthusiasm. Since we subconsciously wanted
to identify the source of our hatred, we
hooked it on her defect and called her "Old
A psychologist friend of mine tells me that
this is a fairly common tendency in children
and is called "mechanism projection." If the
hate had not been present anyway for some
more valid reason, the defect would not have
Of course, my schoolboys took a certain
amount of interest in my crutchesan interest
identical with that displayed in my
childhood by my contemporary playmates. It
was the inevitable young enthusiasm for
anything that remotely resembled a vehicle
on which to ride. The taller boys walked
with my crutches and the smaller boys stood
on chairs, leaned their weight in the
saddles and swung off into spacequite an
exciting sport. All sizes and varieties of
boys tried to imitate my use of the
They were not beyond playing tricks on me
either a sort of harmless clipping of my
wings. It was regarded as something of a
clever maneuver to kidnap my crutches
without my knowing it. This was no small
accomplishment since I am inclined to have
them at my side constantly, and my mind if
not my hand usually rests on them most of
the time. The boys played this little game
merely out of mischiefnot meanness. as
proved by the fact that they always posted a
benevolent guard on me to be sure that I
didn't need the crutches during the
abduction. I contend that the very fact that
they invented this nonsense at all was a
healthy sign. They didn't hold my crutches
in any awe or undue reverence. If they had,
they would have ignored them completely with
the most contrived and thoroughly false
The boys took some pride in my
accomplishments, demanding that I
demonstrate my onelegged physical feats to
new boarders. In this spirit, one of the
more memorable athletic contests staged at
Norton was a crutch race that had all the
fanfare of an Olympic competition.
We had a physical education coach who ran
the 440 and the 880 for the Los Angeles
Athletic Club. He banged up an ankle and was
temporarily outfitted with a pair of my
crutches, on which he was exceptionally
adept for a temporary timeserver. It
occurred to one of the boys that under the
circumstances, a race between this damaged
Mercury and me would be a fair and amenable
contest his skill as a track man pitted
against my skill on crutches.
The bounds were laid out a onehundredyard
dash. With a good deal of solemn officialism,
the boys set us off with a blank pistol
shot. Our four crutches and two feet pranced
down the course. It wasn't really a fair
contest. A lifetime of twofooted running
isn't good preparation for a onelegged
sprint. I won, but just by the front freckle
on my nose. I don't think I ever felt more
of a genuine heroine, however. I know how a
laurel wreath must feel on a noble brow.
"Jeepers!" one small spectator remarked with
awe. "She beat him, and he's a state champ."
The little boy had apparently put out of his
mind completely the rather unusual aspects
of my victory.
So Much in Common
There is a certain freemasonry among
amputees. I am always interested in meeting
others of my species. Whether or not I
coveted such encounters, however, I could
hardly escape them. Friends, absolutely
puffy and plumy over their cleverness, are
constantly digging up onelegged people for
me. With all the pride of a prospector
bragging about knocking his pick against a
vein of solid gold, they reveal their
"Oh, my dear. you know the other day I met a
girl who only has one leg." They usually
begin in some such manner. "I don't know her
really, of course, but I asked her to come
to tea so that you two can meet. You're
certain to be great friends. You have so
much in common."
In some respects this is just as adept
socially as tossing off a party to which
only persons who have had their appendices
removed are invited. It's true the
appendixbereft would have quite a bit to say
to each other. "My Doctor says . .." ". . .
never saw a worse case in my life." "Under
anesthetic two hours . ." ". . . what I
suffered." "You should see my scar! . . ."
Appendicitis may be an excellent icebreaker
but it's only worth a onenight stand as a
feature attraction. It's not a sound basis
on which to build a beautiful friendship.
The same is true of amputations. Accident
like appendicitis is no respecter of
personalities. There is no assurance at all
that just any two amputees who collide at a
cocktail party will promptly become boon
buddies, after their exchange of surgical
detail. I don't recommend such a criterion
for picking intimates. It's better to plod
along in the oldfashioned way, de pending
upon personal rapport and common interests
to determine permanent friendships, and take
the handicaps where they happen to fall.
However, I still recommend welcoming every
opportunity to meet others with similar
handicaps. Some times cordial enduring amity
does develop, from these encounters. And
although occasionally just the opposite is
trueyou run smack into torporit's still
worth the chance. Invariably the
preliminaries, at least, are entertaining:
the swapping of life stories, the inevitable
arguments: artificialleg users vs. crutch
addicts, the discussions of walking gear and
techniques. Very often casually encountered
members of the clan have made great
contribution to my comfort by their
suggestionsand I hope, vice versa. I met the
first of "my own kind' another onelegged
girlwhen I was about twelve. A week before
this meeting, a rancher friend of Father's
drove in from the country and called at our
house. He told us that some of his Kansas
kin were coming out to California on a
visit. "The little girl's about your age,"
he explained to me, "and she's 'that way,'
too." Mother looked slightly pained. "You
two kiddies ought to hit it off just fine,"
A date was set for me to spend a whole day
at the ranch. This would have been thrilling
enough in itself, but combined with the
anticipation of meeting a one legged "kiddy"
from Kansas, my excitement simply couldn't
Forthrightly, I even warned my best friend,
Barbara Bradley, that the chances were she
couldn't be my best friend much longer. Her
days of such honor were numbered, as she
could well understand herself. This
singlecylinder Kansan and I were just bound
to become bosom chums immediately.
The day I went to the country, my hair was
tightly braided in pigtails and then pinned
around my head, and my face was scrubbed to
a shine. I wore blue denim overalls, all
fresh and clean, and a blue shirt. This was
my favorite costume, and it had been
purchased for just such occasions. Ranch
life was always rough on my clothes since I
liked to slide on hay, ride astride the
sweaty backs of plow horses, cuddle up to
piglets and other barnyard young, and
generally make a dirty mess of myself.
When I arrived I met the little Kansan. She
turned out to be two years older than I was.
She was four teen. but even if we'd both
been twolegged and were the same age, we'd
have been a world apart in interests. As it
was we had nothing in common but a couple of
feet in Heaven, and they probably were
dancing on gold pavements at opposite ends
of the town.
She had lived on a middlewestern farm most
of her life. but it was I who resembled the
farmerette. She was dressed in dainty
sprigged muslin with a white slipper and
stocking, and her hat was curled. I felt
completely gauche in her presence.
She was very nice to me, however. She
inquired politely about my accident and told
me about hers. She had dashed out in the
street, with no thought of life or limb, in
pursuit of an endangered kitten and had been
run down by an automobile. This made her
extremely heroic and put me at a
disadvantage. All I'd done, after all, was
disobey my mother by borrowing an illfated
bicycle. Also, every year or so she had to
go back to the hospital in Kansas City and
have an operation. The bone in her stump
continued to grow and required periodic
pruning. For some reason that I do not
understand but for which I am grateful to an
able smalltown surgeon, I have never had
this recurrent trouble, common to many
children whose amputations occurred early in
life. This periodic drama in the Kansan's
life also made me feel inferior by contrast.
"I had two stitches in my head." I bragged
in my own defense, "when I fell out of a
tree." I knew it wasn't much.
More tedious, she wanted me to sit in a
chair while she performed at the piano. She
executed (by slow torture) a number called
"Memories." Since my sister played the same
ditty day and night at home, this wasn't
exactly exciting to me who laid no claim to
the appreciation of either music or romance.
We finally went outside where we sat
sedately under a tree and ate grapes. I
amused myself by seeing how many I could
stuff in my mouth at once, and the pretty
little Kansan amused herself by watching the
roadfor the neighbor boys, I suspect.
I spent a miserable day, and when I got home
was greeted by Mother with the startled
words, "My goodness. you're clean! Didn't
you have a good time?"
I called up Barbara Bradley right away and
assured her she was still my staunchest
comrade. "Why, that girl is just like my
sister Bernice," I said. "I couldn't have
anyone like that for my best friend."
It was a profound discovery I made that
daythat oneleggedness may occur anywhere. It
was like blue eyes or brown hair. It had
nothing to do with congeniality. The idea
startled me, since I somehow had labored
under the illusion that all onelegged girls
would be exactly like me; braces on the
teeth, freckles on the nose and all.
I have met a great many crippled people
since then and some of them have developed
into real friends. Even the most casual
contacts, however, have been rewarding.
Oneleggedness is a common ground on which
individuals of vast difference in background
can meet and communicate. I have had
fascinating conversations with handicapped
persons whose lives were so divergent from
my own that in the normal course of a
twolegged life, I never even would have
crossed their pathways.
A jolly drunk who sold newspapers on a city
corner and who happened to wear a peg leg,
gave me a full, though perhaps slightly
alcoholflavored, account of himself one day
while I waited for a bus. Similarly, I've
learned all about the private lives of a
taxi driver, an expoliceman, a sculptor, a
factory worker out on parole from a woman's
reformatory, a little onearmed Negro orphan,
a Japanese fruit peddler, an architect,
etc., etc. We speak to each other. We flaunt
our fraternity badges. Whatever our limping
walks in life we are all people of
partsmissing. We stand on common ground. We
may remain transients; we usually do. We
meet; we pass on; but we enrich each other
in the passing.
There are two classes of amputees that I
make particular effort to meet. Others I
merely take as they come. I always try to
acquaint myself with newcomers to the
freemasonry, and recently maimed. Then I am
probably as obnoxious as a first grader who
has learned to spell "cat" and lords it over
his little brother who is still in
kindergarten. I pass out advice with the
assurance of an established seer. However, I
know from experience the value of a
veteran's suggestions to the recruit. I
regard my knowledge as inherited wealth that
I am obliged to preserve, increase, and pass
on to the next generation. Often I
correspond with the recently handicapped in
an effort to give encouragement during the
inevitable anguish that precedes adjustment
to the new way of life.
In addition to the recently handicapped,
from the grossest commercial motive, I am
always on the prowl for females of the
species who have missing left legs and who
wear a size 5 1/2 B shoe. Here is a solid
foundation on which to construct sodality.
We exchange our odd shoes.
Ruth Rubin, an enterprising woman in St.
Louis, a trained nurse, has as her
imaginative and helpful hobby, a shoe
exchange. She encourages oneleggers to write
in their shoe sizes and mates up feet all
over the country. My foster foot, for
instance, lives in Burbank, California. The
enterprise operates on the principle of a
shoe for a shoe.
This exchange proved especially useful to me
during shoe rationing. Unipeds are inclined
to be more destructive to footwear than
ordinary people, since their entire weight
rests in one shoe. Moreover, to maintain
their balance, amputees tend to grab the
earth harder with their single foot. With
the limited number of shoe coupons provided,
I would have been a scuffytoed derelict if
it hadn't been for the shoe exchange which
kept me in slick footwear for the duration.
My contributions similarly kept someone else
well shod. The pleasant economy of such a
scheme is obvious.
There are other organizations that cater to
the disabled. Most of these are founded on
the premise that the handicapped need each
other. They doespecially during their period
of adjustment. Many of these fraternities
publish little magazines that circulate
among the handicapped and publicize the
stories of the members. Such publications
are Outwitting Handicaps, the SpotLite,
Courage, etc. They carry also an advertising
section devoted to artificial legs and arms,
stump socks, AmpuBalm, wheel chairs, and
other equipment for amputees. Most of these
organizations exact a small membership fee
or contribution which pays for the magazine
and frequently for a variety of other
helpful services; employment advice, advice
on prosthesis, providing correspondence
companions for hospitalized patients, etc.
A few of the organizations are completely
free, the service being the friendly
contribution of some humanitarian hobbyist.
For instance, a Hollywood man, Mr. Stuart
Noble. although not handicapped himself,
entertains great compassion and
understanding for the disabled. For many
years he has been interested in assisting
amputees. He organized a club called The
Good Friends, and he has devoted a great
deal of time and money to assisting the
handicapped in making happy adjustments to
lifehelping them find friends and
Edward Hungerford of New York, handicapped
himself, collects crutch users who strike
his fancy all over the country, and in a
less formal way does the same thing for his
collection that Mr. Noble does. The most
adequate and able of all the organizations,
of course, is the National Society for
Crippled Children and Adults, Inc. This
society has fortytwo wellorganized official
state affiliates, with some two thousand
local chapters, and is based on the most
intelligent and scientific approaches to the
problems of the disabled. The magazine of
this organization, The Crippled Child.
features articles by recognized authorities
on recovery methods, occupational therapy,
rehabilitation, prosthesis, etc. This
organization is financed by the annual
national Easterseal sales, by private
subscription, and by state allotment of
funds. A handicapped person in need of
guidance of any sort would most wisely seek
These organizations offer admirable
encouragement and practical assistance to
many disabled. In my opinion, their greatest
service is to the newcomer to the clan,
those who are groping "at the bottom of the
worst" and who desperately need the
fortification of others' experiences in
Once an amputee is well adjusted to life,
there is of course no necessity for his
seeking his associates among the similarly
maimed. In fact, too prolonged an interest
in a personal physical abnormality is likely
to breed an unhealthy introversion or
I have a uniped acquaintance who almost
makes a profession of her handicap. I
recognize this as a defense mechanism, but I
don't condone it. She writes me long,
sixpage typewritten letters that are
concerned from start to finish with her
oneleggedness. She has been handicapped for
many years. She is a contented wife, secure
financially, equipped with a good mind, and
in excellent health. I have gathered from
her lengthy opera, however, that her one
major interest in life is her physical
abnormality. It's a strange perverted
narcissism. If she would discuss some little
feminine fripperies, flower arrangement, the
breeding and care of canary birds, or
methods for removing spots from
fabricsalmost anythingI would continue
writing to her. But I simply can't read six
pages every two weeks devoted to her mental
contortions over her longburied extremity.
It's like a widow conversationally digging
up the remains of her twentyyear deceased
partner every time she gets you in a corer.
Not that my thoroughly onelegged friend is
grim in her attitude. On the contrary, she
makes a fetish of cheerfulness. Her
handwriting practically beams at me. She has
gained great spiritual strength from her
suffering and she never forgets it or fails
to remind me of her beautiful burning inner
light. It embarrasses me acutely. You have
spiritual strength or you don't have itso
what? It's as bad taste to mention it as it
is to brag about ancestors or a bulky bank
account. If it's there, spiritual strength,
like good breeding, shows itself; also, like
good breeding, it sickens and dies by the
mere act of selfrecognition and
I know a young man who is blind and who
graduated with honors from the same college
from which I graduated without honors. He
never mentioned his spiritual strength. He
didn't mention his blindness either. He
didn't have to, his blindness and his
spiritual strength were equally obvious.
This young man had been to a school for the
blind. He associated with blind people long
enough to adjust himself to the hardships of
his life, but he didn't spend his time
sitting around with the blind and discussing
blindness. He had many enthusiastic
interests and his friends, who were
legionthe halt, the blind, or just plain
standard merchandisewere those who shared
My philosophizing letterwriter also reminds
me periodically of my obligation to her. "We
have to stick together, we handicapped," she
says. "The rest of the world doesn't
understand us." I'll string along with the
world; it understands me O.K.
It understands quite a few other onelegged
people too. For instance. Herbert Marshall,
the movie starI wouldn't mind being on cozy
terms with him. I think it might be
absolutely lovely, but my interest isn't
humanitarian. It has nothing to do with the
fact that he wears an artificial leg and
might need me to stick to him, poor thing,
because the world doesn't under stand him.
Major Seversky has the world by the tail
tooand young Charles Bolte, the head of the
new American Veterans Committee, swings
along with the world even though his right
sidekicker is timber. Onelegged Laurence
Stallings, the playwright, has an amenable
relationship with the world, too. And what
of the lovelyvoiced Connie Boswell? Does the
world fail to understand her songs because
of her lack of legs?
I have a very dear onelegged friend who is
attractive and interesting, and during the
first ten minutes of our acquaintance she
told me the circumstances of her accident
and I told her the circumstances of mine. We
have been friends for twenty years but our
congeniality is completely detached from our
common handicap. We don't mention it for
years on end.
In fact, the only time that we are at all
conscious of our similar state is when we go
out somewhere and face the public together.
I must say that in the aggregate, a crew of
crutchusers limping into a big hotel dining
room or a theater together create a stir
that I don't enjoy, This young woman and I
were both dinner guests one evening of a man
who also used crutches. We marched through a
popular crowded Hollywood restaurant, to the
accompaniment of a terrific buzz. We might
as well have been the Barrymores having a
family reunion, except that nobody wanted
"One family, do you suppose?" I heard
someone whisper. "All hurt in the same
accidentand all lost a leg! Did you ever
hear of such a thing in all your life!"
"Maybe it's congenitalhe passed it on to his
two daughters . . ."
It's funny, surefunny as a crutch, as the
Whoops!when I entertain my crutchborne
friends, proud as I am of them, I'd rather
bend over a hot stove all day than take them
to a restaurant. They feel the same way I
do. We've all learned to tolerate the casual
curiosity we create alone, but en masse the
curiosity is not casual. It's suffocating!
When the California judge severed the
matrimonial tie that was binding. I decided
to go to New York. I entrained from Los
Angeles decked out in some new grass widow's
weeds, but I didn't feel much like a gay
divorcee. I'd worn a ring on my finger and a
ring in my nose so long, freedom didn't feel
comfortable. I decided to take a year of
graduate work at Columbia University because
it was a long way from California. Although
I entertained the usual maniacal idolatry of
my native state, the place was suddenly
cluttered with sentimental landmarks upon
which I was frequently moved to shower
mournful tears. Since the rainfall situation
out there was adequate without my
reinforcements, I decided to take my tears
Before actually enrolling at Columbia, I
went forth and looked over a few of the more
impressive secretarial schools in New York,
the kind that serve their students a cup of
tea in the afternoon and guarantee all
graduates pink, plush jobs.
I, however, was different. I could buy my
good little black dress from Saks, pay my
tuition, and have my tea, but they wouldn't
guarantee me placement. One of the personnel
interviewers asked me if she could be frank.
She said she thought it would be a fine
thing if I enrolled in her school (I think
she figured the finger exercises would be
good for me) but she feared she couldn't
place me as a secretary.
"I don't think you'd be quite active
enough--shall we say?--for the life."
"Shall we say that you let me be frank for a
I didn't make that crack, of course. That's
what I wished I'd said after I got home.
Instead, in meek surrender, I went back up
to Morningside Heights and enrolled in the
School of Business at Columbia, signing up
for an accelerated course in shorthand and
typing offered yearly to twenty-five
career-crazy college graduates. I felt like
a jaded old hag among all the bright and
eager just down from Smith and Wellesley.
The placement service at Columbia had a much
more hopeful attitude toward me. The
counselor even rashly assured me that I
would be easier to place than most, since I
had had some experience, and that I could
demand a better starting salary. She even
got me a part-time job after class hours
wasting stationery in one of the university
I had regarded learning shorthand and typing
as a dull chore to be endured for the sake
of the economic tool that would thereby
fitted to my hand. it turned out, however,
to be very interesting to me. This was
probably due entirely to the instructress,
Miss Zila McDonald, who really put buck and
wing into her teaching methods. She was a
versatile person who thought shorthand and
typing by day and then at night wrote very
charming books for children.
It was while I was in New York that I
discovered in a small way just what happens
to people who are unwise enough to get their
pictures in the newspapers. Mother always
had a theory that if you led the good life,
you never got your photograph in the paper,
unless you happened to be elected President
of the United States, got married, or died
Well, I led the good life all right, within
fairly generous bounds anyway, but I got my
picture in a New York paper and it wasn't
because I happened to be President of the
United States. On the final analysis there
was really no reason at all for this
Being a Californian, I had had no convenient
opportunity to learn to ski. That winter in
New York, however, I just happened to fall
into a crowd who chattered on and on about
wax and bindings and slalom races and
Christies and a lot of other things that I
still don't understand. All this talk went
into my blood like a hopped-up transfusion.
I too began watching the temperature and
scanning the boards in Grand Central to see
if any ski trains were scheduled.
Finally, one day i took the fatal step that
was to land me on my fanny many a future
time. I went into Best's and bought myself a
neat but not gaudy ski suit, complete with a
heavy cableknit turtle-neck sweater and a
cap to match. It involved such an heavy
expenditure that I couldn't afford not to
use it. So, to protect my investment, I went
to Macy's and bought skis, boots, trappings
and a pair of ski poles. The latter were
ripped to piece by a skeptical but indulgent
friend. He attached the ski-pole ends to a
pair of my light-weight wooden crutches.
The first ski train that left New York that
season had me on it with a crowd of my
skiing friends and about five hundred other
enthusiasts. We only went as far as
Phoenicia. Off the train, one of my cohorts
helped buckled on my lone ski, and I started
pushing myself around with the crutch-ski
poles to get the fee of it.
I wish I could say that before the winter
was over I was coming down the memorial ski
slide like a wind straight out of
Scandinavia. Such was not the case, however.
I finally got to the place where I could
skim up and down the gentle slopes of a golf
course, but that was all. Still, at least
two fellow amputees have accomplished what I
couldn't. Yves Gosselin, a student at Laval
University at Lac Beauport, P. Q., and Bert
Porter of Rutland, Vermont, both have proved
that the downhill slalom can be executed
with exceptional professional skill and
speed by onelegged skiers. I had a lot of
fun anyway, with my unimpressive ups and
downs and got plenty of use out of the
skiing togsin fact, I practically wore the
seat right out of the pants. However, on
that first trip to Phoenicia, I wasn't even
sure I could stand up on a ski. By the end
of the day, I was sure on that point at
least; I couldn't.
Since this was the opening day of skiing for
New York, several of the newspapers sent
photographers out to get humaninterest shots
of the winter frolickers It seems that I was
a humaninterest shot. Two photographers came
up before I'd gotten a hundred yards from
the train and asked if they could take my
"For goodness’ sake, why?" I asked.
"Because a girl with one foot who can ski is
damned interesting," one of them said.
"Well, I can't ski." I said. "I've only had
this ski on for five minutes and I haven't
done anything impressive yet but fall down."
"Oh. that's O.K.," the photographer said.
"You don't have to get technical about it."
"Go ahead and let him take your picture," my
friends all urged.
"Why don't you wait until later?" I
"Maybe I'll know how to ski in an hour or
"We can't wait till you learn to ski, we've
got a deadline to meet."
Two photographers took my picture and so did
a lot of unofficial stray sheep lugging
Brownies. I could almost hear Father's voice
booming clear across the continent.
Fortunately nobody I knew ever saw the
picture. It wasn't in the Times or the
Herald Tribune. But everyone I didn't know
The papers were already on the streetsor to
be more precise, I should say in the
subwayswhen we got back to New York. I got
just the merest glimmer of what I was in for
when we piled our skis into a cab to go
The cab driver turned around and said,
"Jesus! I was just wishing I could lay eyes
on you, kid. I was just now looking at your
picture in the paper. I sure would like to
see you ski."
"Oh, that was all a terrible mistake," I
apologized. "I can't ski."
"That's what you say. You're just modest.
But the paper says different and that's good
enough for me."
That was good enough for a lot of others as
When I got back to my apartment house the
elevator boy was absolutely beside himself.
I felt as if I'd gone out that morning an
ugly duckling and returned a swan.
"Say, they got your picture in the paper! I
was telling a guy, friend of mine, that I
knew you real good and he didn't believe me.
I said I sure knew you."
"Well, that's right, you sure know me real
good," I agreed. "You can tell him I said
"Well, you see, this guy is skeptical. He
says if I know you so good why don't I
introduce him. He said two bucks I didn't
know you at all. I said, "Done.
Where's your friend?" I sighed with
resignation. "With that kind of money
involved, you'd better bring him around."
"He's down to the poolroom on Amsterdamjust
two blocks from here. I'm supposed to be off
duty now, but I stayed on till you got back.
But I'm not asking you to go down to a
poolroom. I wouldn't ask that of you."
"I'm sure you wouldn't. We better go now, so
that I can get back and see how many of my
bones are broken."
He offered to split the two dollars with me,
but I figured it wasn't really honest money,
and I wouldn't touch a penny of it.
For the next two weeks everywhere I went
elevator boys, butcher boys, Western Union
boys, pouchy old boys, and just plain little
boys nailed me. "Say, aren't you the lady
I finally just answered "Yes." From then on
I spent every week end I could at Great
Barrington or Placid or any place that had
enough snow for me to fall down in. I had to
learn to ski. It was the only way to make an
honest woman of me. It nearly killed me.
One of the most interesting encounters that
resulted from that picture in the newspaper
was my runin with the law. I was walking
along Fifth Avenue one afternoon when a big
Irish policeman down the block took after me
at a gallop. "Pardon me." he puffed when he
caught up, "Aren't you the lady that skis?"
"Well, sort of."
"I thought so." He grinned from ear to ear.
"My sister has only one leg and she saw your
picture in the paper and she said she'd sure
like to meet you. She doesn't get around too
well herself and she'd like to know how you
possibly manage to ski. I told her I was
sure I'd seen you on my beat once or twice
right here on Fifth avenue and that if I
ever saw you again, I'd speak to you."
"I'd be very happy to meet your sister," I
said. And then I remembered a conversation
I'd had just that day with Jessie Fenton, a
novelist friend of mine for whom I was doing
some typing. She was threatening to go out
and pick up a New York policeman because she
needed some authentic background material
for an arrest scene in her book Down the
Dark Street. Here was the man for Jessie,
complete with an amputee sister for me.
"Why don't you bring your sister and come up
and call on me some evening?" I suggested,
and I whipped out a card and wrote out my
address. "Could you come on Tuesday?"
We had quite a party. Dr. and Mrs. Fenton
came, and so did my current beau, who didn't
approve of my picking up a policeman on
"What's the matter with policemen?" I asked
him "You're just a glorified flatfoot with
arch supporters yourself." He was with Army
intelligence, a sort of a prewar
My roommate was also present to cast her
gloomy disapproving countenance on the
The sister was a charming young woman, and
we spent most of the evening handing each
other the usual sisterhood chitchat. Mrs.
Fenton got all the answers for her arrest
problem from the policeman. He blushed with
pride and began composing his sentences
carefully when he realized that he was
contributing to literature. He entertained
us for the remainder of the evening with
some lurid and amusing incidents from his
twenty years' duty as one of New York's
Finest. Even my roommateeven my beau
admitted that it was a most successful
A few days later the policeman delivered me
a summons over the telephone. He said that
he and his sister wanted to return my
hospitality. I accepted promptly. They gave
me dinner in a very nice restaurant off
Washington Square. We had a pleasant time.
The cop dropped his sister off at her
apartment in the Village and drove me uptown
It seemed that the policeman didn't want all
onelegged girls to be sisters to him. He
tried to put the long arm of the law around
me. Thus ended a beautiful friendship.
"Having a Wonderful Time"
When I went to New York, I had in mind for
myself a flashy career right out of a
woman's slick magazine plot. I would have an
office on at least the fiftyninth floor of a
skyscraper and would get ahead so fast that
vicepresidents would shiver over their
breakfast coffee daily in fear that when
they got to their offices I would have
usurped their swivel chairs. Friends in
California were going to hear about me clear
across the continent and marvel and envy.
"Just thinkand we never really appreciated
her genius. She lives in a penthouse now. .
. ." I was going to be one of the noisiest
trumpets in The Manhattan symphony, and wear
a JohnFrederics hat with a rose on top.
When I went in for my placement interview at
Columbia, however, I was almost as startled
as the counselor when I heard myself
announce with burning sincerity that I'd
like a job in the hinterland.
"Do you mean that you'd leave New York?" she
demanded sternly, as if she were giving me a
"Yes," I said. "The subways smell. And I'd
like to go some place where cultivation is
on a larger scale than in the window boxes
at Bonwit Teller. I'll live in the country
and come back here on my vacations just to
"Of course," the counselor warned me, "the
opportunities for advancement probably won't
be as plentiful if you take a job in a small
town. I think you might be quite successful
"You know," I said, "confidentially, I don't
think I really want to get ahead. Yesterday
I visited some bright young friends of mine.
They've all got fascinating jobs and they
are all forging ahead fast. They live five
in one apartment. To get into their
bathroom, you have to fight your way through
damp stockings that are as thick as Spanish
moss growing on old oaks in a Louisiana
swamp. I'll take less money in a spot where
it goes farther and where people sometimes
stroll. Of course, I'd just as soon have s
job that's interesting."
"Well, the Fels research Institute at
Antioch College in Ohio wants a secretary
who can also edit their publications."
On my way to California for the summer, I
stopped in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and had an
interview with Dr. Sontag, the director of
the Fels Research Institute. It is one of
the leading childstudy centers in the
country, making a longrange inquiry into the
effects of prenatal and postnatal
environment. I wanted a job there very much.
Just to face the issue immediately and have
it over with, I said to Dr. Sontag, "I hope
that my handicap doesn't come as too great a
shock to you. It really isn't hampering to
me at all, and I assure you that you won't
have to make any allowances for me in
assignment of duties, if you should decide
to give me a chance here."
Dr. Sontag, with dignified solemnity said,
"As a physician there is very little that
Had I known him better at the time, I would
have recognized a slight shift in the level
of his right eyebrow that implied amusement.
If he had possessed a beard I am sure he
would have chortled into it. He hired me a
fewdays later by telegram. When I returned
to Ohio to take up my duties, I had a chance
to see my reference letters that had been in
the Doctor's possession when he interviewed
me. There was no doubt; my handicap
certainly didn't come as a surprise to him!
Every single reference letter went into
flowery rhetoric about my physical
condition. Curiously enough, the letters all
treated my handicap like some kind of subtle
virtue. It was dwelt upon much more fully
than any of my good, sterling secretarial
qualification. The letters were flattering
enough, but I still marvel that anyone ever
hired meas a secretary anywayon the basis of
them. They certainly weren't typical
They contained choice eulogies similar to
these: ". . . and she can carry a cup of hot
tea across a room as gracefully as anyone
else." ". . . she can chin herself sixteen
times on a bar." (It didn't specify what
kind of a bar.) ". . . this girl can
actually beat me at tennis." Ideally, the
letters would have been most persuasive
pleading the case of a somewhat bright
slugger applying for a job as bouncer in a
night club. I asked Dr. Sontag whatever
possessed him to take a chance on someone
whose gentlest talent was carrying a cup of
tea and who otherwise sounded thoroughly
muscle bound and probably had two
cauliflower ears concealed under her hat. "I
figured we could always use you to put down
an insurrection." That was all the
satisfaction I ever got out of him. My job
had everything I like bestexcept a big
salary. However, money stretched twice as
far in a village as it would have in New
York. I could wear comfortable shoes to work
and I didn't have to put on a hat in the
morning and race for the subway, and nobody
cared whether or not I had a good little
black dress from Saks. The staff at the
research foundation and at the college were
friendly and interesting people. The
subjects of the studyabout one hundred
children of all sizes and shapes and
varietiesbreezed in and out of the offices
on schedule to liven up my routine The work
was varied, and I learned all manner of
fascinating things while I corrected the
spelling and punctuation of the scientists
who did the research and wrote the
publications. When I looked out my office
window, I saw green grass with crocuses
pushing through it in the spring and red
leaves lying on it in the fall. There was
air enough for everyone to breathe deeply.
The vacations were long, with pay. And the
Antioch atmosphere was so thoroughly
congenial and stimulating that many people
exposed to it go through the remainder of
their lives with a retrogressive psychosisa
wistful tendency forever to look back on
"the good old days."
I am quite sure I would have grown old and
toothless, but not rich, quite contentedly
on that job, if I hadn't happened onto the
one thing that had more appeal.
During my second summer's vacation, my
college roommate, Lucile Hutton, came East
and together we drove my car all over Quebec
and Ontario in Canada and through New
England. It was on Cape Cod, in
Provincetown, that the feeling came over me
strongly that maybe my job in Ohio didn't
have absolutely everything. We stayed in
Provincetown much longer than we had
planned, while I humored this whim which
wasted no time developing into a lifetime
I met a Man. I have met quite a few in my
day, but this was different. It was a
pickup. Who picked up whom is still a moot
family question. Anyway, we met in the
Provincetown Museum and wasted at least an
hour acting interested in old Sandwich glass
and whalebones. We haven't yet been formally
introduced, but we've gotten by all right on
an informal basis. I recognized the
encounter as important. That very night I
wrote a postcard to an attractive friend of
mine in New York. "Having a wonderful time.
Met a magnificent man in a museum. Terribly
glad you aren't here."
She replied by postcard. "Is magnificent man
in museum a mummy? If so, glad I'm not there
too." "Magnificent man not a mummy, but
would make a fine pappy. I think his name is
Herman. but that's all there is against
His name wasn't Herman. It was Shermanso,
all faults thereby eliminated, he turned out
to be perfect. To indicate my complete
enthusiasm for him, I must admit that I
accepted his proposal of marriage while
still believing him to be Herman.
I wasn't nearly as impetuous as he was,
however. He didn't even have an
approximation of my given name when he
proposed. And he made his declaration, of
necessity, at the top of his lungs.
We were riding horseback along the Cape Cod
dunes. He suggested that we get off our
horses, but since I was so unimpressive on
the remount and didn't have a crutch with
me, of course. I refused. I show a
regrettable simplemindedness at times. In
addition to my own lack of cooperation,
another deterrent to romance was my horse.
He didn't feel so friendly disposed toward
the other horse, as I did toward the other
rider. In fact, my unobliging nag stayed at
least two lengths ahead or two lengths
behind his stablemate.
Still "Herman" was a man of action who was
determined to overcome all odds. He wished
he knew my first name since he felt the
situation might be cozier under the
circumstances. But nothing could defeat him
when his inspiration came. He yelled down
the dunes after me. "Mrs. Harris! Mrs.
Harris!" he called. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh, Herman," I yelled back. "I would simply
love to marry you and you may call me
Louise, now that we are formally engaged."
"And you may call me Sherman, if you want
to," he said. "That's my name." So I did,
and he didand three months later we were
The only reason we waited that long was
because my father sent me a stern parental
wire. "Insist you get acquainted with this
stranger before marrying him."
As I said to Father. "You just don't know
how easy it was to get acquainted with him.
Besides, I'm terribly good at it."
In Praise of a Peg Leg
SHERMAN was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but
since his father was a naval officer who
merely happened to be stationed there at the
time of this most blessed event, Sherman
can't really claim the honest status of a
fine old Southern Gentleman. The one thing
he ~o~ from Virginia, he says, was a
discriminating taste for mint juleps. This
seems a bit precocious, since he left there
at the age of six months, but I never
question his talents. As a Navy officer, his
life was a roving one. He did spend his
preparatory school and college years in New
Jersey, but he never legally adopted any
locality until he got old enough to have an
effective mind of his own. Then he chose
himself a state and became much more
tiresome about it than a native. He selected
In his enthusiasm for the place, he allowed
a mild touch in the head, quite similar to
the psychosis that frequently afflicts
Californians and Texans with their typical
spells of wild, frenzied exultation over
their native soil. When I met Sherman, he
was only in the East vacationing with his
family. I was not for a minute allowed to
forget that he was still young Lochinvar out
of the West.
When he did his courting, he polished off
two jobs simultaneously. He wooed me
effectively and at the same time sold me
Arizona. In fact, frequently his
doublethreat technique was a little
confusing. If he spoke highly and with
passionate warmth of the color "blue," for
instance, there was no point in my
fluttering my lashes. He was likely to be
transported over the Arizona sky, not my
eyes. And curves, well, they might be mine,
but more probably he was describing some
road high in the Chiricahua Mountains, 200
miles from me. It was a little disconcerting
but now and again he'd toss good old Tray a
nice bonus and I was content.
He snared me in both traps. I not only was
anxious to marry him, I was dying to be a
Pioneer Woman in Arizona. If I couldn't
actually mold the course of empire, I at
least could paint the walls and hang some
gingham curtains in the adobe house that
Sherman had out there, plunk in the middle
of a terrific, overpowering piece of
He was very forthright with me, before he
lured me away from my typewriter and into
"How do you feel about public utilities?" he
"Well," I said, "if you are inquiring about
my dowry, I own two common stocks in Pacific
Gas and Electric. The income keeps me in
"No, that wasn't what I had in mind," he
said. "I just wondered if you had any
special attachment for running water, piped
gas, electricity, and telephones."
"Water, I like. I don't abstain. I'll take a
drink with the best of them." I said, "and I
do like my meat seared on the outside."
"We'd have water, of course. There's a fine
well and lots of heat but it comes from a
fireplace and a coal cook stove."
"For goodness' sake," I assured him
light-headedly, "that takes care of
"Except plumbing," he added ominously.
But I wasn't one to let hot and cold running
water and a flush toilet interrupt the
course of true love.
Sherman drove West in a new car and I went
out s few weeks later on the train. He met
me in New Mexico and we were married.
We lived in an adobe house, a former ranger
station in the Dragoon Mountains, long
abandoned by the Forest Service. We paid
five dollars a month for it. We had eighty
acres of land, two horses who came galloping
up when we rang a dinner bell, and a cow
named Pearl (the variety that should be cast
before swine). She was always kicking the
bucket, but by that I don't mean she died.
She wasn't that obliging. I still don't like
We also had twelve hens named for flowers.
We couldn't distinguish Arbutus from
Marigold, however. They all looked alike,
except one that turned out to be a rooster.
But he died violently early in life. The
only problem connected with this anonymity
was that when we stewed one of the girls we
never knew which blossom we'd plucked.
We were fortyfive miles from pavement, three
miles from our postbox, twentysix miles from
the grocery store, and seven miles from a
friendly neighbor. We did have a neighbor
five miles away but he wasn't exactly
cordial. He had the annoying habit of
shooting at us.
Everything Sherman told me about Arizona was
true. The place positively reeked of fresh
air. It was hand in glove wit Nature, and
everything Nature did around the place she
did in a big way. There were tremendous
mountains propped up all over the horizon.
When the sun shone, it seared. When the
rains came, they flooded. When the winds
blew, they sounded like Niagara Falls
torrenting down our canyon. When the furry
friends in the forest made noises, they
screeched because they were wildcats and
mountain lions. It was all quite violent,
and when I got over a slight nervous
breakdown caused by finding a rattle snake
on my front doorstep one day and discovering
a mountain lion on my roof one night, I
quite liked it. I'd have made a fine wife
for Daniel Boone.
The coal stove and I didn't hit it off like
soulmates from the start. We didn't read
life's meaning in each other's eyes. I had
to get onto her dietary habits and finally
learned just the proper mixture of tinder
for her tastes and how much coal to shovel
into the ravenous, gaping black mouth. She
was allergic to wood and smoked like a
dragon when it was forced upon her as a
I finally became the masteror, at least, I
thought I was the master. The stove,
however, was a villain at stomach (she had
no heart). She had a longterm design for
demolishing me through my very devotion to
It was carrying the coal buckets that worked
the havoc. Sherman always drayed the fuel
for both the stove and the fireplace.
However, he became quite ill in the dead of
winter and was in bed for several weeks.So,
of necessity, I took to shoveling the coal.
I thought I was quite the Amazon when I
lugged my big bucketfuls for the insatiable
stove and chopped and carried wood to the
equally ravenous fireplace. But I was being
I had heard of crutch paralysis from time to
time throughout my life. In fact, old Mrs.
Ferris who first instructed me in the use of
crutches had warned me about it when she
taught me to protect the brachial nerves by
leaning my weight on the palms of my hands,
not my armpits. But, frankly, I rather
regarded the whole grim idea as an old
wives' tale. Even when I began to feel a
numbness in my hands, usually noticed in the
night or in the morning when I awoke, I
assumed that I'd been lying on my arm and
that the member had gone to sleep. The fact
that shaking my hand quickly brought it to
life added evidence to this theory.
When I began to experience a similar
sensation during the day, I diagnosed myself
as an arthritic and decided to see a doctor
on our next trip to Tucson to find out what
treatment was prescribed for arthritis. I
didn't mention it to Sherman, since he was
sick and might get fretful over it. I simply
closed my mind to the possibility of crutch
My husband wasn't quite as debonair about it
when I finally got around to mentioning
casually that I had arthritis.
"By the way," I announced one morning when
he was up and convalescing waspishly, "I
have arthritis now."
"Arthritis!" he yelled at me.
"Yes," I said huffily, "arthritis. Can't I
have anything? You've been sick for four
weeks." I described my symptoms. "Brachial
paralysis!" He kept right on yelling.
"Carrying the coal did it." He was sure.
"That heavy weight pulling you down hard on
the saddles of your crutches." He had me in
the car and over ninety miles of rough road
to Tucson in an hour and a half.
The doctor confirmed Sherman's diagnosis,
not mine. I was, he told me, in the
beginning stages of brachial paralysis and
I'd have to quit carrying heavy things and
leaning all my weight in my armpits while I
did it. In fact, I'd have to get off my
crutches completely while I did my housework
unless I wanted permanently useless arms.
I was determinedly reluctant to accept his
medical opinion. I regarded it as a
conspiracy between Sherman and the doctor.
"If I had come in without crutches," I
insisted perversely, "mightn't you have said
I had arthritis" The thought of going back
to an artificial leg seemed a dire fate to
"Maybe." the doctor said, but you came in on
"How do you know you aren't just falling for
the obvious?" Sherman dragged me away before
I took the name of Hippocrates in vein.
Of course, intellectually, I knew that the
doctor had told me the truth and I was
merely trying to prove him wrong because I
was scared to death. A leg I could get along
without nicely, but I was awfully attached
to my arms.
Sherman and I made plans to go to California
as soon as possible and shop around for a
Curiously coincidental, three days later, an
ancient weatherbeaten old prospector walked
into our yard, leading a burro. It was not
at all unusual for a prospector to appear at
our house. I'd fed many of them who roamed
through our lonely mountain area hunting for
pay dirt. They usually could spin wonderful
yarns, but none of them ever had a story to
tell me comparable in practical worth with
this prospector's tale.
He was a brother Elk. "Timbah!" Sherman
called to me when he saw the old man appear
at our gate. He wore a peg leg.
I felt sorry for the old man because I
figured he couldn't afford a better
prosthesis than a peg. However, he promptly
put me right on that score. He felt sorry
for me, because I didn't have sense enough
to own a peg myself. "Young lady," he told
me solemnly, "you already got yourself a
man. If you figger you can keep him without
being fancied up all the time, you get
yourself a peg. It's a mighty handy thing to
He told me about himself. He had been hurt
in a mining cavein, caught under a shattered
stull. He had used crutches, of course. You
can't escape that phase of development, and
he'd also used an artificial leg with all
the best modern gadgetry. But by studied
choice, he was a devotee of the peg. He
traveled over the roughest terrain, climbed
mountains, scrambled over rocks, dug shafts,
and crawled into them. He rarely knew the
luxury of smooth sidewalks.
"The peg is the only prop for a real
workingman," he told me.
In his own jargon, he pointed out that the
peg is a device that gets down to
fundamentals. Any other prosthesis is merely
a complication of the basic principle
exemplified in the pegwith the addition of
articulation and aesthetic qualities. The
onearmedman's hook is a similar case in
point. It is his basic usable prosthesis,
'with the artificial hand merely a cosmetic
accessory to be worn for inactive dress
occasions. The old prospector pointed out
that the knee joint and the verisimilitude
of shape in the artificial leg add to the
appearance of normalcy in the handicapped.
but they also add weight and deduct
efficiency and security.
He told me that he once went out on a
prospecting trip on a fine new artificial
leg. He had learned to walk very wellon even
floors and paved streets. He was tired,
however, before he'd traversed a mile over
the rough mountain trails that were an
integral part of his normal life. And before
he returned (on the burro, with a damaged
and useless leg slung on behind the
saddlebags), he was fatigued to the point of
"You can't do that to a burro," he explained
simply. "Prospecting is all the life I know.
I had to do something. so I got me a peg.
This one here I got in Tucson. Took the man
three days to make it and it cost a quarter
of the price of my regular wooden leg from
up to Phoenix."
That night Sherman and I decided to go to
Tucson in the morning and order a peg to
tide me over until such time as we could get
someone to take care of our place while we
went through the more prolonged custom leg
building in California.
The orthopedic fitter who measured me
thought I was out of my mind. He kept
telling me that he'd never before met a lady
who wanted a peg, and his implication that I
was certainly no lady was obvious. The whole
deal made him frightfully nervous. I think
he felt temporarily like a medical quack. He
was very .anxious to make me an orthodox
"Not just now," I told him. "I'm planning to
get a regular artificial leg later, on the
"You may," he assured me, "put your leg into
my hands with confidence."
I had forgotten the solemnity with which
most of these craftsmen regard their trade.
"There are few gentlemen into whose hands I
put my leg with confidence," I said, but I
should have held up a sign labeled "Joke:
laugh please," because my friend the leg
maker wasn't in the mood to cope with a
comic. He merely gave me a disturbed grimace
and told me with a shudder tat I was making
a horrible misstep and wasting my fifty
Actually, I never took a firmer step than
that one nor invested half a hundred more
profitably. However, I didn't know it myself
at the time. I was inclined to share the
orthopedic artisan's dim view.
I felt like a perfect fool when I put the
peg on and started using it around the
house; There is something basically comical
about a Peg Leg Peteat least American humor
has made it so. However, there was nothing
comical in the fact that my paralytic
symptoms disappeared almost immediately and
I could carry all the coal I wanted to.
In a couple of weeks we went to California
and I shopped around and finally ordered
myself a $250 lega splendid, shapely,
glamorous number that I brought back and
almost immediately hung in the closet. I put
on the peg again.
The old man was quite right. As a
workingman's device it couldn't be
outsmarted. It was light, and could be put
on in the mornings almost as quickly as I
could pick up a crutch. It didn't have to be
dressed in a stocking and shoe. It played me
no temperamental tricks. It was unbending,
but as dependable as most virtuous,
unbending characters are It required no
repairs and adjustments beyond an occasional
new shoulder strap. And, well covered with
the leg of my Levis, it scarcely showed. It
just gave the rather unusual impression that
I was half horse and had a foot on one side
and hoof on the other.
There is, I believe, a reason why
practically all French veterans of World War
I who lost their legs wore pegs. The
preferred them, and in France there were no
mild snickers over the device. The wearers
were honored for the symbol of their
sacrifice. Even Maurice BunauVarilla, the
owner of Le Matin and one of France's
wealthiest citizens, always wore a peg leg,
and not because he couldn't afford the best
and most scientific prosthesis on the market
anywhere in the world. He used the peg, one
of his acquaintances told me, because it was
light, efficient, and completely dependable.
I am still selfconscious about Margaret
(Peggy to her intimates). I never venture
out of the house on it, except to garden in
my own yard. I am just too vain. I put on my
artificial leg or, more generally, my
crutches, when I face people. Many of my
close friends don't even know I possess a
peg, since I don't often admit to ownership
of this naive little device. However, if
some cold, blizzardly night I were faced
with the necessity of chopping up either my
artificial leg or my peg for firewood, it
would be my fancy, curved confection that
would get the ax.
I don't lug coal any more. I now live quite
a civilized life, with all the elegant
utilities on tap. But I always do my
housework on the peg. It is preferable to my
highly respected crutches since it leaves my
arms free to reach for cobwebs and it allows
pliability that the crutches prohibitbending
and stretching. I trust the peg, even if it
isn't as cosmetic as a leg, as thoroughly as
I would a good precalamity flesh and blood
appendage. Moreover, at the end of spring
housecleaning, I may be tired, but it's not
from lugging around about twenty pounds of
beautifully carved tree.
I don't make a brief for the use of a peg
leg by a person who possesses his own knee.
These aristocratic unipeds aren't in my
class at all. Nor is there any advantage to
a man who never leaves the pavement and
works at a desk all day. But for anyone with
a thigh amputation who has a more active
role in life than sitting on a satin sofa
and contemplating his own calves, there's
nothing like it.
Also, if you're invited to a masquerade and
own a peg, you can always dress up like Long
John Silver and win first prize. I did,
Gone to the Dogs
IN the wilderness our social life was not
madcap. Week ends we frequently had guests
from Tucson the hardy kind who really liked
to rough it and were very useful as
woodchoppers. We also occasionally had the "Ilovethecommonpeople"
variety. This species thought we were "just
terribly quaint, my dear" and "Isn't it
absolutely thrilling getting close to
Nature." They were usually useless and
invariably got so close to Nature on one
visit that they departed with the conviction
that it wasn't quaint we were, but crazy.
About once a week we saw our closest
friends, Can and Barbara Tuthill,
archeologists, who were digging up a dead
civilization near by. They knew how to cope
with our folkways and mores because theirs
Weekdays when we had any social life, which
was rare, it was with our neighbors. This
usually consisted of the men in one corner
discussing the "feed" (the state of the
grass that the cattle grazed on), and the
women in another corner window shopping
together through the Sears Roebuck
We did have a temporary dizzy whirl of
popularity, at the time we put in plumbing.
Everyone came to gaze at the wonder of it
all: We thought of holding open house with
punch ladled from the bathtub. One family,
with whom we were only on nodding terms,
brought all seven of their children over for
an educational call.
These little pets all had running noses that
their Mother couldn't catch up with. She was
the official custodian of the one family
handkerchief, and she swabbed here and there
when the situation got really acutely
effusive. It was obvious from the beginning
that they had all come over merely to try
out the new plumbing. Someone was in the
bathroom all eveningusually two at a timeone
to instruct and one to perform.
One rancher's wife demanded that her husband
install plumbing at their place. After all,
she argued if we could have it, why couldn't
she? He gave out with the following
incomprehensible logic. "You don't need
plumbing," he told her flatly "They only
need it because that poor woman is
"Honestly!" the ranch wife told me, "it just
makes me want to break my legI swear it
Actually, our most congenial and constant
companions in the wilderness, of necessity,
were animals. A lonely life promotes a
strong kinship between animals and humans.
This kinship is likely to get completely out
of hand, in fact, and become almost
pathological. We found ourselves continually
comparing our dog's looks and character to
that of some our oldest friends and
relativeswith the dog winning all the
We were on cordial terms with a great
variety of creatures. We even had an amiable
relationshipor at least a friendly trucewith
a skunk who lived under our house. We also
had a tame baby bassarisk (the ringtailed
cat) and a tame road runner or paisano, the
comical bid of the Southwest who makes
better time on foot than on wing.
Our real intimates, however, were Pancho, a
huge German shepherd one hundred pounds on
the hoof and built on the general lines of a
great Dane; and a small runt of a gray
tomcat, named "Oscar the Wild," but known to
his consorts as "Kitty."
I would gladly have taken a correspondence
course in barking and meowing for the
privilege of communicating with these two in
their own language. The dog, however, was an
intellectual. He could understand English. I
almost believe he could have spoken it too,
if he'd had a mind to. But he was an
unpretentious fellow who felt he should
remain a dog for appearances' sake. When I
got really frantic over silences. I talked
to Pancho by the hour. He, more than anyone
I ever knew, treated my opinions with grave
Pancho was remarkable. He looked upon most
humans with a wary. suspicious eye. We
didn't discourage his cynicism. A good ranch
watchdog is more valuable than a dozen Yale
locks. Nobody ever unlatched our gate,
uninvited, when Pancho was on the other side
of it announcing his intention to rip the
intruder into mouthsize bites. The dog
tolerated our friends, but he simply didn't
love anyone except Sherman and meand all
other people who used crutches! He first
displayed this gentle quirk in his nature
one day when we were in Tucson. Pancho
always walked along the city streets on a
leash, carrying his aristocratic nose high
and peering down it at pedestrians.
Frequently people spoke to him admiringly,
but he treated them with the disdain of a
royal prince grossly insulted by a commoner.
But one day, as we strolled along, his tail
started wagging ecstatically and he pulled
me right up to a stranger standing by a shop
window. The man used crutches. Pancho made a
great demonstration of approval. I finally
dragged him away.
It didn't occur to me then that it was the
crutches that softened the heart of the dog.
I merely assumed that from a canine point of
view, the stranger. who was none too
scrubbed and tidy, must have had a very
delicious and meaty smell.
However, when we were in California, Pancho
again displayed an instantaneous interest in
a crutch user whom we encountered on a
treeinspection tour down San Pasqual Avenue
in Pasadena. This was a very neat and
fastidious woman. Pancho went right up to
her and, showing a great deal of his
oldworld charm, told her in a most cordial
manner that she was a femme fatale.
"That's a nice, friendly dog." the woman
said. "Well," I explained, "actually, he is
generally regarded as a menace to life and
limb. You know, I think he likes you because
you use crutches." "All dogs like me," she
said, but this was a confession that always
left Pancho cold. I was convinced it was the
Just to test this theory, I took the dog
around to call on a twocrutch friend of
mine. And instead of snubbing her, which was
his usual superior practice with my friends,
Pancho greeted her with humble servitude.
Anyone on crutches who loves dogs has to
watch out for the enthusiastic ones who jump
up. A crutch with its basic construction of
the split stick, the two parts spread at the
top and gradually slanted to join in a
ferrule at the bottom, creates a vicious
trap for a friendly paw. The first lesson I
teach a new puppy is not to jump up on me,
In spite of all my communing with animal
life, I found time a little heavy on my
hands when Sherman was caged up writing
Western pulp stories, the cat was off
sparring with mice, and the dog was out
chasing jack rabbits. I was the only
nonprofessional member of the family. To
break the habit of tapping my foot against
the floor to amuse myself. I also took to
writing short stories.
I used the kitchen table as an office desk.
To this day, I find that my only touch of
artistic temperament is a tendency to work
most effectively with the odor of stew or
baking beans in the air. When inspiration
fails me, I can usually summon it back by
cleaning out the refrigerator or baking a
pie. I miss the coal bucket, however, on
which I used to prop my peg.
I have often thought that if I ever get rich
and famous I'll buy myself a sterling silver
coal scuttle, all it with hunks of black
obsidian, and have it sitting by my desk for
a peg stool. I think that would be a rather
appropriate whim for an eccentric literary
figure. When I sold my first story I simply
couldn't regard the check as serious money.
I was too amazed at becoming an "author."
The honorarium seemed like a windfall from
Heaven, like an inheritance from a distant
relative I'd never heard of. I treated it
precisely as I used to heat quarters slipped
me by an indulgent uncle when I was ten. I
went right out and spent it frivolously,
buying myself some fancy clothes that I had
absolutely no place to wear. Sherman and I
still refer to a neat little black number
that hung unused for two years in my closet
as my "author's dress." It wasn't until the
war and Sherman kissed me farewell and
marched of to fight for Old Glory that I
began treating my "literary" checks with
proper respectbuying bread and bacon and
gingham dresses with them.
The war took us away from our little canyon
haven. It would have been a perfect place
for a draft dodger to hide, as I pointed out
to Sherman, but he couldn't get into an
enlistment queue fast enough. We packed into
our station wagon all our possessions worth
transporting, and assigned custody of Chico,
the road runner, to the country
schoolteacher, who also took over our lease.
With the dog and cat, we set off for
California. Sherman stowed me away in a
cottage at Laguna Beach before rushing off
to protect the Four Freedoms. Pancho, who
should have made a splendid hospital orderly
in the K9 Corps, as Comforter First Class to
convalescent on crutches, was our only fatal
wartime casualty. He was a wilderness dog
who recognized the splintered scream of a
mountain lion and knew the menace of the dry
paper like crackle of a rattle snake, but he
was naive about city hazards. One night I
let him out for his usual run on the beach
before bedtime. I never walked him myself
along the shore because crutches sink deep
into sand and make hard going. He didn't
I called him several times. But since he
frequently strayed for long periods, wildly
racing the waves along the shore and
stirring up the seagulls into white clouds,
I wasn't worried until a young man came and
knocked on my door.
"Is your dog here?" he asked me. Somehow I
could tell that this was only a rhetorical
question. "No," I answered. "No, he isn't
here." I suddenly had a stomach full of sick
"I'm afraid your dog is badly hurt," the
young man told me. "He tried to get home but
he fell just down the street. It must have
been a hit and run driver on the blacked out
highway. I recognized him as the big black
dog who belonged to the girl on crutches, so
I started hunting for you, even though I
didn't know your name. A man three doors
down said that a girl on crutches lived in
this house. A friend of mine is getting his
car. We'll drive you to the veterinarian."
"You're very kind," I said, "but I have a
"No, it would be best if we drove you
through the dimout. It's probably hard for
you to drive."
Tenderly these two good Samaritans lifted
the broken body of the beautiful dog into
their car. With gasoline more precious than
Chanel No. 5, they drove me eight miles
along the wardarkened coast highway to a
The dog knew, I think, that his head rested
in my lap. He gave a deep, shuddering sigh,
half agony and half content, before he died.
If it hadn't been for my identifying
crutches, my dear old friend would have had
to depart in loneliness. It is curious what
strange purposes they have served.
Sherman bought me a frisky, leaky, new
German shepherd puppy on his next leave. He
was an engaging little fellow and I loved
him, but he never quite filled my heart,
which was stretched to accommodate the big,
crutchloving old Pancho.
I wish I had done as much for the war effort
as my crutches did for me during the war. In
a patriotic effort to keep Democracy alive,
I finally had to wear my artificial leg when
I went to stand in a meat line. Frenzied
women, frantic for a smell of beef, would
still push me and my crutches right up to a
counter ahead of themselves. I always felt
so apologetic that I'd have only enough
courage to ask for a soup bone. Since I
figured I'd probably get rickets before the
war was over on such rations, I wore the
leg. On it, I was allowed to take my turn
and fight honorably for my halfpound of
The Face on the Cuttingroom Floor
During our frantic househunting pilgrimage,
whenever we could outmaneuver them, we moved
in on our relatives. Our most tolerant hosts
were Sherman's parents, who welcomed us with
convincing enthusiasm at their home in
Pasadena. They even put up a good front of
stoic calm when their cook departed with a
couple of unkind cuts at how much we ate.
She also mentioned an aversion for our dog
and made it clear that our cat's habit of
bringing his mice to the kitchen door to
show off before consuming them was ill bred
and upsetting to a refined, highminded
It was in Pasadena that Sherman had a sinus
operation and I had a movie offer. We both
nearly died of our respective shocks. I was
walking along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena
one day when a puffy little citizen raced up
behind me. "Wait! You with the crutches.
Just a minute," he yelled. I waited.
"Say, young lady," he panted, "Would you
like a job with the movies?"
"What have you got to offer?" I asked in a
feeble attempt at the grand manner.
"I haven't anything myself, but get hold of
today's paper. I saw an ad in there. You
fill the bill exactly. I've got to runcatch
With that, he was gone. Of course, I grabbed
every paper on the newsstand. It was there,
all right: "WANTED: a girl with an amputated
leg for movie work. Would prefer one who
uses crutches habitually. Good pay and easy
The two latter lures always appeal to me,
even when they aren't tied up with the
movies. The combination was irresistible.
"How would this do for an opener in my
application letter?" I said to Sherman that
night. "My friends all say I am fascinating.
Why, just today I was walking along when
someone called me Ann Sheridanopen and shut
case of mistaken identity."
"Surprise them," Sherman advised cynically.
"Let Mr. Goldwyn say, 'Why, Miss Sheridan,
don't tell me you hacked off your leg just
for this little old part?"
"I wonder what studio it is," I daydreamed
like an adolescent. "I bet it's Twentieth
CenturyFox. They're casting for the Song of
Bernadette. Jennifer Jones is probably even
now planning to grow me a new leg for a
I finally wrote a dignified little note
skimming over what a charmer I was. I merely
admitted to my fulfillment of the amputation
requirement. I sent it off to the anonymous
box number given in the ad. The next day I
had a telephone call. It was the movie
magnate. He told me his name, but it didn't
sound familiar. He wasn't Louis B. Mayer,
anyway, or Darryl Zanuck. He asked me a few
questions. The only one I can remember was,
"How old are you?"
I crossed my fingers and said twentylive. If
he questioned that later. I figured I could
always tell him I had lived recklessly and
was considerably jaded for my years. He made
an appointment to call on me.
He arrived the next day with some henchman
in tow. "Look, she even wears the white
crutches," one of the men said the first
thing when they came into the house.
"Yes, very interesting, very interesting
This, I gathered, was dandy. I must say I
was startled when I discovered why. They
were casting the lead, they told me, for a
Governmentsponsored film for distribution to
servicemen and foreign audiences, on the
life of the famous onelegged French
prostitute who habitually used white
crutches. Her part in the underground
resistance movement was a courageous and
fascinating story and would prove a great
morale builder when depicted on the screen.
"She has now disappeared from Paris and no
one knows what happened to her, whether she
was spirited away by friends or whether her
role was discovered by the Nazis. I don't
suppose you have heard of her? the casting
"Well, rather!" I said. It was difficult to
forget my encounter on the Place de L'Opera
with the sadeyed young man who had advised
me passionately to throw away my white
Before they departed, they informed me that
they were completely satisfied. The part was
mine. I would hear from them shortly when
the picture was ready to go into production.
I asked the leader of the intrigue for his
name and studio connection. He scrawled them
out on a piece of paper.
That night I decided it might be just as
well to find out a little about my producer
before I signed up as a prostitute with him.
I called up everyone I knew who hobnobbed
with the higher brackets in Hollywood.
Nobody had ever heard of my man. I even
called everyone I knew who had so much as
eaten a square meal at the Brown Derby, but
I drew a blank.
Finally I tracked down an acquaintance who
was as ignorant as all the rest about the
mysterious stranger, but he, as casting
director of a large studio, was in a
position to make effective inquiry.
He telephoned "my" studio. "My" man was not
known. That was devastating. An Army moving
picture unit occupying a corner of the lot
didn't know him either. The O.W.I. office in
Los Angeles in charge of government wartime
films, never heard of him, nor were they
scheduling the story described. They were,
in fact, closing their offices that very
day. The studio legal department got
somewhat fretful and excited. But if it was
a racket, it certainly was a really subtle
one, with a very specialized species of
I hated to give up my movie man. "Maybe he
was somebody terribly important, slumming
under a false name," I told Sherman. "You
know, out getting close to the common
"Yes," said Sherman. "He was probably Pandro
S. Berman, out 'Pandroing' incognito."
From that day to this I have heard nodding
more from my movie magnates. They came, they
looked me over, told me I was a great find,
and left. What they were up to is anyone's
guess. I for one have contrived some
If they wanted to locate a certain,
particular onelegged girl by putting out the
irresistible bait of a movie job, they
probably found her. I wouldn't know. But
obviously, they weren't looking for me. I'm
still my old undiscovered self.
But if I never "made Hollywood" as an
actress I did sell a book to the movies. It
was titled Party Line and related a few odds
and ends of juicy gossip that I picked up
during a misspent youth listening in on the
telephone. For the most part, it was written
in Prescott, Arizona, where the waves of the
housing problem finally washed us ashore.
Here not only desperation but delight in the
place and the people turned us into
immovable landmarks. We quit trying to rent
a house and bought one, a small cottage
formerly owned and occupied by a nice old
Instead of throwing it out, which might have
been the wiser course, she threw in her
furniture along with the house. Artistically
speaking, the most dominant piece we
acquired thus was probably the stiff, carved
Victorian settee in the living room, or
possibly the picture which hung over it of a
flimsily draped female sitting by a
waterfall bathing her clean, bare feet.
From my own personal point of view, however,
nothing pierced my emotions quite so sharply
as the black coal stove in the kitchen. The
house was only three years old and was well
plumbed and equipped with other modern
devices. But the old lady apparently had one
psychopathic quirk. She would have no truck
with newfangled stoves.
It had been my equally firm intention never
to have any more truck with the oldfashioned,
black sided, black hearted ones. However, we
knew this was Custer's last stand. Our
despair was such that we would have happily
accepted a wigwam with central heatinga
bonfire in the middle. We'd even have taken
six Hopi boarders, if they came with the
So, my book was composed on a kitchen table,
with my peg again propped up comfortably on
a coal scuttle. This may have been a tonic
for my artistic temperament, But it was an
irritant to my human temper. Civilization
had weakened me.
As winter advanced and the snow heaped up
around the coal cellar and Sherman collapsed
with sinusitis, the rationing board took
pity on me. They gave me a certificate for a
new gas range. "That poor woman . . ." "Sad
case . . ." ". . . onelegged, you know . .
How firm a foundation! Praise the Lord!
My reputation for being not only physically
crippled but something of a lame brain
probably prompted the question that one
local citizen put to my husband when my book
was published. "Say, would you mind my
inquiring how much it cost you?"
"What do you mean?" Sherman asked.
"Did the printing run high? My wife's
written a lot of junk, toopoems and such
likeand she'd like to get it published, and
I just wondered how much that sort of thing
sets you back. You don't figure to cover
your expenses on the book sales, do you?
Nobody's got that many kinfolk." He chortled
merrily. "Of course, with you it's
different," he went on seriously. "You'll
get rid of a lot of copies to people who'll
buy it because your wife's crippled." I am
glad, for the health of my royalties, that
the book sold in a few places besides my own
home town but it wasn't my name on a
national bestseller list that warmed my
heart and made me feel important. It was the
string of customers who bought out the local
supply of my book in half an hour after it
went on the block. With these purchasers,
buying the book wasn't an impersonal
transaction. In most cases, they didn't know
whether the critics said it was tripe or a
treasure. They bought the book because I
wrote it and they wanted to see me get ahead
in the world. What is an anonymous customer
compared to the eager little boy who stood
in line, representing his widowed mother who
worked and couldn't get time off to come for
her copy? He had his two dollars and fifty
cents clutched in his fist and he whispered
to me asI autographed his book.
"We already got seven books," he said
proudly, "but Mama decided to buy your book
anywayyou being crippled and she knows you,
besides. Loraine gets to read it first
because she washed dishes all week. Mama's
going to read it nights when us kids are in
bed. Fred's going to read it second, and
Jane's going to read it out loud to me
third. Then Mama's going to send it to
Grandma to read and then we're going to keep
it on the table right between Pap’s picture
and the goldfish."
Another customer, a sweet old lady, patted
me on the shoulder while I inscribed her
copy. "We're all proud of you, dear," she
said. "As I said to my daughter, something
worth while came out of your misfortune. If
you hadn't had to sit down and rest so
often, I expect you'd never have had the
time to write a book, would you? I guess
you'd be the first to admit that some good
resulted from your being handicapped."
For that latter bit of philosophy anyway,
there is no argument. I certainly would be
the first to admit that quite a bit of good
has come from my being handicapped. For one
thing, I can't possibly imagine what in
Heaven's name there would have been to put
in this, my autobiography, if I'd had two
Louise Maxwell Baker (1909) got her book
“Out on a Limb” published on January 28,
Here is some text from an article from that
The breezy, 37-year-old, best-selling author
of Party Line, a story of small-town small
talk, has used crutches since she was eight,
when she lost her right leg in a bicycle
accident. To Louise Baker life on crutches
is not funny, but it can be fun. She argues
her case persuasively in a witty
autobiography: Out on a Limb (Whittlesey
Mrs. Baker's book is a gold mine of hints to
the legless (of whom there are some 128,000
in the U.S.). Samples: 1) watch out for
dogs—they are liable to get a paw caught in
your crutch; 2) the most efficient and
attractive crutch position is dead vertical;
3) a legless person can always make a sucker
of a carnival weight guesser; 4) a good way
to relieve the boredom of answering nosy
bodies who want to know how it happened is
to tell whoppers (a favorite Baker whopper:
her leg got frozen stiff in skiing and was
chipped off with an ice pick).*
Louise, finding an artificial leg cumbersome
(her leg was cut off above the knee), grew
up mostly on crutches, which became "almost
anatomical." She permits herself "one
immodest, extravagant vanity . . . the
conviction that no one in the world can
handle a pair of crutches better than I." On
crutches, she learned to play tennis well
enough to beat some of her boy friends and
compete in junior tournaments. She also
danced (on one crutch), skated, skied,
hiked. At Pomona College, she became a
skilled horsewoman, captained her class
Mrs. Baker's handicap has not prevented her
from marrying twice or making good as a
newspaper reporter, press agent (for
Chicago's Century of Progress), teacher,
editor. She observes cheerfully that,
besides being an asset in making friends,
one-leggedness has many minor compensations:
e.g., a pair of nylons lasts twice as long.
Among the handicapped, there is a bond of
ready friendship; they "flaunt their
fraternity badges," fraternize wherever they
meet. Some members of the fraternity: Actor
Herbert Marshall, Playwright Laurence
Stallings, Singer Connee Boswell, Planemaker
Major Alexander de Seversky, American
Veterans Committee's Charles Bolte.
*Another stopper: Said a one-armed man,
after a long catechism, ''I'll answer one
more question and that's all." The question:
"How did you lose your arm?" His answer: "It
was bitten off."
from: Louise Baker