He heard of an organization one evening while at a Washoe County Parks and Recreation meeting called the Nevada Rock Art Foundation. The group had formed with the idea of establishing a refuge designed to save a grouping of petroglyphs along Interstate 80 just east of Sparks.
Tommy was so intrigued by the idea that he contacted one of the founders and asked if he and Debra Reid, the newspapers photographer could be taken on a tour of the area. He wanted to do an article on the place, providing he didn’t disclose the location of the petroglyphs.
Debra Reid was a wiry, thin woman in her 50’s. She had been with the paper for nearly 15-years and had a progressive, if not liberal point of view about the world including anything military or political. Saving “Mother Earth” was her thing along with covering protests.
Doctor Bob Fowler agreed to meet the pair.
By the time Tommy arrived both the doctor and Debra were already there. He could see their vehicles from the Interstate. As he pulled up to park he saw that they had not waited for him, they had gone to the site without him.
After he parked, Tommy walked over to the edge of the roadway and looked down towards the Truckee River. In the distance, to his right he could see Dr. Fowler and Debra, so he decided to head down to join them.
He took to or three steps down the hillside and found a loose stone under his foot. Without warning, he started tumbling headlong down the hill, landing on his left side.
For a few seconds he couldn’t catch his breathe. He just laid there gasping over and over. Then he rolled himself onto his back. That’s when he felt the sudden, sharp pain in his left shoulder, as he gulping a large volume of air into his lungs.
Tommy knew that his shoulder was separated. This had happened several times before. “All I have to do is take my time, relax and it should reduce itself,” he said aloud.
Reduce was the technical term the emergency room used to describe what happened when the arms long bone popped back into the socket.
“It hurts like the dickens,” he told his son Kyle, “But afterwards it feels so much better.”
Slowly he sat up and looked around. Things looks so much different from ground level than from up where he had been. “Usually when I come down a hill I get to see where I’m going,” he chuckled.
Tommy rotated his legs underneath himself until he was on his knees, then he stood up. His shoulder was giving him a lot of pain and he reached up to discover it was drooping lower than he had ever noticed before.
He quickly pulled off his thick gloves and neatly rolled them up. Then he reached inside his light parka and underneath his sweatshirt and stuffed the pair of gloves into his armpit. The gloves offered a small amount of support for the dislocation and helped relieve some of the pain.
Once he finished that, Tommy trekked off to find Dr. Fowler and Debra. The interview with the doctor lasted less than an hour and the threesome hiked out of the river canyon along an easy to negotiate trail.
Back at in the newsroom, Tommy was told that the story would be held over until the weekend edition. “I’m thinking Sunday, for a greater impact on our readers,” said the papers editor Angela Mann.
Tommy felt relieved because he wanted to get off work and go to the Reno Veterans Medical Center and the emergency room look at his shoulder. He could feel it starting to stiffen up and he knew that could not be a good sign.
It was Jessica who noticed that something about Tommy was off.
“Are you okay?” Jessica asked. “You’re as white as a sheet.”
Tommy was feeling a little light headed at the moment. The feeling had been coming and going for sometime. “I fell while at the petroglyph site,” he answered.
“Did you fill out an accident report form?” she asked. It was stupid question to have asked and Jessica knew it the moment she asked it.
“No,” was Tommy’s answer.
“You should go to the clinic,” Jessica said. She picked up the phone and buzzed Nancy the papers business manager.
Nancy came into the newsroom, “You have to go to the clinic, Tommy.”
“I don’t want to go,” Tommy replied, “I’d rather go to the VA Hospital.”
“Nope,” Nancy said, “It’s the clinic.”
“I’m not going and you can’t force me,” Tommy said. Then he added, “I’m not going to wait an hour to take a piss-test just to get my dislocated shoulder relocated!”
Nancy responded, “The law says…”
“The law says that I have to take a piss-test if I report an on-the-job injury,” said Tommy. “Do you have anything in writing?”
“Well, no?” Nancy answered.
“Then there’s been no on-the-job injury,” he replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Tommy smiled and walked out the front door swinging both arms as if they were normal. He fished the keys to his truck from his pocket and climbed in, fired it up and pulled out of the parking lot.
He made certain he had turned off 10th Street and onto Pyramid Way before his manly façade crumbled into what he thought looked like a jagged ball of used paper. Tommy could feel the sweat starting to roll down his back and he gulped for a breath.
It took two hours and 29 pounds of weight for the emergency room doctor to reduce Tommy’s shoulder.