Assignment: Memphis¹

Boy, Victorious Over Illness, Rides In Sartorial Splendor
By Lydel Sims

The dreams of  10 year-old boys are strange and wonderful things, especially as they apply to sartorial magnificence. Once, years ago in West Tennessee, such a dream came true. I heard the story  the other night from the man who was the boy - Anderson Renshaw³  of 4263 Airways. We were talking of things parents promise their children when they are sick and Mr. Renshaw smiled suddenly and told me about it.

He lived in Dancyville. One day, while playing in the barnyard, he stepped on a sharp stick and it broke off in his bare foot. What followed was, in those days, as familiar, as it was terrible: tetanus.

Boy Grew Worse
Despite the efforts of the family physician, Dr. J.S. Rawlings, the boy grew rapidly worse. The parents, despairing of his life but praying they were wrong, talked to him as parents will about the fine times he would have when he was well.

What would he like most of all?
Anderson thought it over solemnly. He wanted to go on a real train trip, he said, to visit his two grown brothers down in Mississippi. But mostly, there was something special he wanted to wear. Something he wanted more than anything else in the world.

He grew still worse. At last Dr. Rawlings told the family he had done all he could, except for one thing.  There was something new, an antitoxin for tetanus. Many physicians were hostile to it. He could promise nothing but the chance might be worth taking. Desperate the family agreed. A rush order was sent to the old Van Fleet-Mansfield Drug Company in Memphis. The antitoxin sped back by rail and horseback. And it did the job.

Only  Survivor 

Later as Mr. Renshaw recalled it, Dr. Rawlings was criticized at a medical convention in Memphis for administering the antitoxin. He answered with two questions. How many cases of tetanus had been reported to the organization during the year? More than 40 the secretary replied. And how many had survived? Only the Renshaw child.

But that belongs in a medical version of the story. It is triumph of a boy's dream that concerns us here.

Not long afterward, father and son set out on a real train trip to Mississippi. And neither cared if some of the grownups looked at them and smiled. For Anderson's wish had come true, just as he had been promised it would: He wore what he had so often dreamed of wearing as he sat through the long sermons on Sunday mornings - a stiff-fronted white shirt, a wing collar, and a black bow tie, just like the preacher's.

¹Assignment Memphis is a Copyrighted© column of  the Memphis, Tennessee newspaper, The Commercial Appeal,   which retains all rights to it's use. Used by Permission - granted: June 23, 1999.
²Lydel Sims wrote humor and human interest articles for The Commercial Appeal and other publications. Mr. Sims died in 1995 at the age of 78.
³Mr. Anderson Renshaw was the son of the Rev Renshaw,  the Pastor of the Dancyville United Methodist Church, 1900-1903.