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Strangers no more



Published: Sun, February 5, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Bobbie Cather is religious about her morning power walks in Poland.

She wears a 20-pound walking vest. Each hand grips 6-pound dumbbells. She carves a 3-mile path through the village in the wee hours of the morning before most of Poland has awakened.

And with her is her beloved pit bull, Diamond.

The only sign of life the two typically encounter, Bobbie said, is the car of Phillip Motton, a Vindicator newspaper carrier.

They never talked. But each knew the other’s routine — strangers who weren’t quite strangers.

Two weeks ago, in the pouring rain, she was suddenly left powerless on her power walk.

Diamond had seen a rabbit or squirrel or something, guesses Bobbie, and jerked suddenly to begin the chase. That threw Bobbie off balance and to the ground.

Her arm snapped immediately.

“I was in horrible, horrible pain,” she said. She would find out later that the impact of the fall snapped her arm in two — right below the socket bone that connects to the shoulder.

(It’s OK to grab your arm now. I did. That injury is unimaginable.)

She was just 150 yards or so from her home, but was unable to move from the pain. The rain continued to pound; Diamond continued to bark.

Her neighborhood was dark. Her husband was showering for work. And even if he was not in the shower, Bobbie did not bring her phone that morning.

Then, down the road, she saw the not-quite-the-stranger stranger. Phillip’s headlights reflected down the dark street.

She knew she had to cross the street to get his attention. She crossed the road — her arm dangling.

“I’d seen her before on her walks, but I’d never spoken to her,” said Phillip, verifying that Bobbie and Diamond are quite the power walkers.

“She had these weights in her hands — always pumping.”

When he saw her that rainy morning, she was in tears and in a lot of pain.

“Ma’am — are you all right,” is what Bobbie recalls hearing from Phillip.

Here’s where you should pause to consider some of the realities of that morning, as Bobbie points out:

It’s pouring rain in the morning darkness. He’s a young black guy with many deliveries to make. She’s an older white lady in Poland who’s crying on the ground. Her pit bull is standing over her.

“Not many people are going to do that,” she said. Bobbie admitted she’s not even a subscriber to The Vindy.

Helping wasn’t an issue for Motton.

The pit bull was.

“It was just bravery, I guess,” he said of facing the barking dog. “I overlooked my fear. She was in so much pain, so I just took a chance.”

Diamond was a champ.

Bobbie handed Diamond’s leash to Phillip and he walked the dog down to Bobbie’s house.

He ran back to Bobbie and called her husband and 911. He wrapped Bobbie in a plastic tarp he had in his car to shield the rain.

There’s a light moment at this point:

Phillip said he tied Diamond up to the van in the driveway.

We don’t have a van, said Bobbie.

Phillip was one house off.

When Bobbie’s husband arrived, Phillip ran back down to unstrap the dog from the neighbor’s van.

Within 30 minutes, Phillip was back on his route — the ambulance, police and Bobbie’s husband all taking over the heroics.

But they were strangers no more.

Last Sunday, with pins and plates holding her arm together, Bobbie had Phillip over to her home for a visit. She became more understanding of the size of Phillip’s heart.

In their South Side Youngstown home, Phillip and his mom are raising his two nephews, ages 8 and 9. It was unintended, said Phillip.

But when his sister still needed help last summer and school was about to start, they decided it was best for the boys to stay with their grandma and uncle.

The boys often join Phillip on weekends delivering papers.

“I give them a little money, and they like that,” said Phillip.

He likes that they get exercise from it. The boys race from the homes to the car, trying to be the first one to get the next paper.

He’s teaching them what he’s yearning for — to be his own boss; an entrepreneur.

He’s saving the delivery money to pay for trucking school.

“I like to get on the road. It’s soothing and peaceful,” Phillip said.

Bobbie, whose walks with Diamond will be sidelined for quite a while as she recovers, is just grateful he was on the road that morning.

“You hear so many bad things about people these days,” Bobbie said.

“He never flinched.”

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


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