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Mile Marker 47

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A small town nurse delivers a big surprise.

By Mauray Miller

When the phone rang at 3:40 a.m., I
had a pretty good idea what the call
was about. As the community health
nurse in small, rural Gardiner, 20
years ago, I was on call 24/7.

“We’re heading your way,” Bo
Cleveland said. He sounded excited.
“Meet us on the road.”

His wife Liz
was on her third child, and number
two had come quickly, so we
assumed number three would be
another short labor.

I put on clothes, grabbed my medical
bag and hiked through the pitch
dark to the highway. The moon
had set hours ago, and it was a cool
August night. We had 90 miles
to drive to Bozeman Deaconess

The Cleveland’s VW van pulled
quickly to the side of the road, and
I hopped into the front seat. In the
middle row of seats, Liz was doing
her Lamaze breathing. She appeared
in control.

As Bo pulled out onto the highway,
I asked Liz about her contractions.
She panted they were seven
minutes apart—she thought. Good
thing we’d packed the essentials
a few weeks prior: space blanket,
plastic tarp, towels, and most important,
a strong, bright flashlight.

Bo was handling the driving well,
so 15 minutes in, I climbed back to
the middle seat. The contractions
were now only five minutes apart.
“Bo, could you drive a little faster?”
I asked.

Amazing what a heavy foot and a
clear road can do even in a VW van.
Still, I knew we probably wouldn’t
make it over Bozeman Pass before
the delivery. At least we could proceed
to the Livingston hospital.

When I heard an expletive from our
driver, I braced Liz for the swerve
I figured would dodge a deer. But a
deer was not the problem.

Red and blue strobe lights flashed
through the van’s interior, and
a siren’s wail pierced Liz’s heavy
breathing. What could Bo do but
pull over? As we came to a stop, he
rolled down the window, stuck out
his arm and waved to the deputy.

“My wife’s in labor,” he shouted.
“She’s about to give birth! We need
to get to the hospital fast!”

Slowly, the officer approached as
Bo excitedly explained the situation.
Slowly, the officer walked back
toward the van’s center window and
shined his bright flashlight inside.
His eyes widened.

“Get going,” he yelled, then ran back
to his patrol car.

Thank goodness, I thought. He’ll red
light us all the way to the hospital.
Bo pulled back out onto the highway
carefully, so the patrolman could
swing ahead and lead us in. But the
cop’s headlights swung in a big arc,
and his red taillights headed in the
opposite direction, fast.

“He’s leaving us!” we shouted, in
unison. We were on our own, in
the dark, 20 miles from town. Liz’s
contractions were now three minutes
apart. Thank goodness for the
emergency kit.

Five minutes later, Liz started pushing.
Bo pulled the car over again. His
face was white.

“The emergency kit is still at
home,” he said.

I dug through my own emergency
birth kit for a flashlight, but found
nothing. At 4:20 a.m. in August, it
was still dark, and birthing by Braille
was not my first choice. VW’s from
the ‘70s had a tiny dome light, which
gave only a faint glow.

Within minutes, 10-pound Addie
Mauray Cleveland entered this
world at mile marker 47, alongside
U.S. Highway 89, right next to a
field of pleasantly grazing cows. I
secured the cord clamps, wrapped
Addie in a blanket and snuggled her
into her mother’s arms. We continued
toward the hospital and topped
Bozeman Pass at daybreak, the sunrise
bathing us all in soft, pink light.

Mauray Miller
has lived in
National Park
and the greater
Yellowstone area
since 1972. She
raised a family here, and has worked as
a nurse and a greenhouse gardener. She
lives in Gardiner, Montana and loves
the outdoors.

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