Show me yours and I'll show you mine… scars that is!

After having had a few comments (here and on twitter) concerning the bloody eye at the dojang, I thought it might be fun to travel down the path of the weird accidents that have ended in sutures (or perhaps should have) over the course of my childhood.

One of the funnier stories (though not if you ask my father) occurred during the summer between sixth and seventh grade.

Like many boys, growing up was a time of rough play and rougher teasing for me and my brothers. Sometimes I wonder how we made it to adulthood with the crazy antics we participated in. My mom, a candidate for sainthood if there ever was such a thing, must have been a nervous wreck whenever we were out of her sight.

The first accident I remember didn’t end in stitches, but should have. How many of you vividly remember your first pocket knife? That first time you were trusted with something that you just knew was made for destructive purposes? Mine was given to me by a second cousin that often was at our house asking favors of my father. He was closer to my parents age than he was to mine, but he was a nice enough guy most of the time. The day he took a small (2 inch) mother of pearl, 2 blade pocket knife out of his pocket and handed it to a then 8 year old boy, I thought he was the grandest fellow I’d ever met.

Looking at it there in my hand, I was sure my father was going to require me to give it back, but to my relief and excitement, all he said was, “Make sure you tell Steve thank you.”  Oh, you can be sure I did. Wow. What a day.

Before I was allowed to use it, my father made sure I knew that I was supposed to only use it on tree branches, that I was supposed to always push the blade away from me, NEVER towards me, and that I was to never carry it around opened.

I can honestly say, I genuinely followed those rules. It still didn’t keep me from cutting myself though.

Not long after receiving the knife I crawled up into one of our cottonwood trees and starting whittling. The extent of my whittling expertise never really amounted to much more than making toothpicks, but I enjoyed the serenity of sitting in a tree, surrounded by leaves, watching the random passerby or stray dog from the seclusion of that low hanging limb. (Since then, that favorite cottonwood died and had to be cut down. A sad day indeed)

I chose a branch about a foot long and probably as large in diameter as your index finger and removed it from the larger branch from which it grew. I then peeled the bark from the twig and began the process of making yet another pile of shavings.

Well, I’m sure you all have figured out where this is going. Yep, a green twig has that amazing elasticity about it. I was placing a large amount of force on the little knife as it sliced through that twig and right into my left index finger. It was pretty deep, and it was strange how the angle of the cut allowed it open and close like it did with the pulsing of my heart.

Well, I’m sure I would have dropped the knife and ran into the house screaming, except it crossed my mind that maybe that would have been the end of my days as a  knife owner (and thinking back on it, I’m sure it would have, LOL). So instead, I dropped the knife, wrapped my hand tightly around the wound, walked into the front yard, washed it in the cold water of the water hose, grabbed it tightly to keep the blood sealed in, walked into the bathroom and locked the door. From the sanctum of the lavatory, I washed it yet again, then proceeded to single handedly (literally) pull out the peroxide and monkey blood (yep, that is what we used to call mercurochrome, and regardless of what you read, it did hurt like hades). I slathered both over the wound liberally and after allowing it to dry for a bit, I got out the bandaids. I knew putting multiple ones on would draw attention, so I only placed one of the “knee sized” ones on the finger instead of trying to use the “finger sized” ones.

Well, I don’t know how I got away with it, but it was several days before the bandaid was noticed (although many bled through). When it was, the inevitable question was asked, “Why do you have a bandaid on your finger?” “Oh, I had a cut.” hmmm… not exactly a lie, right? Luckily it was left at that. At least for a while.

A week later, I was helping my mom do something, although I don’t remember what, and she noticed the offending bandaid again.

“Why are you still wearing a bandaid? The cut has to be healed by now!”

“Um, not yet. But it is getting better!”

“Come here and let me see it.”

Ah oh.

“What on earth happened to your finger!”

And the story came out. The whole (albeit true) story. I don’t know why I was allowed to keep the knife. Maybe it was because I told the truth or took care of my injury myself without crying about it. I don’t know, but every time I trace the scar on my finger (yes, 34 years later, the scar, definitely should have had stitches, but a week after the incident is too long of a wait I happily discovered) I remember being a small boy sitting in a tree with a mother of pearl handled pocket knife.

During my childhood, my father was on the board of directors of the youth camp in the mountains near my home (I grew up at 5000 ft and within a 40 minute drive you were at 7,000. Went to college 70 miles away at 9000 ft.) During that summer, the caretaker had quit, and so while they were looking for a replacement the board members asked for volunteers during the busy weekends when the camp wasn’t being used. One weekend, no volunteers were able to be found, so dad decided that he would take my brothers and I up and we would hold the fort so to speak.

Now, Fletcher Park camp grounds is a beautiful place surrounded by pine forest and clean air. The cabins that are used for the campers are actual old log cabins that had been made for the purpose. The sole exception to this is a very large, multiple room structure that was an old rough log structure that was originally a dancehall and saloon.

Due to the ever present rodent problems, when the camp wasn’t going to be used for any extended period of time, the old cotton stuffed mattresses were stored in the one building in the camp that was made of cinderblocks: the dining hall. All of the mattresses were placed on top of the tables in the dining hall, making quite the interesting site. Tall towers of mattresses looking over the large room with concrete floors and the smell of pine, dust and dishsoap filling the air.

When we arrived the first evening, it was all ready a bit late in the evening, so we checked the deserted camp and made sure everything was as it was supposed to be. Thankfully, it was.

We made a camp fire and in an old firepit and enjoyed the crickets and just being together. We hauled four of the mattresses out of the dining hall and into one of the cabins, where we rolled out our sleeping bags and talked late into the night before we fell asleep.

The next morning we rolled out of bed and started doing some general light repair work that my dad had on his agenda. We were going to move some equipment from one building to the next when we discovered that the truck had a flat tire caused by hitting a sharp rock on the way up. At first, dad was going to leave it for just before we went home, but for some reason changed his mind (thank God) and let me change my first tire instead. I still remember the pride when after the job was complete, he gave each lug nut a yank and told me that he couldn’t tighten them any better himself.

As the day wore on, we finished the jobs and were getting ready to head home. One of the last things we did was haul those heavy cotton stuffed mattresses back down to the dining hall. I don’t know who started it, probably my older brother as it fits his M.O., but somewhere along the way, a pinecone smacked my father in the back of the head. Next thing I know, we all have arm loads of pinecone ammunition and we’re running all over the dining hall wizzing these projectiles at each other from the cover of the mattress piled tables. Again, I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but it ended up being a team competition: me and my father against my older and younger brothers (yep, I’m a middle).

I vividly remember what happened next. My father and I ran around the perimeter of the tables and when we got to the east side of the hall, my father motioned for me to crawl up on top of the mattresses with him and we would rain down terror and pinecones on my brothers from on high. Even as a 12 year old I understood the concept of holding onto the high ground, so I immediately started climbing.

Now, let me try to provide a visual for you here. Each table was approximately 3 foot high and 12 foot long, constructed along the general pattern of your average picnic table. On top of each table, mattresses were stacked to a combined table+mattress height of at least 10 ft.

My father and I stealthily crawled to the top of one of these precarious piles. My father, being the better climber, arrived on top first and started the barrage. I climbed as quickly as I could and right as I crested the last mattress and pulled myself up, “smack!”

My father had swung back his hand in preparation for his next through and backhanded me right in the face. Down I went. From the top of the pile of mattresses. Crash!

“Dad!”

“Just a second!”

“Um, Dad!”

“What?”

“I think you need to come down here.”

I remember seeing him peek over the edge of the mattress. Then I remember his face going ashen.

It seems that I had the perfect backwards trajectory to carry me, or at least my left elbow through one pane of a plate glass window.

And what remained of it was sticking out of my arm. Yes, I did have multiple lacerations that by themselves looked quite nasty, but what I’m sure had caught my father’s attention, as you couldn’t have missed it, was the roughly equilateral 6″ triangle of glass sticking out of the underneath of my forearm.

Well, dad scrambled down and my brothers came screaming around the end of the table and everyone just kind of froze for a few seconds. Well, even knowing that you shouldn’t necessarily remove the arrow/knife/pointing object from a wound, there was really no way to stabilize this wedge, so I pulled it out. And yes, blood shot out and started a steady pulse from the severed artery.

Thankfully, my 16 year old brother had just completed a semester of EMT training and somehow slapped together a pressure bandage. My dad hustled me into the truck and down the mountain we flew. The trip is about 40 miles, but time wise, it usually takes about 80 minutes (mountain roads and all). I always knew my dad new how to drive, but never until that day did I know how well he could drive. I remember him working those gears and my brothers flying back and forth in the bed of the truck (again, it was a different time). We made that 80 minute trip in 30 minutes. Right to the emergency room.

The doctor took one look at my arm, and rushed me to the head of the line. Truthfully by this time, I was only partially coherent. Loss of blood and all. The doctors started suturing before the anesthetic had even taken effect, AND probing and removing glass. Not a lot of fun.

After they had completely closed everything up, I found out how close it had actually been. The doctor stated it would have been better to have provided me with a transfusion, but (being a small hospital) they didn’t have the blood on hand. They sent me home with instructions to my parents to force fluids and keep an eye on me.

It has been 33 years now, but I will never forget the guilt written on my father’s face and how hard I tried to convince him of his innocence. Having two boys of my own now, I can understand what he must have felt.

Several years ago, when I was visiting the folks, I went back to the old campgrounds. Although the dining hall was locked tight for the season, I could see the mattresses through that same window. And somewhere, somehow, I could smell faintly, the scent of dust, pine, dishsoap, and blood. And then, as now, it made me smile. LOL.

Comment Pages

There are 6 Comments to "Show me yours and I'll show you mine… scars that is!"

  • emily says:

    It might make you smile but it makes me want to cry!!!

  • I managed to knock my two front teeth out while riding my bike uphill! Not many people have done that I would bet, I went over the handle bars when I managed to go wildly out of control. Have been living with two false teeth ever since, well in those days it was ones you could take out which was always a party piece!

    • odin1eye says:

      Wow, that is unique.. i’ve got two more stories (and matching scars) to add at a later date. Thanks for sharing your misfortune! And thanks for being my second overseas commenter!

  • Val Ford says:

    Hmm, worst injury I ever escaped was riding my bike – I think I was like 9. The plastic handle had come off one of the handlebars, and there was only the sharp, pointed metal spike there. Went tearing down our hill, hit a pothole – ass over teakettle, ended up on the ground with the spike pinning my ankle to the ground. Somehow, it didn’t fracture my ankle – Mom was never sure how. Just bled all over the place.

    • odin1eye says:

      Ouch.. *cringe* it always seems like the other guy’s sounds worse to me. Glad it wasn’t fractured! Thanks for sharing!

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