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An Accident Waiting to Happen or How I Lost My Finger

Story ID:7407
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
Warning: I hope this story is not too graphic for some of you but that is the way things were in Bly, Oregon during the 1940’s.

An Accident Waiting to Happen or How I Lost My Finger
By Chuck Dishno

I have been asked to tell of the events leading up to my early day accidents. In those days it was often said that I was just “An accident waiting to happen.” I’m not saying it isn’t so but living in Bly, Oregon during the 1930’s thru the 1950’s was a different place and it seemed we all took chances and I was no exception.

I loved to jump and climb. I would go out to Sprague Canyon and climb the rock cliff even if I was by myself. I wasn’t afraid to jump off most anything such as roofs, fences, barns and one time, on a dare I even jumped off the railroad water tower. It wasn’t too high and the ground was soft so I wasn’t hurt.

My jumping and climbing all came to an abrupt end when I lost the sight in my right eye and didn’t have depth perception anymore. I just couldn’t judge the distance so I stopped.

I will post the eye episode in another post.

The finger episode occurred one cold November day in the school woodworking shop. The Shop was a large Quonset hut with a coal stove in the center.

As I said, it was a cold day and the shop teacher hadn’t arrived yet so we boys decided to get the stove started. The stove had been cold over the weekend so it was a start from scratch project. My friend Doyle gathered some coal from the coal bin while I started making wood shavings from a block of pine on the jointer. The jointer was at one end of the shop and after I had made a few passes with the block of wood it suddenly tiped over and my ring finger on my left hand brushed the exposed blade.

For those of you who don’t know, the blade on a jointer or planer is a round cylinder with extremely sharp cutting edges on it. For some reason the shop teacher had taken the guard off the jointer which left about 6 inches of exposed blade.

When my finger hit the spinning blade, it instantly took it off down to the first joint. How fitting, losing my finger to the first joint in a jointer. My friend, Doyle was standing there waiting for more shavings and I held up the bloody stub and said “Wow, look what I just did.” Doyle took off for the principal’s office on a dead run but I just walked down the path, a distance of about 100 yards. I wasn’t brave but I honestly didn’t feel a thing.

On arrival at Mr. Graham’s office I was bleeding quite badly but still had no pain. Mr. Graham told me to sit down and said something about getting blood all over the floor and promptly shoved a waste basket under my hand. Doyle, in the mean time had gone into the lavatory and got a large gym towel which I wrapped around my hand.
I should remind you that Bly was way out in the sticks and the nearest doctor was 53 miles away in Klamath Falls.

Mr. Graham picked up the telephone and called my Mom to say that I had some sort of an accident and he was driving me to Klamath. I think he called a clinic there and told them that I was coming in. Mom insisted she go with us even though she was very squeamish and hated the sight of blood.

We all loaded into his car after wrapping my hand in another clean gym towel; after all he wouldn’t want to get his car all bloody. I don’t think he was in any particular hurry to get to the clinic. I just sat in the back seat holding the towel around my hand while Mom sat near the open window so she could get some air if she felt sick.

We arrived at the Klamath Medical Clinic about 10AM and I was immediately taken to a room where a Dr. Adams took off the towel and looked at the finger. He tried to point out to my Mom what he was going to do but she promptly got very ill and had to leave the room. He then told me that he would trim up the bone and fold the skin over the end to make a nice pad. I just said to go ahead as I still didn’t have any pain. Mom came back into the room just as he started to snip the bone with his nippers. Mom promptly left the room again. All this time I don’t know where Mr. Graham was but he probably was checking the back seat of his car for traces of blood.

The procedure took only about 30 minutes and he showed me his handiwork which he was quite proud of. He had folded the end of the finger up then put 8 stitches across the top. I thought it looked beautiful and now my finger print was on the end of the pad. The nurse put an aluminum guard over the finger and taped it to my wrist. I was told that I may have some pain and they gave me a penicillin shot and some pain pills.

About this time, Mom and Mr. Graham came into the room and were told that I could go home now. Mr. Graham looked at his watch and said that if we hurried I could make it back to school that afternoon. He was always a task master and this was no exception. Loosing part of a finger wasn’t a big deal in Bly and certainly not one for missing school.

On arrival back home I grabbed some lunch and then walked the short distance to the school.
I was greeted my all my buddies who had heard what happened and were anxious to get the story first hand. Being the good friends they were they had picked out the pieces of the finger from the jointer, put them on a bed of cotton in a small match box with the inscription written on a label, “To Stub.” From that day on I was called Stub.

As I recall, the finger never did hurt much and I don’t think I even missed a class. I would “skip” to shoot ducks or geese but never for such a thing as trivial as cutting off a finger.

As Paul Harvey, would say, “Now for the rest of the story.”

For the next few weeks, I wore that aluminum contraption on my finger. When people wanted to see my beautiful “manicure” job I would oblige by slipping the thing off. The problem with this was that the finger began to swell as an infection started. I had not been back to the doctor since the accident but Mom insisted I go right away. My Pop was working in the woods in California so we didn’t have any transportation. A neighbor said he was going to Klamath and he would take me but I would have to find a ride back.

When I got to the clinic, the doctor took one look at his pride and joy and then gave me heck for not coming sooner. He took one stitch out and squeezed it hard which made the puss squirt out the end. Now that hurt!

His nurse came in and told me to drop my pants so she could give me a shot of penicillin in my gluteus maximus.

After that humiliating experience I walked out to the highway and caught a ride home on a Fleuer’s bread truck.

Dr. Adams said I should come back and have the stitches taken out but since there were only 7 left and the infection had cleared up, I just snipped them and they came right out.

As for the shop teacher Mr. Griggs, he apologized for taking the guard off the jointer and nothing more was said. I can only imagine what would have happened if this were done in today’s schools. My Pop even had to pay the medical bill.

Having one short digit never did present a problem. In fact it helped me to have a better outlook on life.

One day I was showing it to my Scoutmaster and he said, “Well, there is no need crying about it. It’s a long way from your heart.” I have used that expression thousands of times whenever someone would complain about some trivial thing.

Cutting off that digit helped me get a job at the theater and I eventually became a projectionist.

I am a firm believer in fate and how a person’s life can change in the most peculiar way. I wrote a story titled Fate Steps In or The Short Finger Story and posted it on OurEcho# 6551 a while back. If you have time, read it and you will see how things changed for me and maybe why I am always so happy.

Chuck “Stub” Dishno