Left thumb looks almost normal, no questions now

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You know how it is when you’re a kid — especially stinky little ol’ boys — and someone has something just a little different about them, little ol’ boys will tease the dickens out of the odd duck.

Being the oldest of four boys (three at the time of this story), I was charged with keeping an eye on the others. And, of course, it was your bound and duty to prevent any harm coming their way. Sort of like an Old West movie…protect the good guys from any and all harm.

As I’ve laid claim often, I AM a country boy. I was born in a log farmhouse although I make no Abe Lincoln-like claims. We lived on a farm/ranch out in the country near Donie (Big D as I have laughingly referred to it). Dad’s days were spent out in the various pastures where his beef cattle grazed.

When I was eight, I was given the task of “watching” my younger brothers while our mother worked in the garden or tended the chickens. My next-oldest brother was sitting on the floor playing and youngest brother, still a toddler was ensconced in a small jumper chair — made of metal (frame) and cloth and in a way that didn’t allow him to climb out. It included a tray for food or toys. The chair was placed at the edge of the hearth in front of a toasty-warm fire.

I was seated on the floor beside baby brother, who was perhaps six months old. Usually, I had a book — either a storybook or a textbook — but one eye was always on “the baby.” What was perceived as preventable harm was an absolute in our household. That meant “eyes on” all of the time.

One of his toys was a rattle made of celluloid, a thin, flimsy plastic.

He was bouncing in the chair, shaking the rattle and it flew from his hand and went rolling toward the fire. I had visions of Mother punishing me for allowing his rattle to be destroyed. I reflexively grabbed for it and just as I clutched it, the rattle blazed and melted all over my left hand.

Of course, I screamed in agony.

This was in 1945, eight miles out into the rural countryside. Mother came running into the house from the garden and did all she knew to do. She applied an ointment and wrapped my hand in a gauze-like bandage to ease the pain.

Beyond the pain I worried about “allowing” little brother’s celluloid rattle to be destroyed.

I missed almost six weeks of school. Mother kept the hand wrapped with the gauze and ointment.

Gradually, the healing process took place under Mother’s watchful eye and natural instincts. All the blisters (on all five fingers) went down and healed. The hand was functional and as the blisters disappeared and the discomfort subsided, I began to use the hand normally. All the scarring went away except on my thumb. Seventy years later, the only discernible mark is on my left thumb and it merely looks a big odd when held next to the right thumb. For perhaps 65 years, there were two nails on the left thumb. The top one did not quite cover the bottom one.


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