Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.

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Roll Barrel, Roll

House we were building

Having the five extra kids around all the time gave us someone to play with, if nothing else. Since they were around all day every day, Mom claimed she raised them but they did go home at night. The oldest boy considered himself too adult to play with us, and the next oldest thought he should be Boss as he was older than the rest of us
. We found an old barrel with the top cut out so decided to use it as a toy. We would roll it up the long slope of the hill the grave was on, near the house, then take turns getting in it and the rest pushing it off the hill and we would ride it down. The bossy kid decided he wanted to try it, so we stepped back and let him, after we had pushed it back up the hill. He rode it down and walked off. We pushed it back up, he ran up, pushing us out of the way and took another turn. Uh-huh, we saw how this was going to work out. We pushed the barrel up the hill yet again and again he ran over, pushing everyone out of the way. This time when he started rolling, we were all on the other end, nudging the barrel to go to a certain spot, then stopped it and upended it open end down into a huge green grass cow pie. Then we all took off to get out of sight before he managed to get turned back and out of there. He spent the afternoon taking potshots at us with his .22 rifle, so we took the barrel to the large creek, cleaned it up and took it up the hill across the creek beyond the sawmill.
The donkey wasn’t running to bring logs down from farther up and drop them over the edge of the large hill down onto the log deck for the mill, so we decided that would be the perfect hill to ride the barrel over. We were trying to decide who would get to go first when the two youngest boys said they should get to as both of them would fit in the barrel together. We finally agreed and they climbed in and we all donated our coats for padding as the day was warm and it was hard work getting that barrel up there.
We didn’t even have to push the barrel, it took off on its own and dropped a bit over 10 feet before it hit the first time, then bounced and hit much farther down the hill and so on until it bounced completely over the log deck. Someone at the mill had noticed the barrel coming and they were all watching when it rolled to a stop out in the middle of the mill yard and two extremely dizzy little boys flopped out.
The rest of us disappeared during the barrel’s trip down the hill as we finally figured out the boys might actually get hurt. The men had never seen the rest of us and the boys tried to say it was their idea and they took it over there, but they were only about 7 years old at the time and no one believed them. The rest of us were over at the house apologizing for killing the boys when the mill boss brought them home. We were all in some major trouble and the barrel disappeared, never to be seen by us again and the older boy got his rifle confiscated.

Just one more Peep…..

Dad by the Jeep

“Did Not” “Did To”

Every year at deer hunting season, we got to take time off from school and go hunting. Deer hunting was taken seriously by my parents. I was 2 weeks old the first time Mom took me hunting with her and we didn’t miss any in the years after.
One year on our way home, my Dad finally had enough of my brother and I arguing, “Did not.” “Did too” for about 500 miles and at the 499th mile, Dad broke. “If I hear another peep out of either one of you, you are going to walk home.” It was late, heavy overcast, no such thing as street lights on a small dirt road, but did that stop me? No. After all, Daddy would never hear me. He was half deaf. One teeny tiny little “Peep.”
On slammed the brakes, the door flew open, Daddy grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and out I went.
I was scared half to death and evidently little brother couldn’t stop snickering as up ahead, the brake lights again blazed on and out tumbled my brother.
We were making pretty good time considering I couldn’t run with my ruined knee and managed to keep the tail lights in sight up the twisty road. It had just stopped raining and as we neared home, the clouds started to part and a bit of moonlight shown down onto the wet road.
About a quarter mile from our driveway, was a sunken grave of one of the early day Homesteaders. As we passed the grave, the moon lit up the large dark mass slowly rising from the sunken grave, groaning “MooOOooo.”
At that point, ruined knee or not, Brother and I made it to the gate in time to open it for Daddy to drive on through going up to the house.
Our old black cow had been laying in the sunken grave and we startled her into slowly standing up, as we came rather loudly by, scaring each other with ghost stories about that grave. The moonlight on her wet hide gave her a shiny glow.