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September 16, 2012

After delivering the wood, Dave pulled out of our driveway and onto the highway. While he was here, he used ‘the claw’ on his truck to unload our wood…all six cords, in just a few minutes. It would take us a bit longer to do our part…

In past years, Jim would look at his newly delivered wood as if it issued a him a personal challenge…thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak. And I knew what he was thinking…‘How fast can I cut it this year? Will I beat last year’s time? Let’s get started.’

So, he would fire up his Stihl and start cutting. Each log became five, stacked neatly to each side as he worked his way up the middle. He’d have the whole pile cut in less than a week. But with a heavy price to pay…he’d be hunkered over in pain for days afterward, laying on ice packs and making frequent trips the chiropractor before he could once again walk upright like the rest of us.

‘It’s got to be done,’ he’d say when I’d suggest he take his time. And the chiropractor’s words of wisdom fell on deaf ears as well. It was something he’d have to learn the hard way, and eventually, he did. Finally, he just decided it wasn’t worth it. That’s the nice thing about aging. You get to decide what’s really important and what’s not.

In recent years, he’s learned to take his sweet time with it; last year, he made the job last ten whole days. I was amazed.

Sometimes, though, it takes longer. Unforeseen events occur. Like the year I wound up taking him in for stitches.

He hobbled into the house with a death-grip on his right thigh. I knew right off that he’d cut himself. With the chainsaw. Oh, boy, I thought, this wasn’t going to be pretty.

And, true to form, he cleaned up his work site and put the saw away before he came inside. I swear, I don’t know what goes through his mind at times like that…leaving a mess doesn’t bother him at any other time. Only when he’s hurt or sick…then he decides to clean things up before going to the doctor. What’s with that?

I certainly wouldn’t bother cleaning up a darn thing before I went to the doctor for stitches, that‘s for sure. Maybe it’s just the difference between men and women…are all men are like that?

Well, I’ve had enough experience with sick and injured Jimbo to know that he does that every time. After a quarter of a century, if he didn’t, I’d be very afraid. For some reason, he has this nesting instinct kick in before he can go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room. Kind of like me the day before my son was born. I cleaned everything in sight, and when I ran out of things to clean at home, I went to my mother’s and started in.

So, being the good wife that I am, I dropped everything and got him a chair. ‘What happened?’ I asked, as if I didn’t know, but I had to ask.

‘Saw bit me.’ Really? ‘You’d better bring some towels.’ So I grabbed the full roll of paper towels and headed his way. ‘That’s not going be enough,’ he said.

I cringed. How bad was this, I wondered. His leg was still attached, and he walked into the house under his own power, so he couldn’t have severed the muscles or hit the bone.. ‘How deep is it?’

‘Deep enough,’ he said. That really narrows it down, I thought.

After cutting off his pant leg above the wound, I assessed the damage. A four inch long diagonal gash in his thigh about 3 inches above the knee. Fairly deep. Not bleeding, though…the wood chips, bits of green denim, sawdust, and maybe even some dirty chainsaw oil staunched the flow. Could be worse, I thought, it could’ve been his knee. Then there’d be bone fragments in the mix, too. And he sure wouldn’t have been walking.

That’s about the only good thing about chainsaw injuries…they leave behind enough debris to absorb the blood and slow the bleeding. Kind of a double-edged sword though, given the increased chance of infection and all. At least the patient usually doesn’t bleed to death on the way to the emergency room. That’s the way it works with Jim, anyway. This wasn’t his first rodeo with the saw. They had kind of a love/hate relationship going.

I do know, however, that doctors aren’t too wild about chainsaw injuries. Being the guys and gals that have to clean the wounds before they can even assess the damage, much less begin sewing them back together, I could understand After having seen Jim’s leg, I wondered where I would even begin.

Alrighty then, I thought, let’s do this.’ I watched as the doctor worked…Jim, on the other hand, did not.  He’s kind of squeamish that way. Especially when he’s the patient. Funny how he can gut out an animal, skin it, cut it up, and eat it, but can’t watch a doctor put in a few stitches.  We all have our thing, I guess. That’s his and I’m not mentioning mine. This is not about me, so I don‘t have to.

Before Jim and I met, he cut his left leg with a chainsaw. Again, above the knee, at an angle, so now they match, and if he’s wearing shorts and stands with his legs together, they kind of look like a cartoon character with its eyebrows raised in surprise. He had a little help with that accident…from Petri. Petri brandy.

Now, who does that? That’s the non-vehicular version of drinking and driving…running a chainsaw and drinking. So not a good idea, under any circumstances. With a very high price to pay if you screw up. Like Jim.

But, as we all do from time to time, Jim chose to attend the College of Hard Knocks. Now, he’s already got masters degrees in falling and deer/vehicle collisions…and he’d just earned a minor in chainsaw injuries. What would be next, I wondered.

After his left leg was sewn up from the first chainsaw wound, Jimbo learned that booze and chainsaws don’t mix well. Wise man. And for extra credit, he learned that narcotic pain meds, sewn up chainsaw wounds, booze and polka dancing in the same evening weren’t a necessarily a good idea either.

On the dance floor, he blew out the stitches the doctor so meticulously put in a few hours earlier and instead of going back for more, he and his drinking buddies just taped his leg back together. I’ll bet they had to use a lot of tape. Probably duct tape. So naturally, he felt justified in continuing his self-administered anesthetic…in spite of the fact that it caused the injury in the first place. Apparently, those dots were not connected right away.

After a few years, he quit drinking. Thank God. I was afraid to think of what he might have done next if he‘d continued.

Sometimes, my man, wonderful as he is, can be downright stubborn…such was the case with this second incident. He insisted on washing up, changing clothes and combing his hair before we left for the hospital. Good thing he wasn’t bleeding badly. I drew the line at letting him shower. Tried to tell him that they wouldn’t be looking at his hair…and maybe he should just wear a cap, but he wouldn’t listen. Go figure.

‘Fine. Whatever.’ I said. ‘But I’m driving,’ I said, giving him the look. The one that said ‘no arguments‘. And I snatched up his keys and shoved them into my pocket, just to be sure. I could be a bit bull-headed myself if the situation warranted.

I pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance, and got out of the car, telling him I’d be right back with a wheelchair. But that was not to be…his stubborn side was showing again. ‘No…no, I can walk in by myself.‘ he said as struggled to stand.

Hopefully, he’d never have a heart attack, I thought. I’d have to sit on him and yell for help.

He can be so unreasonable, I thought to myself; and he won‘t listen…he has to do it his way. Always. I may have had a few other thoughts about that at the time, but I wouldn’t care to repeat those right now. Better left unsaid. Trust me.

So we hobbled into the hospital where he graciously accepted a ride in a shiny new wheelchair from a cute, perky little nurse in blue scrubs.

Wait a minute…didn’t he trust me? I knew how to push a wheelchair, and I have a nursing license. He knows that. What did he think I would do to him that he hadn’t already done to himself? Especially with witnesses.

Now, the doctor was nice enough, but even nice guys have limits. He grumbled under his breath as he picked away at the filthy fragments lodged in Jim’s leg. Then, he gave up and trimmed the edges with sterile scissors. After that, he put his sewing skills to use, first stitching his quads back together, then closing the skin. Good thing they didn’t charge by the stitch…there were forty of them. As he worked, he recited the obligatory chainsaw safety tips, saying that he really wished Jim would employ them…things like wearing chaps, those leggings specially made to protect one’s legs from chainsaws. ‘They can be very useful‘, the doctor said.

At that point, Jim showed off the well-healed scar on his left leg as though it were a badge of honor. Personally, I think the good doctor had all he could do not to poke him with the needle, just outside the anesthetized area. Or call him a dumb ninny, or something like that.

That year cutting our wood might have taken quite a bit longer…were it not for friends. Good friends. Friends who came to cut and split our wood. Just so we would stay warm in the coming winter. Friends like that are priceless. In a very good way.

Usually, when we’re splitting wood, it’s just Jim and me. He lifts the wood on to the splitter and I work the ram. But, careful as we are, once in a while a chunk gets away from us.

That normally doesn’t end well…not as bad as chainsaw accidents, mind you, but with gravity being what it is, toes (usually mine), and pain are always involved. Sometimes, if the wood is big enough, or falls just right, bones break. That’s not good…fractures, even in toes, take longer to heal than chainsaw wounds. I’ve only got one toe on my right foot that I haven’t broken.

And I never broke a bone until after I met Jim. Hmmm…what‘s the message there, I wonder?

Now, to be fair, I didn’t break ‘em all while splitting wood, but Jim was involved in all but one incident, and that one I broke while I was setting up his retirement party. No matter…broke is broke. They all hurt…plain and simple.

So this year, we were at it again. I was running the splitter and Jim was loading the wood, as usual. We were in the ‘zone‘. And a hunk of wood fell on my foot. My right foot. Big toe…again. The only thing different this time was Jim’s response.

Usually, he made a smart-aleck remark like , ‘Go ahead…take five.’

This time was a little different…as I was hopping around, he said ‘You can yell if you want…but no one’s gonna hear you. Even if you swear.’

Thanks. How reassuring.

  1. You guys need a sitcom!!!

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