Broken Bones and Kerosene
(This is a personal story to break up the routine a little)
Everyone is familiar with the old saying “I should have stayed in bed”. The saying runs just as true for woodcutters, as I proved one morning in the middle of one August. It was during the period of “total shutdown” for chainsaw use, which means absolutely no power saw cutting allowed, except on landings. I usually prepare for this time of year by going out ahead of time and dropping five or more big old firs, a good distance from the road. Then when shut down comes, I go out with a five foot crosscut saw, and buck up the trees into lengths, pack the lengths to the truck and take them home and finish bucking them up in the yard.
As anyone who has spent time leaning on a one or two man crosscut saw knows, the old-timers didn’t called them “misery whips” for nothing. The title is apt. The work isn’t necessarily heavy, but it’s wearing and slow and makes for a long day. As I trudged out into the woods that morning with my saw over my shoulder and my mall and wedges and kerosene can and soda bottle scattered over various parts of my body, the day seemed routine. Arriving at the site, I noticed the kerosene can was leaking, so I ran back to the truck and found an old seven up bottle, and filled it up with the remaining oil. The kerosene is used to help cut down on friction as you pull the saw. Key to the story is the fact that I had another seven up bottle half full of pop, for drinking purposes.
About two hours into the day I did my first stupid thing. As I pulled the saw blade out of a bind, I jerked it into the air and forgot to flip it when I caught it. I didn’t see the log to my left that was almost waist high. When I caught the saw, teeth downward, and dropped my hand to lessen the impact, my hand didn’t drop. Instead it stopped squarely on the log and the weight of the saw drove the tooth deep down into the bone of the gloved hand. The impact broke the bone and severed the tendon that opens and closes the finger.
It bled like a stuck pig, which was good because it was a puncture wound of the type which can be hard to clean. After making myself sit down for a half hour and wrapping the finger in dirty rags, the bleeding finally stopped. By this time I was getting mad, and I figured I would finish cutting the load even if I couldn’t pack it to the truck. Stupidity and stubbornness run in my family, at least in my part of it.
It was getting hot, and shock was setting in little as I continued to pull away on the crosscut saw. I wiped the sweat from my eyes and reached down to take a good swig off my seven-up bottle. As I started on my second gulp, a signal began going off in the back of my brain. A light went on and I thought,” Gee, this doesn’t taste like seven-up….” Suddenly I jerked the bottle down as kerosene dribbled down my lip…” I just drank kerosene,” I said aloud. Total panic seized me, (I was by myself, or I might have kept my composure better). I jumped completely over the log I had bucked, screaming,” I just drank kerosene, I’m going to die! This went on for several minutes until I managed to get hold of myself. To make a long and somewhat embarrassing story short, I didn’t die. I found the real seven-up bottle and drank it all in order to dilute the petroleum product I had just swallowed. Then I picked up my saw and went back to work, figuring that the sweat might help remove the kerosene from my system.
Three hours later I threw the saw on my shoulder and went home, ending the day that certainly might have gone better if I had just stayed in bed. Except for the occasional burp with the strong smell and aftertaste of kerosene, I seem to have escaped any great bodily harm.