Life is, indeed, a wonder

Judging from the last few stories, you might think stubbornness was the cause of most of my problems at the age of five. Not so. Curiosity was really my major weakness and, though it didn't kill me, it caused me some serious problems.

The first incident took place when I found a book of old matches while walking home with my brother. Since I wasn't allowed to touch matches at home, I was trying to see what would happen if you struck them on the cover like I'd seen my parents do. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried they just crumbled without lighting. Bill turned around to ask if they would light, and instantly screamed at me to go get Dad. One of the discarded matches had ignited the grass field we were walking across, and flames were heading straight toward the only gasoline storage tank in town. While Bill fought the flames, I rushed to get Dad. Luckily, the two of them were able to extinguish the fire, though Bill was not happy that he had lost his eyebrows in the effort. Dad just plain wasn't happy. I wasn't too curious about how he felt and had enough sense to stay out of sight as much as I could until he returned to Seattle a few days later.

The second incident ended up, at least for me, much more disastrously. Most readers probably aren't old enough to remember that wash machines once had wringers to dry out the clothes rather than spinning them dry. I was watching our apartment manager wash clothes and was intrigued by how the clothes fed into the wringer. So, when she went outside to hang up some of the clothes, I decided (using that word rather loosely, of course) to touch the wringer to see what caused the clothes to go through. I found out, and nearly lost all the flesh on my left hand in the process. When the manager returned, I apparently asked her calmly to stop the machine. She stopped the machine, took one look at my hand, nearly fainted, then ran off to get my mother without ever releasing the wringer.

Needless to say, the hand was mangled beyond recognition. The doctor proposed skin grafts, but my mother couldn't imagine how I could manage to keep my hand fastened to my stomach for a month while the new skin healed. Though self-conscious of my hand for years, I secretly felt it was kind of neat that my hand perfectly fit the shape of my baseball mitt. I never became the great pianist I could have become, but that might have been good thing considering the neighborhood I grew up in. Two of my fingers are still scarred enough to remind me that if you're not careful you can pay a price for being too curious.

Though I've seldom suffered such consequences again, I have stubbornly stuck with curiosity, one of the great driving forces in my life. It explains why I seldom get bored and why I have piles of books on strange topics waiting to be read. It's helped me to get through some rough periods in my life. It might even explain why I've continued to plug away at this blog for years now.

9 thoughts on “Life is, indeed, a wonder

  1. Loren,

    I think it’s great (and a sign of clear sense) that you’re going back to your childhood now, in light of your unfolding medical news. Our youth can be a source of great energy and sustenance. It’s a good thing to remember being that completely alive to whatever would come, instantly.

  2. Oh my I do remember those washing machines Loren – we had one until I was in my early teems and I came close to duplicating your ‘trick’ too. I think I was about 4 at the time and fortunately for me my mom caught me jast as the wringers were grabbing my fingers and prevented any serious damage.

  3. I was about to slap you on the back and join you in nostalgia about me and a girl similarly setting a field on fire when I was 8 or 9 with only our mothers around to be the firemen. Then you told about your hand in the wringer and made my head swim and I decided Fire wasn’t such a big deal at all. Jeez! I was wild, but I COULD learn a lesson–after cutting my toes 3 times one summer (bicycle, sharp rusty piece of wire, jagged glass), it finally occurred to me to wear shoes, which I’ve done for all the time between then and now. I guess your hand got passable again after a while or the draft board would have thrown you back.

  4. Oh, and I lost my new coyboy hat in a similarly lunatic manner, sticking my head out the car window and zoop, it was gone! My sister said the other day I screamed like a wounded animal and my father, who was driving, thought I’d stuck my head out so far a road sign had knocked my brains out. When someone finally got English out of me, then they WANTED to kill me. We drove back and found the hat.

    Kids mostly do the same stupid things, it seems.

  5. Hey, I could learn, too.

    I never put my hand in a wringer again.

    There was that table saw and lathe incident, but nothing with rollers coming together.

    Considering all the things I’ve done in life, I think it’s remarkable that I still have all my appendages.

  6. SOMETHING WEIRD: I saw a guy on TV who’d invented a table saw that could sense your flesh and thus Never cut you. He demonstrated with a wiener (not his weenie!) and when the saw blade encountered the skin of the meat, it stopped and retracted away from it with a whap! The wiener was barely scratched! They said it had something to do with sensing the electrical output of some sensor attached to the saw blade. It was a short demonstration, but it was an impressive one. They said he was working on one for a circular saw. For anyone who’s ever been afraid of cutting himself, these devices sound like they’d have some appeal. No mention of what the additional cost might be. Getcha one and be the first kid on your block!

  7. Damn, Loren, you’ve made my skin crawl!!! But I was afraid you were going to say you lost the hand, so at least it turned out better than I expected.

    Worst thing I ever did to my hand was shake Richard Nixon’s hand in 1960, when I was 6.

  8. Jeez. Harry if I’d lost my hand I would have missed my chance to go to Vietnam. You didn’t really think I typed all these long entries with one hand, did you? I’m far too lazy for that.

    It was bad, but it wasn’t real bad, just a three bent fingers to remind me to not let my curiosity get the best of me.

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