We had moved to a rented farmhouse in that small country town of Blanchard in Oklahoma the year my little sister Catherine was born. I was only five years old at the time and my brother Tim had just turned three in the spring. There were several cows on the farm that our landlord owned. Our contribution was to more or less admire them. We had an old brown Collie that went by the name of “Sparky”. Along with Sparky, there were several travelling mutts that accompanied him that used to roam the grounds seeking any scraps they could drum up.
We could see nothing but open land for miles. At night the wolves would howl and the coyotes would start to yip. On those clear dark nights GOD painted the sky with a multitude of stars that he named one by one. There was a good size pond but we never used it since no one in the Smith family really fished at the time. The only official use the pond got was when Sparky decided to take a bath with one of his companions.
Dad worked at W & W Steel Company in Oklahoma City where he ended up toiling for thirty years prior to retiring. His job as a crane operator was to take loads of reinforcing steel from railroad box cars and then load them eventually onto huge eighteen wheeler trucks. The steel would then be delivered to construction projects all over the United States. When Dad would come home from work he would always say, ” my dogs sure are tired.” I thought at first that he was referring to Sparky and his entourage of friends, until I realized he was referring to his own tired and dilapidated feet. Every day he would soak his worn out feet in a small tub filled to the brim with hot water and Epsom salts.
My Aunt Euna, Uncle Walter, cousin David, and his little brother Lawrence ended up living with us for a while there on the Blanchard farm. That “little while” was just enough time for David, who was only six months older than me, to have trouble track us down and put a few life long scars on me.
It was one of those hot horrendous summer days in July. In Blanchard temperatures often reached one hundred degrees or more. We didn’t have a gasoline powered mower back then. We had one of those steel blade mowers that had to be pushed or pulled through the grass. The blades could have been used to slice thick steak they were so sharp. In the yard I had an old bright yellow toy dump truck. David and I would spend hours loading and unloading sand making pretend roads and buildings. We would travel in our minds to our own real world once all of the road building and building construction would commence for the day. We could play for hours without stopping for a bathroom, water, or food break. We became mesmerized by the next road we had under construction and the new paths we had to clear to keep our building program going.
One of our main pieces of road equipment was the dump truck but this day we had an equipment malfunction. One of the wheels had been left partially inside the steel mower blade area. Not a problem for David and I though. We came up with a terrific engineering plan to get our favorite toy dislodged. At least we thought we did! Dave placed his hands on the mower handles behind the mower as I simultaneously attempted to pull the truck out. That ended up being the absolute wrong approach. Just as I started to pull on the truck the steel blades caught the side and tip of my middle finger on my right hand slicing into the bone area. Pain shot in an instant into my hand and up my arm like nail spikes. Blood started spurting out! I howled like one of the mutts and David scurried around the yard like a chicken getting chased before becoming someones dinner.
Mom heard all the yelping and came running to the scene. We had no telephone and the closest neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Whately who played the dual role of neighbor and Landlord. We had one car which Dad drove to W & W to work so we were without a car during the day. Okay so we didn’t have a car, we didn’t have a telephone and the blood was really starting to pour out of my throbbing finger now. Mom found a dish towel from the kitchen and wrapped my finger tight to try to stop the bleeding. She told me to sit still and took off running to our Landlords house for help which happened to be more than a mile away. She was so nervous and upset that after she told them about my finger and that she needed someone to take her to the doctor for stitches in my finger that she ran all the way back home to see about me. It probably would have been a lot easier just to ride back with the Whatley’s. I think mom arrived back at about the same time as the Whatley’s to take me to the local doctor’s office in Blanchard.
We did end up riding to the doctor’s office together that day. I was sent home to rest after a tetanus shot and several stitches. It amazed me to see all of that thread being sewed in my finger. It just proves what a mom will do for her children I guess when they are in danger. As I look back now there are two lessons I think I learned that day in Blanchard. One – “Never underestimate the love that a mom has for her children”. Two – “Keep your hands out of the mower even if your number one piece of construction equipment gets stuck.”