Thumbing a Ride Through March
by Calendar Hacksaw
My neighbor Andrei is a carpenter by trade, and has probably cut
and nailed more boards in a single week than I could in a lifetime.
He's in his mid-30s now, married to the lovely Nicoleta, and
they are expecting their first child this month. An immigrant,
Andrei earned his "stripes" by serving three years behind
barbed wire after a foiled attempt to escape his homeland back
when the Communists were holding court. As neighbors go, Andrei
and Nicoleta are fine ones, and I plan on keeping them for awhile.
One day in January, Andrei was busy on the job when his right
hand lost track of what his left hand was doing--or vice versa--and
faster than a minister can leave town he drove a worm-drive saw
clean through his thumb. Well, not "clean," actually;
the truth be known, he ripped that sucker clear to threads and
then some. By the time he was done, only the sausage factories
Alone at the time, he drove himself to the emergency room, trailing
50% of his blood behind his F-250 in the process. A team of doctors
engaged in nine hours of micro-surgery, but in the end the best
they could do was construct a "nub" where the mighty
thumb had once resided.
If you're like ol' Calendar, you probably don't view the loss
of a thumb or finger to qualify as a "life-shaping"
event. Of course, if you're like me, you probably still have
all 10 digits (21, counting toes). But believe me, this is a
big deal for Andrei, forcing some changes in his life that he
wasn't prepared for just now. Just for starters, the baby's due
any day, and he's not supposed to return to work for at least
Losing thumbs and fingers is pretty common in certain industries
and cultures. Some Japanese like to sever a finger or two just
to protest government policies. The oil fields, fishing trawlers
and horse ranches have also claimed their share. Why, I recently
read an article about a Texas border town where the locals can
easily spot an outsider just by counting his digits. And then
they kill him.
Ol' Betty pointed out to me that her cousin is missing both thumbs;
a fact I had apparently overlooked during our three-decade relationship.
And when I observed that a mutual friend had seemingly done quite
well without his thumb, Betty expressed surprise as well, having
never noticed it before. So it would seem that being one or two
appendages short of a full pair of gloves doesn't rank too high
on the "Hacksaw Scale of Noticeable Deficiencies," landing
somewhere between "male pattern baldness" and the scar
left by a .38 caliber entrance wound. In fact, I should think
it would come with a certain amount of "bragging rights."
Of course, losing a thumb means Andrei will have to make some
adjustments. For starters, hitchhiking through England would
be out of the question. But one must look on the bright side.
My old friend Casey down in Tucson Town recalls a conversation
he had with his father-in-law after the old man had a race car
liberate his right index finger.
"Good thing it was your right hand," Casey observed.
"Why do you say that, you idiot?" the old man retorted.
"Because if it had been your left hand, you would have had
to learn a new way of chording your guitar, which would have been
pretty difficult with only three fingers."
"Hmm, I hadn't thought about that," said the old man,
thinking about that.
Then there's my old friend Grubb up north of here (see
Sticky Hickey," September, 1997), who recalled an instance
at the junior high school when 13-year old Jordy fired up a rickety
old table saw while the teacher was momentarily teaching, and
promptly whacked off an index finger. Jordy recovered to become
a fine high school basketball player, though he had to do his
"high-fives" in two installments. And on those rare
occasions of victory, when the other members of the squad held
up their index fingers and shouted, "We're Number One!,"
Jordy was reduced to holding up the next best digit he had to
work with, much to the chagrin of his parents and the cheers of
From a few hours up the Valley from here, ol' Mike checks in to
remind me of a tale I heard long ago. I'll let him tell you himself:
"In the mid-60s, hops were a major crop in the Sacramento
region. One hop farmer and inventor had designed a specialized
machine for harvesting hops. The machine looked like one of those
kinetic sculptures--whirling arms, spinning baskets and a Rube
Goldberg conveyor system. There was much publicity about this
new machine and the press turned out in force to see the first
actual harvesting. With cameras rolling, the farmer started up
the machine and it promptly lopped off his head."
Andrei is still a young man with a full life ahead. He might
take comfort in the early reports that a team of surgeons at the
University of Louisville successfully transplanted an entire hand
to benefit a fellow who let go of an M-80 a tad too late. Would
it be worth it to transplant a thumb or finger? That question
is best left to potential recipients. But speaking for Betty
and me, don't be surprised if we just don't notice the change,
before or after.
Calendar Hacksaw's e-mail addresses are <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org> and he'd love to hear from you if you're happy with the new "661" area code. He chose it because Walker Basin is "No. 1" and that's what "661" translates to on your telephone keypad.