Sunday, May 17, 2015

A 55-Year-Old Wound Remembered

THE SECOND thing that I remembered when I was nursing the wound I described in the post immediately before this was that I had a similar blood-letting about 55 or so years ago.

I should remember, because the record pain and the amount of blood generated by that wound were only surpassed when I had "a purposive kind of wounding" called circumcision.

Oh well, the memory of that earlier wound stood up as if to say "I'm still here!" because, by some strange coincidence, the wound I had a few days ago was only half a centimeter away from the one that I had when I was eight.

By coincidence, too, the old wound was also accidentally self-inflicted when the bolo I was using went wayward, sliced off about a centimeter of epidermis and some millimeters of flesh in my left index finger, and before I knew it, blood was spurting -- repeat, spurting -- and not oozing.

I purposely paused to make a digital photo of my "lucky" finger while writing this and posted the resulting picture on the right to drive home my point. Note that my current wound is beside the nail (uu in Isinay, kuko in Iloko) of my tannuru, while the scar (pi^lat in Isinay, piglat in Iloko) which I colored red for emphasis is on the pinching or lower side of the finger.
The fresh wound is in green while the scar is marked red.

To complete the story, the accident happened while I was making the first of four wooden wheels intended for a tartarak (toy truck) that I envisioned to be a work of art when completed.

At first I thought the wound was superficial. And, yes, I thought the pain and the bleeding would stop as soon as I chewed young guava leaves and spat the medicine on the wound.

As fate would have it, I got scared of my spurting and bloody finger. Thus, even if anyone of the several guava trees that formed part of our backyard way back then was easily within my chewing reach, I ran to my mother instead.

My mom was as usual busy with a dress in her Singer sewing machine then. But when she saw me sidle up beside her and sobbing, she stopped her sewing and tremblingly asked what happened.

I didn't answer and just firmly pressed my thumb on my injured finger inside my short-pants' front pocket.

Mama must have seen patches of blood on my short pants and got highly alarmed herself. So, pretty soon she was shouting expletives in Ilokano and pried out my left hand from my short pants.

To cut the story, my mother ran to her small medicine cabinet in the big room upstairs, and in a few moments, she applied plaster and sulfanilamide powder on my finger.

The medicine gave a stinging pain when Mama sprinkled it on my wound. But I was so relieved to see the blood stop coming out that I kept the hurt puppy inside me from making ayuwong (Isinay for wailing).

NOW TO GO back to the project that caused it all.

The raw material I used was a slab that was part of my mangayu (firewood gathering) outputs. It was part of my haul of firewood material that I gathered with the use of the then common multipurpose jute sack (called langgotse in Isinay, langgosti in Iloko) either as scrapwood container or as shoulder cushion for hauling longer pieces of throw-away lumber from the sawmill (which used to occupy a huge patch of land across the road from where the Iglesia ni Cristo church now stands in Barangay Sta. Maria, Dupax del Sur) to our home in Domang.

I had no knowledge then of the names and qualities of the timber (said to be mostly dipterocarps) logged from the bluish eastern mountains of Dupax. But I chose that slab for its hardness, the resulting wheels of which would be durable or at least last much longer than the wheels of the truck earlier made by my teacher father purposely to facilitate my firewood gathering.

My father must have sensed that whenever I would not go to Palabotan (called I-iyo when I was young) on weekends or during school breaks, I would join the Calacala brothers Junior and Oret plus other Isinay boys in our neighborhood in Domang to go rummage for fuelwood material from among the mountains of sawdust, trimmings, edgings, log barks, and other sawmilling wastes dumped in the area across the Dupax cemetery.

He must have realized that aside from the itch and bruises one would often get from hauling the slabs and trimmings from the sawmill dump, gathering sawmill waste was not always fun. Thus, Papa must have put heart and soul in fashioning that truck to make my chore somewhat lighter.

But I only got to use Papa's "truck" for its intended purpose of hauling firewood twice. For one thing, its wooden and wiggly wheels were not of much help in taking heavy loads over the one-kilometer distance between the sawmill and our house in Domang.

What broke the camel's back, however, was the truck's artless features -- rubberless wheels, unpainted body, and un-truck-like appearance. I felt uncomfortable pulling it in the company of the Calacala brothers who were prone to despise (al-aliyon in Isinay, uyawen in Iloko) my equipment because their mini versions of logging trucks did not only look handsome in their green metallic hoods complete with tansan (bottle caps) for headlights but were also sturdy, had six rubber-lined wheels, and could haul even a cavan of rice.

Anyway, thank you, Papa, for giving it a try. At least for some joyful moments, I employed your masterpiece to babysit my much younger sisters then -- Merlie 5, Tessie 3&1/2, and Judith 2 -- when we still had that grassy roadside as children's playground in our part of Dupax. 

Question: Whatever happened to my dream truck?

Well, I don't recall having finished even one wheel. But at least the accident gave me days of respite from such household chores then as feeding the pigs, sweeping dung from the poultry, and hauling firewood.

Moreover, the accident it brought has taught me to be extra careful when using sharp objects -- a lesson that I think I have kept in mind since 1960... until recently.

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