Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Grandpa's missing finger.

I've lost another 4 birds in the last 3 days, bringing the score to Predators 24? (I've lost count), Me 3. Rather than spending more time feeling sorry for myself I would like to share a family story that came up today.

My grandpa was a handy, hard working and inventive guy who could construct absolutely anything he put his mind to. The cider press we use is an heirloom that he built in the wood shop just by looking at a picture in a catalog.  He and my uncles built the new farmhouse. He was amazing in this way. Thrift, brilliance and determination came together regularly to make some impressive  projects.  I mean, why the hell would you pay $5 for something you could build yourself in 4 hours out of scraps? Consider that an un-official grandpa quote. He considered easy spending and lack of hard work some of the major downfalls of modern culture. I kinda have to agree with him on that point.


The oldest and I were playing with a plastic T-Rex today and I made a big dramatic show of it "biting my finger off". He loved it.  Which led me to open my mouth and start into the story of how MY grandpa once DID cut his finger off. For real. With a table saw.

This was years ago when I had first gotten into beekeeping. Grandpa had kept bees on the farm and still had some of the old boxes out in the shed. Beekeeping can actually be pretty expensive if you're just starting into it. He was all fired up about my new hobby, sharing knowledge and his 1930's copy of The ABC's and XYZ's of beekeeping. Even as an adult I loved my grandpa just as fiercely as I did when I was little. He was one of my favorite people. I adored him. He loved when we had some new shared interest to talk about. And so he decided that he was going to get out some of his old bee templates (of course he still had them) and make me some supers  (what the boxes are called), lids and landing boards. This went along smoothly for months until the one day that it didn't.

I remember my dad coming to get me at work.  "Your grandpa... um... did something. He's ok but he's in the hospital"

The story came out.  Grandpa admitted he had gotten lazy in the wood shop. He wasn't paying attention. And cut part of his middle finger off with the table saw.

Apparently he wrapped up the stump in a bunch of dirty shop rags, marched upstairs and informed my grandmother that he was driving himself to the hospital. "Janice! Get in the car!"
My sweet, long suffering grandma gave him a big oh hell no you aren't and called my parents for a ride.  When they got there there was blood all over the basement floor and the part of his finger he had cut off was still sitting on the table saw.

Do I ever miss these two.

When he got to the hospital my grandpa proceeded to tell the admitting nurse his version of what had happened: he was driving in a sketchy part of town when some young kids passed him in their car. My grandpa went on to tell her that he stuck his middle finger out the window and one of the kids shot it off with a pistol.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

He lived the next ten years with part of his middle finger missing.  I only told my son part of the story. From the look on his face I wondered if it was too much. I remember grandpa telling me all about his grandpa as a young child witnessing someone getting their hand chopped off for stealing. That was probably too much.

My son immediately demanded to see a picture of my grandpa, which I showed him. "No, no, no!" he said "I want to see a picture of his finger"!"

We don't have one of those. Just the story. Which is more than enough.

And what happened to the rest of his finger?  The part that was left sitting on the table saw? Glad you asked.  Evidently the whole incident was so off the charts that *someone* (I'm not going to name names here)  decided that the only thing to do was to wrap it in a tissue and flush it down the toilet.

So there you have it.  And it's all true.  You know, except for grandpa's version.  Reading this post I am laughing and crying at the same time. 


  1. Hahaha! Such a common injury amongst woodworkers. I remember travelling in my late teens, saying I was an apprentice and this old boy asked to see my hands he just went "hmmm, your not doing too bad then".
    A carpenter I knew always had his dog in the workshop. One day he cut off his finger and no matter where he looked he couldn't find it. The dog was wagging his tail though!
    Lovely that you have such find memories of your grandparents I lost three of mine when I was young to different things and have none left now. I wonder what I would have learnt from them.

    1. Oh, wow. My grandparents DID have a faithful dog at the time. I guess it could have been worse than finding it on the table saw! Oh, ew!

  2. Brilliant post, your grandpa sounds a great man, lucky you to have these memories.

    1. He had a fantastic sense of humor and matter-of-factness about life.
      I miss him.