Thursday, August 10, 2006

uncle wilbur gives the finger

I smashed the birdie finger on my right hand between two concrete blocks yesterday. Actually, I was about to smash it when I jerked it away at the last moment. However, my normally catlike reflexes failed me, and my fingertip remained and thus became partially pulled away as I jerked my hand back, leaving a small flap of fingertip that took a moment to begin trickling blood. It was one of those hold your breath moments where you wait to see the amount of blood for an accurate assessment, thinking both How bad is it? and I can't believe I did that. They soundtracked the visions of an amputated digit dancing in my head.
The blood tricked, and I ran into the house screaming like a small and embarrassing child--which was unfortunate, as I was mowing and doing other assorted yardwork during the most unforgivingly hot time of day precisely to appear as a bad ass.
The cat and dog gathered behing me at the sink as I cleaned the wound and used very loud and unsuitable language. Some might call that concern on the part of the Camino children, but I know that it was purely because they could smell blood and were hoping that my possibly impending death meant they could very well feast like kings upon my corpse until Mrs. Camino got home from work.
Anyway, I survived. I may have to use a pick while playing guitar instead of my preferred method fingerpicking for a while, and some of you may have noticed that I'm typing a bit slower that usual, but the finger is healing well.
It reminds me of a story about the uncle of a high school friend.
There were actually two uncles in the story, and we'll call them Wilbur and Hank.
These two brothers enlisted for World War II at the same time and were both sent to Europe to essentially be cafeteria workers at bases in England and then mainland Europe as the war progressed. However, Wilbur was not proud of this and instead wrote back to his family with tales of purely fictional skirmishes against the dreaded Hun as they made their way to Berlin. Hank was coerced to play along, and the two brothers emerged from each battle victorious and unscathed until Wilbur happened to lose a finger. It was the middle finger of his right hand, and he lost it, according to the letter he sent home and the story he told up until his deathbed, while giving a German the finger.
His platoon and a platoon of Germans had been sitting in opposing foxholes across a small field in a tense but quiet stalemate for sometime. Wilbur stuck his head up one day and found a German looking back at him. He decided to give him a typically Alabamian gesture of recognition while obviously underestimating his adversary's marksmanship. However, having his middle finger shot off gave him the necessary adrenaline to leap from his foxhole, storm across the field, and kill this particular German with his bare hands--which now consisted of only nine digits. The rest of his platoon quickly followed, and the surprise move left them victorious. Wilbur was again a hero.
What had actually happened was this: Wilbur accidentally cut off his finger while peeling potatoes.
He swore Hank to secrecy, bought a bona fide German helmet off another soldier, and returned with the story and what he reported to be the helmet of the man who shot off his finger.
Wilbur died of cancer some half a century later. While on his death bed, he gathered his family around and confessed the true story of how his finger was lost, as he didn't want the lie to somehow effect his impending afterlife.
"We know", his wife said. "Hank's been telling that story every time you leave a room for the last fifty years".


Blogger ceeelcee said...

I believe it was the Knucklehead who told me "never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Anybody who reads our blather without a heaping helping of grains of salt deserves what they get and gets what they deserve.

11:15 AM  
Blogger The Gas Guy said...

Wonderful story, Rex.

8:14 PM  

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