Stops Severe Blood Loss
I sat there, half dazed in the old cane bottom straight-back oak
chair, I heard my mother say, If we dont get this
bleeding stopped well have to rush him into town to the
doctor. I could detect serious concern in her voice and
see very stressful expressions of an emergency situation on her
the summer of 1947, my entire family and I, an eight-year-old
barefoot country kid, had gone to the family farm for the weekend.
We usually made the ninety-mile road trip about once a month to
visit Uncle Mayo Clark. He was an old bachelor and
lived there to work and manage the little farm for my parents.
Uncle Mayo was my mothers uncle and one of the closest relatives
that I ever knew on her side of the family.
farm was located in northwest Bowie County, about ten miles north
of DeKalb, Texas. It was in extreme northeast Texas, near the
famous Red River and the Oklahoma stateline. Soil there was sort
of grayish-red gumbo clay, the kind commonly found along river
bottomlands. It was a nice fertile soil, good for growing bountiful
crops. I remember when old-timers often remarked about the soil,
If you will stick with it while its dry, it will stick
TO you when its wet. And stick it did. We would sometimes
get that wet sticky gumbo on our shoes and could hardly ever get
it cleaned off. We learned to cautiously avoid it when it was
wet. I can still hear my mom shouting today, Just stay out
of that gumbo and quit tracking it in this house.
farm next-door and just down the road a short piece was owned
by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Reed. Many times while my family was in
the area, we would stop by to visit the Reeds. They were a fine
old couple and very hard working people with appealing southern
country charm. They had no children or grandchildren of their
own and were always glad to see my family stop by. Oftentimes
Mrs. Reed would bring from her kitchen some nice sweet rolls or
homemade apple pie, a welcome and refreshing snack for everyone,
plus hot coffee for the adults. Everyone would sit outside on
the front porch and enjoy visiting while we kids would soon begin
in those days, kerosene was much more than a fuel. All rural folks
used it for many purposes around the farm. Most importantly were
the coal oil lamps. Each household had maybe two or three lamps
and during darkness, the lamps were taken about the house from
room to room for lighting. There were coal oil lanterns used for
lighting purposes around/about the barn. They were also used as
walking lights or for area illumination outdoors. Coal oil was
often used to start a nice fire in the fireplace or to burn trash
and rubble collected about the homestead. It had many uses as
a good solvent, cleaning solution, too. Some folks even used coal
oil for insect control, but one very important use of it was for
limited medicinal purposes.
this particular visit to the Reeds, my two sisters had tied the
end of a long rope to the old chinaberry tree out in the front
yard. They wanted me to take the other end of the rope and throw
a jump rope for them. I held the rope end and was throwing it
up and down, up and down, round and round, just right for them
to get into the act of serious rope jumping. They would jump either
single or double. For a while, I would throw them what was called
hickory tea, a real fast jumping action. And all the
time I was hopping around with the end of the rope, throwing it
real fast, trying to make them miss a step. They loved it.
prior to our arrival at the Reeds home, Mr. Reed had sat
on the edge of his front porch and freshly sharpened his mighty
woodchopper, a double bit axe. I mean it was sharp, too. He then
propped it up by the porch, with the blade on the ground and the
handle leaning against the edge of the porch. And that is where
that sharp axe was as I hopped about flinging the jump rope round
and round for the girls. Never once noticing the axe there, as
I hopped and jumped around, I carelessly flung my foot into the
freshly sharpened edge. As Murphys Law says, Anything
that can happen, will happen. The top of my left foot was
cut very badly above the ball of the foot near the big toe. Country
folk might sometimes say, I bled like a stuck hog.
gathered around me and watched me bleed, wondering what to do.
Mother tried frantically to stop the bleeding and wasnt
having much success. She cried, Somebody do something.
Suddenly Mr. Reed thought, Coal oil! Thatll stop the
bleeding! He ran out back to the woodshed and got a large
galvanized can of coal oil and grabbed a white porcelain wash
pan from the back porch. He came to my foot and poured about a
gallon of the oil into the pan. With my foot in the oil, they
continued efforts to stop the bleeding. The pan was all red with
blood that settled in the bottom and someone said, The oil
and blood doesnt mix. Mother was applying direct pressure
to the wound, but it kept bleeding. She said, If we dont
get this bleeding stopped well have to rush him into town
to the doctor. That doctor was some twenty-five miles away,
and back then we seldom saw a doctor or rushed to the hospital
as we do today.
oil and blood dont mix like water and blood do, eventually
the coal oil effectively coagulated the blood, thickening it enough
to gradually stop the bleeding. But not until I had lost a lot
of blood. Mother soon felt certain it was all okay. She cleaned
and bandaged the wound and made me lie around the front porch
for a long while, comforting me with a pillow and pallet. Mrs.
Reed quickly brought me a glass of tomato juice, which wasnt
my favorite drink. I would much rather have had a good ice-cold
Grapette sodawater or big cold glass of sweet milk.
lost a great amount of blood, I was noticeably weaker for several
days. Over time, mother worked at nursing me back to health. This
childhood accident caused an everlasting effect that I still have
to deal with to this day. I never received any medical attention,
nor had any stitches applied. The gaping laceration on top of
my foot severed the top ligament that controls the lifting of
the big toe. I cannot lift that big toe upward. I can only pull
it downward since the bottom of the toe wasnt affected.
It wasnt until many months later I noticed the permanent
effect on that toe. Constantly going barefoot, I was forever stubbing
it on things like rocks, tree roots, sidewalks, or even scraping
it on the ground or the road underneath the left bicycle pedal.
a barefoot country kid that day long ago at the Reeds house,
I may have lost a pint or more of blood and received a permanent
injury, but I am mighty grateful that kerosene stopped the uncontrolled
bleeding. It was just one more of those old time remedies that
I freely donate my blood regularly and am happy to be able to
do so. I am an eighteen-gallon donor of whole blood and can donate
up to six times a year. I have been donating since 1962 when I
first gave blood to help a fellow Texas highway patrolman who
had been involved in a serious car crash in north Texas. Nowadays,
I donate for blood drives at the local VFW post. There, all the
blood collected goes to foreign battlefields for the benefit of
our military combat troops. I have given over 140 pints during
the past forty-three years, and I sincerely hope that my contributions
have helped many people recover from serious accidents or illnesses.
RAY MAXIE, former Texas Highway Patrolman and Special Texas
Ranger, native Texan, now retired, enjoys writing short stories
from experiences as a youth in the Ark-La-Tex area, as well as
career experiences on Texas highways.
N. Ray Maxie