There were times, of course, when I realized that I was clumsy. Times that have long since coagulated into the ilky bits of gunk that wedge themselves somewhere in between the stuff I _definitely and without question_ remember, that which _I’m pretty sure happened but cannot honestly prove_ remember, and the large body of events that _I’m not sure but I’m generally convinced that it could have happened as I remember it even though everyone else remembers it completely differently_ remember. The last one is what most of my memories fall under, actually. Although I’m convinced that even the meager number of things that fall into the first two categories are just memories dragged out of the third with photographs or journal entries or scars to encourage and/or amplify their solidity.
As I’ve mentioned before, for a time, I hauled hay. It was a summer job on the ranch that I grew up on and it taught me such niceties as _drink lots of water when you sweat incessantly for ten hours straight because if you don’t you’ll get heat stroke and think you’re the messiah_ and _try not to think about the thousands of bails yet to haul, just place this one where it needs to go and try not to think about this again in two seconds_ and _be careful with your hay hooks, dumbass, because *ouch*! They’re sharp!_
It’s the last one of these Ultimate Truths that I’ll focus on, because everyone should acquire at least one such nugget of wisdom in the Endless Search for Something Important and Nifty that drives his/her late-night webbrowsing.
I was either fourteen or fifteen and I was just learning how to haul hay. As such, my sense of grace was somewhat lacking and my sense of place had yet to develop. More often than not I was in the way; more often than not I placed the hooks in the wrong spots and pulled too hard, exerting much too much effort to move a single bail; more often than not I got tired quickly and cut corners, placing and stacking poorly; more often than not I sweat quantities I did not know possible; more often than not I wanted to give up and say The Hell With It, I Don’t Need This Freaking Money. But I didn’t. There is a stubbornness deep down within my skull that resonates bluntly when inklings of resignation brew.
Over time, I got better at it. The early lessons segued into more advanced techniques and even better ways to use less energy and do the job better. But you wouldn’t be reading this far if there wasn’t a promise of a Personal Injury story, would you? Right. So. Get on with it.
I was on the back of the truck stacking with my brother, Logan, and Christian Broce was driving. Christian, a well-built and naturally athletic lad learned in the ways of hauling, was prone to set a pace that was often just beyond the capabilities of Logan or I (not to mention the 40+ year old equipment), and still more often obliterated that limit entirely. There was something about the two of us together on the back that led to the decision to quicken that pace yet further, forcing us both more or less to run back and forth to catch and keep up with the bails launching themselves off of the loader and onto the empty bed of the truck.
As a rookie I got winded and frustrated quickly. I was not placing my hooks right, was wasting energy in the process of re-grabbing the bail repeatedly, and was getting more and more behind as Logan sprinted to compensate for my lack of skill and rapidly declining effort. We danced around each other, me slipping on the slick bed, dropping bails and slowing down, he expertly tossing the bails where they needed to go and hardly breaking a sweat, providing kind words of encouragement and suggestions of the sort that brothers often ignore (and I did, more or less, unfortunately). Add sharp implements to your image of this scenario, and any knowledge you may already have of my propensity toward self-inflicted wounds (see Bodily Harm: 1, Bodily Harm: 2, and Bodily Harm: 3), and you can see where this is headed.
We had just finished the first level on the truck and were moving to stacking on the second. The pace had not slackened and the bed of the truck no longer provided me with a conveniently slick surface to ease dragging. The first bail on the second level fell from the loader on top of the bails on the first level, and suddenly friction made hook placement much more crucial. I hooked a corner and pulled, gaining nothing but a chunk of hay while the bail mocked me, motionless. I tried again, with no improved result. The bails were stacking up on the loader; I was frustrated, hot, tired, angry and in Logan’s way. I wanted to kick the bail off the truck and throw my hooks as far as I could. I wanted to curse at the bail and insult its mother. I wanted to punch my brother in the face for being a foot away and offering advice. I wanted to quit right then and there. Instead of any of this (or because of all of this) I swung my hook as hard as I could at the bail, lodged it between the wires, pulled as hard as I could and stepped in a hole on the first level between two bails. As I lost my balance and fell backward my right hook came loose, swung into my face and stuck about half a centimeter into the space between my nose and the inside corner of my right eye, just underneath the eye itself. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I pulled the hook away and took a few seconds to try to realize what may have just happened.
I knew in an instant that it must have looked bad because as I looked at Logan I witnessed his expression transform from concern into outright terror. I was bleeding, heavily. Warm transparent-feeling streams of blood poured down my face, pooling on my chin before continuing groundward in larger drops. Logan frantically slammed his hooks against the loader (universal hay-hauler language for _stop the goddamn truck already, something’s wrong back here_) and Christian jumped out of the driver’s seat to see what all of the commotion was.
I was rapidly going into shock, and my vision blurred and became discolored in my right eye. I was deathly afraid that I had somehow punctured something important and was asking Logan over and over again what was wrong. Could he _see_ what I’d done? Did I still have an eye? I didn’t want to touch it for fear of feeling something horrific. The sheer amount of blood was enough to make me panic. And I did. I panicked.
Christian, taking in the situation, immediately rent his shirt in two (Hulk Hogan style) and wrapped it around my head. He unhooked the loader, pitched me into the front seat and punched the gas. We bounced all over the cab of the haytruck until we got close to his Ford Ranger, where we all got out, crammed into it, and continued onto the main road. The shirt was veritably dripping red. And of course I couldn’t see very well through it, so I was convinced I was going blind.
We drove to see my Grandpa, who took one look at me and (somehow) knew it wasn’t serious. He saw that my eye was still in tact (if a bit bloodied) and after a few simple tests that I could still see out of it. He sat me in his favorite chair and made me a sandwich. The gesture struck me, still strikes me, as exactly what I needed. _You’re fine. Sit down. Rest. Eat something. You’ll be just fine._ I will always remember that moment.
As it turned out, the wound was superficial. It bled (as all facial wounds do, I’ve come to realize) much more than it should have, considering the fact that I ended up with a very slight puncture just beneath my right eye. Once it stopped bleeding it was barely visible, and looked more like a fist hit me than a hook.