Stops Severe Bleeding
by N. Ray Maxie
I sat there half dazed in the old cane bottom straight back oak chair,
I heard my mother say, "If we don't get this bleeding stopped we'll
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 face.
During 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 mother's
uncle and one of the closest relatives that I ever knew on her side
of the family.
The farm was located in NW Bowie County, about 10 miles north of DeKalb,
Texas. It was in extreme NE 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 it's
dry, it will stick TO you when it's 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."
The 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 go see my family stop by. Oftentimes Mrs. Reed would bring
from her kitchen some nice sweet rolls or homemade apple pie. A very
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 to play.
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. Coal oil and haywire were two mighty popular items around the
farm. Some folks even used coal oil for insect control, but one very
important use of it was for limited medicinal purposes.
On 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. And I did! 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. We were having fun! I was
throwing rope and they were 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!
Shortly prior to our arrival at the Reed's 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 axe. As Murphy's
Law says, "Anything that can happen, will happen", and it did. 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
there in that chair, everyone gathered around me and watched me bleed,
wondering what to do. Mother tried frantically to stop the bleeding
and wasn't having much success. She cried, "Somebody do something."
Suddenly Mr. Reed thought, "Coal Oil! That'll 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 doesn't mix." Mother was applying direct
pressure to the wound, but it kept bleeding. She said, "If we don't
get this bleeding stopped we'll have to rush him into town to the
doctor." That doctor was some 25 miles away and back then we seldom
saw a doctor or rushed to the hospital as we do today.
Since oil and blood doesn't mix like water and blood does, 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 OK. She cleaned and bandaged
the wound and made me lay 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 wasn't my favorite drink. I would
much rather have had a good ice-cold Grapette sodawater or big cold
glass of sweet milk.
Having 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 ever-lasting 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 underneath of the toe wasn't affected. It wasn't 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, etc.
As a barefoot country kid that day long ago at the Reed's 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 really worked.
Today I freely donate my blood regularly and am happy to be able to
do so. I am an 18-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 43 years and I sincerely
hope that my contributions have helped many people recover from serious
accidents or illness.