Saturday, December 14, 2013

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

We just finished a family viewing of A Christmas Story with its immortal line "You'll shoot your eye out!" At the end of the movie, Ralphie very nearly does shoot his eye out, but he was luckier than my dad was...

Dad has been gone for six years now, but let's hear it from the old man in his own words. This happened in about 1945.

My two best friends when we lived at Glen Alum [West Virginia] were Jerry Dunman and Buddy Collins, brother of Margaret and Jean. We did a lot of playing up in the hills surrounding Glen Alum and the popular game of our age group at that time was Cowboys and Indians. Jerry, Buddy and I had constructed some bows from which we would shoot dried 'stick weeds' as arrows. Anxious to try them out and knowing if our parents knew about them they would be confiscated, we decided to go up on the mountain for a trial run. Where we started up the hill happened to be right in front of the Gannons' house. Mrs. Gannon (mother of Charles, Ernest, Jr. and Kenneth) was working her yard and as we passed she spoke that well known phrase "You boys better be careful or you'll shoot your eye out with those things." Yeah, sure. As if we would do anything so stupid. Score one for Mrs. Gannon because that's exactly what we did. I was hiding behind a tree and Buddy, I believe, was sitting on a branch of another tree. I stuck my head out and before I could draw it back I felt a blow like someone had hit me with a fist in the eye. Buddy had launched a stick weed in my direction and validated Mrs. Gannon's warning. We ran off the mountain and my mother took me to the company doctor. This happened to be Dr. Kayle who was not known for his gentle bedside manner. He took one look at me and said, "Boy, you've lost yourself an eye." This seemed ironic to me considering the fact that he also had been blinded in one eye sometime in his past. He put a patch on it and told my mother they should take me to the hospital. The hospital was in Welch, which I believe was about fifty miles away. Since we didn't have a car it was decided that we would wait until the next day and catch the train. During the night, infection set in and I became delirious. My father, who had become general foreman of the mine by this time, called Mr. Boyd, Emerson and Robert's father, whom he knew had a '37 Studebaker, and Mr. Boyd saved my life by getting out of bed and driving us to Welch. The doctor said if we had waited until the next day the infection would have caused damage to my brain and I would have died. I would like to extend my belated thanks to Bob for his father's compassion.

Dad was fitted with an artificial eye he could pop out any time. I don't think he enjoyed it when I brought my friends around and said, "Hey, Dad, show them how you can take your eye out." On the other hand it is true that he once made himself a Halloween costume using a spare eye set right in the middle of his forehead.

Once, for some reason, he had to have a new eye made and I went with him to pick it up. It was made by one guy working in a little office up in a high-rise somewhere on the east side of Cleveland. The office was strewn with all kinds of eyes in various states of manufacture. They were made of some kind of ceramic, and he painted them himself. They were extremely realistic -  the guy was quite an artist. You would never be able to tell Dad's eye was artificial just by looking at it. I can still remember the smell of the paints and glazes as we waited for the eye to be finished.  

(Does it strike you as odd that he not only remembered the year and make of the car that took him to the hospital, but included it in the story?)

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