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The Great Onion Wars

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Kathy tells everyone who asks about my bandaged thumb that I was injured in The Great Onion Wars. I'm glad someone is having fun with my situation.

My cumbersome, bandaged thumb reminds me of another injured thumb, not mine, but one of a land surveyor that I once knew many years ago. Actually, there were two injured thumbs, but that's part of the story.

I was in Canada's Northwest Territory, on the slopes of the Mackenzie River, north of Fort Simpson, but south of the Arctic Circle and Norman Wells. I was part of a group doing oil prospecting, really seismic subsurface mapping, on bulldozed trails through the scrubby black spruce forest and muskeg.

The dozer had left the trails rough, full of frozen splintered stumps, frozen ruts and frozen muskeg knobs. These impediments were surreal and they limited the driving speed to very low single digits. While driving the trails, the vehicle's front wheels would frequently catch a stump or knob and jerk hard sideways. This would cause the steering wheel to violently twist back and forth as one drove. It would probably be more accurate to say one herded, rather than steered. And one soon learned to grip the steering wheel by the outside perimeter to avoid the hazard of the fast moving steering wheel spokes. Thumbs and fingers would catch on them.

One of our surveyors was a recent German immigrant. His English was hard to understand, but he was a competent surveyor and did good work. Unfortunately, he was absent-minded about the steering wheel spoke-thumb hazard. The first time, he suffered a bad right thumb sprain that was diagnosed and wrapped for free by a Health Canada physician in Fort Simpson.

The surveyor was left-handed, so the wrapped-right hand was an inconvenience, but he could still operate the adjustment screws on his analog theodolite--no GPS or digital tools back then. Unfortunately, a week later, his pickup steering wheel spokes grabbed his left thumb and broke it. There was another six hour trip to Fort Simpson, the same doctor, and this time a full hand cast. The cast separated his left digits enough to make surveying adjustments impossible. He barely managed one-handed for another week, then the spokes reached out again, this time for his right thumb.

A day or so later, the surveyor went south to Calgary, and I never saw him again.
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