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Broken foot.

May 3, 2016

The next morning, even for a 17-year-old, Carl realized he was in a huge amount of trouble.  His foot was discolored and swollen so that it looked more gray than pink, with small red spots where he had bled beneath the skin.  He hadn’t realized that taking aspirin would only permit more bleeding and more swelling.

Took him like, twenty minutes, but he managed to change his underwear and pants and put his sock and boot back on his injured right foot.  He found a copy of Colliers magazine on the bookshelf and, using the bandage roll from his first aid kit, tied on a splint to help prevent his foot from flexing.  Once this was in place, Carl laid back on his cot and propped his throbbing foot on a pillow.  And he worried.  And thought.  A few minutes later, he remembered that he needed to check in with his dispatcher for his 8 a.m.

Took him a few painful moments to get to the phone, but he rang up the dispatcher.  It wasn’t Jackson this time, but another guy named Lloyd.  “Huckleberry Mountain Reporting in,” Carl said.

“Roger,” said the voice on the other end.  “How’s the fire?”

“It’s out.” Carl answered.

“That’s not what I heard from Hornet Peak,” said Lloyd.

“That’s my smokey stove,” Carl answered quickly.

“Roger that.” said the voice.

“Bye,” said Carl.


Carl was in a panic.  There must have been a hot place somewhere that caught fire again down at the snag.  Grabbing his crutch, Carl hobbled back out his door and down the short distance to the wildfire place.  Didn’t hurt as much at all, as long as he didn’t hit his foot against any beargrass or stones or deadfall.  Sure enough.  There was considerable smoke coming from the snag itself, close to the root end where he had felled it.

Worse luck, he had forgotten to bring any tool.  Going up was more than twice as hard, he thought, but got back to his cabin.  Where was the pulaski?  He looked in the usual places, but the damn thing was gone.  Then he remembered that he had left it down at the fire after he had gotten hurt.

Another hobble had just the few painful moments when his right foot bumped into something.  He found his pulaski close to the far end of the snag, where he had left it to return to his lookout cabin.

Turns out putting out the fire in the snag was a lot tougher than he thought it was going to be.  He found it impossible to split the snag open without bucking it into some shorter lengths first.  And his foot hurt whenever he stood to work.  Took him more than two hours to split up the snag in order to scrape out the burning part, then cool the embers in dirt, chopping them finer and finer until the fire was out.  At last Bud could touch all parts of the burnt snag with his bare hands and could find nothing more afire.

This time he left his crutch below, leaning on the ax end of his pulaski as a cane to help him climb back to the lookout.  Bud was filthy, stinky, sweaty, tired, and very hungry and thirsty.  He took care of his thirst first, then laid down on his cot again.  He had to check in again four times a day:  8 a.m., then 1, 5 and 8 p.m.  He kept track of the time on his government wristwatch.  He scrambled a half-dozen eggs mixed with an onion for lunch while he waited for time to report to the dispatcher for the 1 p.m. check.  He used a bit of his precious water to clean his pan and fork that he used to cook and eat the eggs, then used the same water to wash his filthy sooty hands.  He rinsed the pan and fork, then reserved the rinse water for the next washing.  Only he used some of it to clean his face.  This time the conversation with Lloyd was different.  Lloyd asked Carl to take an extra careful look at the countryside to make sure no more smokes had popped up from the previous night’s lightning storm.  Carl promised to do so.


Carl Bonde’s high school graduation picture, 1941.

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