Our neighbor Mr. Lundstedt frequently used an old axe grinder behind his tool shed to grind his axe razor sharp. The grinder had a large stone wheel in a frame with a seat. It was operated by a system similar to a child’s peddle car and the axe or hatchet was moved perpendicular to the spinning wheel. The sharpening wheel was kept cool by dripping water from a small can fastened to the frame. I tried several times but Mr. Lundstedt finished for me each time I tried to sharpen our hatchet. I could not hold the hatchet firmly enough to get a consistent edge and he did not condone a dull edge.
One hot day when he was not home, I decided to see how fast I could get the wheel spinning in reverse so the water from the drip can would spray on my face. I moved it as fast as I could with the pedals, but the water only sprayed on my chest. I disconnected the rods that connected the pedals to the cranks on either side of the wheel. I turned the crank on one side by hand. I made it go faster and faster when it was unrestricted by the pedal mechanism.
I had a plan. I tried spinning it with one pedal attached. I could still get the wheel turning faster by cranking than by using the pedals. My plan was to get it going really fast then attach the pedal rod while the wheel was moving. At the right speed my face would be sprayed with water.
My plan didn’t work the first time I tried. My right little finger caught between the crank and axle.
The wheel stopped and I unwound my finger from the mechanism. The skin on the palm side held my finger on and the knuckle of the separated joint was exposed. It looked just like the bone ends from a chicken leg. I put the rod back on with my left hand.
I pushed the bones together so they looked right and closed the skin over the top. There was very little bleeding. I put a small piece of cloth from Mother’s sewing kit over the skin flap and taped it as tight as I could. Mother did not pay much attention to it. With seven kids wounding themselves on a regular basis there wasn’t need for concern, except when an injury was brought to her attention.
I knew I would be in trouble for using the axe grinder without Mr. Lundstedt’s being present so I kept it well hidden and did not complain. I’m not sure if it was the second or third day when Mother noticed that my hand was swollen. Somehow she got me to Parshall, ten miles from Van Hook, to see the doctor. He looked at it, put a small splint on my finger and said he couldn’t do much else at that point. I took off the splint and soaked it in warm water several times a day until the swelling went down.
Sometimes when my hand gets really cold, I feel a little ache in that joint, but other than that it has never bothered me, except when I see an axe grinder and the memory is rekindled.