It Ain’t a Good Job Unless You Bleed On It

Men in my family are very handy guys, and they can build or fix just about anything. Dad was a homebuilder for over 40 years, and my brother Dean has been a carpet and flooring installer for over 30 years. Both have solid business reputations in Colorado Springs. In fact, one of them may have built, consulted on, or installed something in your home.

Dad and Dean don’t often get hurt on the job, but when they do, it’s bad. And they don’t handle their injuries the way they are supposed to. By comparison, let me illustrate with my own experience. A couple of weeks ago, I cut my knuckle pretty badly with a knife, and I knew within seconds I needed stitches, so I wrapped it up and headed to the ER, which is how injuries like this are supposed to be handled (that’s my finger in the picture).

Last week when Dean was installing our kitchen floor, he cut his finger on the saw blade. It wasn’t terribly bad, but it was bleeding a lot. I handed him a paper towel and went for my keys: I wanted to get him to the ER for stitches he obviously needed. “Nah,” he said, “just hand me some duct tape.” He tore off a big chunk of tape and wrapped his finger tightly. “Guess this is a good time to take a break.” After about 10 minutes of pacing around and dripping DNA samples on my garage floor, he got back to work. I had to chase him around with a damp paper towel for an hour, cleaning up the trail of bloody fingerprints in his wake.

Typical. Dad and Dean don’t go to the hospital when they get hurt because it takes too much time to get treated there, and it’s a waste of a good work day. Instead, they just tape, or even better, super-glue their wounds back together. No washing, no sanitizing, no looking to see how bad it is—just repair and keep on going.

Other times a trip to the ER is a given. Years ago Dad was hanging sheet metal behind a fireplace. He had it almost in place when it slipped from his grip and cut his inner arm from wrist to elbow—even he admitted the injury was too bad to handle on his own. The next day, with an armful of stitches and a huge bandage, he went back to work and took up where he’d left off. The sheet metal slipped again and sliced his other arm the same way, forcing him to take a few days off to recuperate. I think he was afraid of what he might lose next if he went back.

One time Dean smashed his thumb so badly it was twice its size, and flat, with a perfect imprint of the hammer head. Dad’s foreman came in and said, “Need a Bandaid?” To which Dean replied, “No, but I could use a ride to the hospital.” The doctor had to put a drain through his finger and gave him a bandage the size of a baseball. Dean was told to keep it elevated, so he sat on the couch and tied the drape cord to his thumb so that when he pulled down on the cord with his right hand, his left hand went up. Then he tied off the cord so his right hand was free to use the TV remote. He has smashed his left thumb so many times it has 19 bone fragments floating around in it. Sometimes they poke out, so he just massages the thumb until they fit back in again. It’s ok, though. He lost feeling in it years ago.

This is not to say the men in my family are clumsy, because they aren’t—but some of their accidents are epic enough to make it into family lore; their stories get retold and embellished over the years, and Dad and Dean have developed somewhat of a reputation for injury. Dad has even been struck by lightning once, so it may just be bad luck. Either way, as Dad always says, “It ain’t a good job unless you bleed on it.” He also says, “Don’t tell your mother.”

Photo By: DeLyn Martineau