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Two brothers, knife, milk carton: What could go wrong?

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

We have journeyed back to the Heights in Alvin, Texas, around 1954. Brother Donnis and I have been delegated domestic chores. I assume mother and Butch are working. Older sister Edna, would be delegated to watch the three younger boys.

The dynamic duo was assigned the task of washing, drying and putting dishes, utensils and pans in their respective nesting places.

“Donnis, I’ll wash, and you dry and put stuff up. I’ll help when I’m through.”

“You’ve given me two jobs to your one. Don’t seem fair,” Donnis replied (always so intent on fairness).
“Not true, I said. I’ll help when I’m done, and I’ll sock you if you don’t,” I said.

Work commenced and progressed along nicely for about 10 minutes, and then we discovered two seemingly unrelated objects. The first was a “butcher knife,” a long, sharp wooden-handled affair, and an empty milk carton.

Why we had a milk carton, I don’t know, as we had a milk cow. Perhaps that poor beast couldn’t maintain production to suffice the needs of the eight kids and two adults in the household. Regardless, we possessed the empty milk carton and only needed to discover its purpose.

As I washed the knife, I suddenly felt inspiration concerning the moment in time that the knife and milk carton’s existence intersected in our lives.

When Donnis dried the knife, instead of putting it in its designated spot, he could throw it at the milk carton, and just like the knife throwers at the circus, stick it up in that carton, vibrating with the residual energy of the throw.

I would then, naturally, retrieve the knife and execute another perfect throw at the milk carton. The circus couldn’t match the thrills and dexterity we would demonstrate.

I washed. Donnis dried.

Donnis threw, and the knife slightly off target hit carton but didn’t stick into it. I quickly retrieved the knife and with speed and dexterity threw it at the carton. Perfect throw.

It went into and through the carton, and stuck in floor, vibrating gently just as I had imagined. It was a heady moment indeed.

Donnis quickly retrieved the knife and readied himself for his second attempt. He threw, and the knife sliced into the carton, but not the floor.

The knife not sticking up in the floor was probably a good thing for our future well-being, but he regarded it as a semi-failure or semi-success, depending on your perspective.

I told Donnis that after my second throw we had to do some dishes between throws, or we would be in trouble for not finishing them. He took exception to my leadership (he called it bossiness), and as I executed my perfect second throw, he kicked the milk carton.

Not good. That left his foot in the position the milk carton had previously occupied. The knife penetrated (deeply) the foot (but fortunately not the floor) and stood up quivering, accompanied by a gusher of blood.

This was undesirable on two fronts. I didn’t want Donnis to bleed to death, since blood was pumping out pretty freely, and we had better have a good explanation of how this occurred.

I, with no previous boy scout or medical training, succeeded in tying a tourniquet around his foot with enough pressure to reduce blood flow to a mere trickle. I then located the number for Bo Smith’s grocery that we were forbidden to use, and called mother.

“Mom, knife fell, Donnis’ foot, bleeding really bad.” And just like that she was on her way. We could have told Edna (she was the eldest at home), but she would have told the truth as she perceived it, and we absolutely couldn’t have that.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, considering how far the grocery store was from us, mother arrived and took one look at the pale Donnis, the blood on the floor, the knife and the excellent tourniquet, threw him in the car and flew to town to the doctor’s office.

Wound cleaned, stitches done and bandage of great size applied, Donnis was interrogated at office and on ride back home. He, to his credit, stuck to prearranged story of knife carelessly put in drain board, falling out and sticking in his foot.

I, as all good under-aged coconspirators do, confirmed his story in minute detail. My description of blood flow and life threatening emergency treatment (applied by yours truly) was met with horror, and Donnis looking pale again.

It was a great success. We were relieved of remaining dish duty. Donnis was told to rest and I, as his rescuer, was to keep him under observation.

After a few hours, mother felt it was safe to return to work, and we felt it was safe to congratulate ourselves on our excellent crisis management.

Life was good for a week or so as we milked his injury for all we could, and I was commended for my coolness under fire.

The moral to this tale is, never leave eight- and seven-year-old boys to work in tandem with sharp objects, or probably fire, too. Nothing good could come of it

(Send comments by email to editor John Toth at john.bulletin@gmail.com. Or send regular mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX 77516)