Quote of the week:

“They'd have to shoot me to get me back to Illnois."

~Abraham Lincoln upon going to WDC to become president

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FLASHBACK: Bamboo Shoot ( Corn) Finger (Thumb)Nail Torture

As I referred to it in the last post, I thought I’d write about the time in undergrad (which falls into the WASTHTR* listing) of when I got corn stalk rind shoved under my thumb nail. I worked in Corn Pathology at the University. The grad student (Brian) I was working with was studying corn diseases (d’oh) . In early summer when the corn was tall, but no ears of corn yet, we went with huge ass syringe guns, (sort of like squirt guns with needles) and buckets of a fungus solution and inoculated the corn with the fungus above the third node from the bottom. Then in August, we went back to check the level of disease/infection. The way we did this was by cutting the top of the corn stalks about chest high with a machete, and then spit the remaining stalk down the center, to see how far the disease progressed.
I must say, I got very proficient pretty quickly and had my rhythm established until I did my swoosh down with the machete, getting my bent thumb a bit too close to the edge of the corn stalk and ran corn stalk rind under my thumb nail, to about the first knuckle of my thumb. I screamed obsecenities like a banshee, which, given that I had just had a machete in my hand (until I dropped it when the thumb thing happened) seems appropriate.
Brian ran over, looked at my hand/thumb, now dripping blood like a river water fall (and throbbing). He wants to take me back. I want to finish the field. It was getting close to lunch anyway. Against his better judgment, he acquiesced. We put a band-aid over the thumb and we continue. Although my rhythm was now completely out of synch. The thumb was still throbbing.
When we go back to the lab, I want to keep it on the DL. He mentions it to the Prof who says that we have to fill out an accident report, and that I should go to the Dr. The Student Health Service at the University was named for our 25th President. When I was a student there, it did not have the best of reputations and was dis-affectionately known as “Mc KILL-Me”. I really did NOT want to go there, but I was over-ruled, outranked.
I go. There’s no one at the front desk. I go looking for someone and find them all in the lunch/break room. I explain the situation of having corn stalk rind jammed under my thumb nail (will blood soaked dripping band-aid and blood running down my upraised arm as evidence). In what was the beginning of what’s become a recurring theme in my experiences in healthcare, someone says to me, “We’re all on lunch right now, can’t you wait?” Even though I wasn’t as ballsy then as I am now, I was incredulous enough to say, “NO! I’m on lunch too, and I have to get back to work!”
I am taken back to an exam room were peroxide is poured over the wound area. They want to try and extract the corn rind. To do this, they are going to anesthetize the area. They have my hand resting on the arm of a chair, and start coming at me with a syringe—UNDER the thumbnail. I retract my arm quickly. They start again. I repeat.
“You’re going to have to keep your hand in place!”
“You are NOT going UNDER my thumb nail with a syringe while I’m still conscious!”
They then decide they will extract it with tweezers. This was as unsuccessful as it sounds. I left, McKILL-Me with all of the corn stalk rind still under my thumb, and the student health service living up to its moniker. It took about 9 months for the rind to completely grow out. There was still a bit of remnant when I graduated the next Spring.
In the workman’s comp/accident report, I was admonished for not wearing work gloves. But trust me, I learned my lesson. I fully understand how this was an effective method of torture. You can call me a lot of things, but wuss isn’t one of them.
*Weird Ass Shit That Happens To Randy


Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Do You Like Them Apples?

I was reading over on one of my favorite bloggers Dr. Mark, {http://mouseasthma.blogspot.com/2008/08/growing-tails-so-far-so-good.html } about his triumphs with his green thumbery. It reminded me of one of my successes from undergrad days in the pomology (tree fruits) class. One of our class exercises was to graft buds from ‘flavorful’ apples to a good root stock. The apple is in the Rosaceae (rose) family. One of the genetic traits for this plant family is that the ‘beautiful’ or favored flowers/fruit often have poor root stocks or systems that are highly susceptible to diseases and other injurious pests. (Kind of like inbred Royalty families). So, to remedy this, you get a good root (which usually has less favorable flowers/fruit) and you graft a stem/twig/bud from the desirable flower fruit onto that stock. Something else most people don’t know, apples are ambisexual, meaning that the plant contains both male and female components, but they cannot self pollinate. i.e. you must have two trees of different varieties to get fruit.
So, I grafted a bud from a yellow delicious and a bud from a red delicious trees to my ‘good & hardy’ root stock. The damn thing actually survived, and both buds were viable. At the end of the semester, I took my sapling home to Mom & Dad’s and planted it, in an unprotected (yes---unprotected) area of the yard. Again, against all odds, the tree survived and in a few years began to bear fruit—red delicious on one side, yellow on the other. It always caused people to do a double take in late summer- fall when the fruit turned colors , and if nothing else, was a conversation starter. (If only I could have carried it around with me to the gay bars, I might have had better luck at picking up guys. I’ve never been a good ‘barfly’-but I digress.) Making this bi-varietal (ambisexual) tree is one of my better memories from those years. I felt like I’d done something significant or lasting (relatively speaking—I know it’s nothing earth shattering).
For reasons I don’t even remember, that semester was a tough one for me. This was all PGR (Pre-Gay Randy). I completely tanked my first exam and think I ended up getting a C in the class, even though it was one of my favorite horticulture classes. It was the same semester I took “Plant Pathology”, and that class I anticipated being difficult so I took it Pass/Fail which was on option as a non requirement. Early on in that semester, the Professor of this class had an opening for a student worker. One stipulation was that you had to maintain at least a “B” average in his class. By the time this all happened, it was too late to switch P/F classes with polmology, so I had to study harder to keep the higher grade in the class I’d elected as P/F. Such is the story of my life. I ended up working almost 2 years in Corn Pathology. I spent the summers inoculating and infecting corn with various diseases and fungi, and then surveying the results, among other things. In a future post, I’ll write about the time I had corn stalk rind jammed under my thumbnail. Let’s just say that really sucked poorly and hurt like a MF. ©wtf/rle