One reason I went ahead and started this blog was a comment from Ann Althouse. I'd written to her about a post on how Kerry lost her. In the back & forth I mentioned that Firehand came from a memorable occasion, and she said I ought to blog about it. So here it is:
I mentioned earlier that I do a bit of blacksmithing. One fine fall day, I had the forge running to make a tool called a spring fuller. I was using a straightened-out section of coil spring about 3/4" in diameter. I'd shaped one end, then cooled it off so I could hold onto it while I worked the rest, then put the center, which needed to be flattened, in the fire.
It takes a while for a piece that thick and long to heat. So I arranged tools, petted the dogs, and waited. When the center was red, I picked it up.
Have you ever touched something that was really hot? Steel doesn't get a visible heat glow 'till about 1000 degrees F, and the end wasn't glowing, but it was DAMN hot. First I heard a sizzle. Then I realized what was happening and dropped it- it stuck a bit- and immediately stuck my hand in the slack tub.
A slack tub is just something full of water for cooling metal off. In this case it was an old crisper drawer from a refrigerator, two-thirds full. There were leaves floating in it, the dogs- and probably squirrels and birds- drank out of it, it had steel scale in it, but it had been sitting out overnight and it was cold. Which is probably all that saved me from much worse. After a minute or so, with the dogs sitting there wondering why I had that funny look on my face, I took my hand out, looked at it, and went in the house (I'd turned off the blower while standing there). Found my wife in the living room and said something like "I got burned, what do you think?"
She looked at my hand and said, "I'll get the kids ready", and off to the doctor we went.
First, second and borderline third degree, over most of my left palm and fingers. At that stage treatment involved soaking it in antiseptic, then covering with antibiotic and bandages. All through this I sat there with my hand now feeling like it was about to fall off (and it might hurt a bit less if it did, do you think?). Note to other nurses three days out of school: it does not help the patient's frame of mind when you look at the hand, ask "What's wrong with it?", hear "Burns", look again, get a 'yuck' expression on your face and say, "Uh".
That was the first time in my life I've actually wanted pain medication. A prescription for Tylenol 3, the stuff with codeine, was given and promptly filled. It took about forty-five minutes from taking the first for effect to be noticed, and it was wonderful; the pain just faded out. No fuzziness, no 'Whee!', just no more pain. The cessation of pain was one of the most wonderful thing's I've ever felt. I'd been burned before, but not this badly.
Happily, my then-wife had a lot of studies in herbology behind her, and after the initial 24 hours, put some of her stuff on the skin when rebandaging. Three days later, when the doctor examined it, he was fairly amazed. He'd been fairly sure they'd have to do some debriding, but none was required. For which I was profoundly grateful.
That's the story behind Firehand. And yes, I'm a lot more careful about checking things that should be cool before I try to pick them up.