(Caution! This column contains material that may not be suitable for children or people who have not acquired a warped sense of humor from too many years spent outdoors in bad weather.)
“An injured friend is the bitterest of foes” — Thomas Jefferson
Those of you who are experienced in the outdoors know that getting injured in the field is a common occurrence. Hunting, fishing, boating and camping each have their own types of injuries. As sportsmen, I think we expect to be injured — sometimes it seems we enjoy it.
Knives, broadhead hunting arrows and other sharp instruments account for some of the best-known injuries that hunters experience. Just speaking for myself, if I get hold of a really sharp knife, I might as well go ahead and cut myself, because it is going to happen eventually.
Let’s say I am going to help a friend cut and wrap a deer he has bagged. My friend, knowing my past record, eyes me warily as I whip out a new knife.
Me: “Hey man, check out my new knife! It’s one of those new replaceable blade models, sharp as a razor!”
Friend: “Be careful there ol’ buddy, I’ve heard those things are really sharp!”
Me: “Ouch!! You got any Band-Aids?”
Band-Aids, to me, have become like ammo. You can really never have really too much.
Fishermen have their own special types of injuries. The best-known wound is the ever-popular barbed hook buried deep in a finger, an arm or, my personal favorite, the ear lobe. I am something of an authority in this field, as I have extensive experience in extracting the offending hooks.
You seasoned fishermen know there are two recognized methods for removing the hardware from human flesh. The problem is, of course, the barb on the hook.
If the barb has sunk below the surface of the skin, it can’t easily be pulled out. The first method is to push the point and the barb of the hook all the way through the epidermis so that they are exposed. The barb of the hook can then be nipped off with pliers and easily removed.
This method seems more popular with the person doing the removing than with the injured party. The hook is gripped with a rusty pair of needle-nose pliers, and usually there is a lot grimacing, teeth clenching, sweating and profuse swearing. The reaction from the party with the hook in his or her flesh is even worse.
The other method for hook removal is done with a length of stout fishing line threaded on the curve of the hook. The person performing this procedure sets himself so that he may yank the hook backwards, pulling the barb out of the injured appendage.
Timing is everything in this method and I like to go for a good distraction, averting the person’s attention away from the lightning-bolt jab of pain he or she knows is coming. I generally use something like “Hey, look down at the dock — is your boat sinking?”
A swift yank at this time usually frees the hook. If the hook does not come free on the first yank, you really have problems because you have to try the procedure again — after you run down and catch the wounded party.
Saving the best for last, my absolute favorite way to get injured in the great outdoors is, of course, by falling. For serious hunters and fishermen, falling is an art form. The actual location of the fall, how it is performed and the aftermath of said fall are all important.
Although I really am not one to brag, I am something of an expert when it comes to falling in hunting situations. I have executed some incredible feats of falling while hunting throughout much of the eastern United States.
Likely my best work has been done in the Falling Down a Steep Hillside category. The key element for this fall to be performed correctly is a stick or branch to be placed just under the leaves. The stick must lay vertical on the hillside, not horizontal. If the leaves are wet from a recent rain, the person doing the fall may achieve one for the record books.
As the hunter walks down the steep hillside, gravity, in all of its malevolence, is lurking to pounce. The instep of the right boot is pressed down on the leaves hiding the all-important stick. As the hunter puts his full weight on the stick, his foot shoots downhill far ahead of the rest of his body.
I have made some simply spectacular falls in this manner. Sometimes I would be airborne for a seemingly incredible length of time. (Picture a scene from one of the “Matrix” movies.) When I do finally hit the ground it is very special.
As hunters and sportsmen, out tramping the wilds, we are just naturally going to have some injuries and get in some predicaments that other people on the earth won’t experience. I would not have it any other way.
Please bring your first aid kit, though. I won’t have one and I just got this new knife that is really sharp.
“The Trail Less Traveled” is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va., has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.