The Cut Finger (a poem)
by Ellis Parker Butler
An’ shure, me lad, ‘t is bleedin’;
But come, me hearty laddy buck, be brave an’ do not cry;
A lad that’s learnin’ readin’ sh’u’d be far beyant the heedin’
Av a tiny bit o’ finger cut that hurrts a bit foreby.
‘Ere ye come till wan an’ twinty
Ye’ll be havin’ hurrts in plinty
An’ ye’ll learn a bit o’ bleedin’ doesn’t mean ye’re goin’ t’ die
(excerpted from the poem, A CUT FINGER)
Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead guitarist; actress, Daryl Hannah; outlaw, Jesse James; James Doohan, “Scotty” of the Starship Enterprise; Christian Bale, the iconic star of the Batman movie; female members of the Dugum Dani tribe of Guinea; my late father’s, late first cousin, Congo, of Congo’s Cargo fame (see my story, Congo’s Cargo), and my granddaddy Leroy, ALL have one particularly peculiar commonality. They are all missing a part, or all of one or more digits—a.k.a. fingers.
- Jerry Garcia, lost his finger while assisting his father with wood-chopping duties.
- The rope pulley, on her grandmother’s well, divested the actress, Darryl Hannah—star of the 1980’s movie, “10”, in which, she was touted as being the “perfect woman”; a “10” on a scale of 1 to 10—of her digit, thus, leaving Daryl one finger shy of being an actual “10” (or more accurately—having 10).
- During WWII, James Doohan, who portrayed the venerable and irrepressible character, Scottie, on the USS Starship Enterprise, also served with the Royal Canadian Artillery Unit, where his heroic acts included; shooting two snipers and leading his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines.
He was crossing between command posts when he was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren Gun by a nervous Canadian sentry—his own man! He received; four wounds in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right bird finger.
Although a fan of the Star Trek TV shows, I never noticed the missing finger, but it does explain why Scottie never gave Captain Kirk, the finger, when the Captain would demand, unrelentingly, “Scottie! We need more power!”
- Jesse James—the infamous “outlaw” of the Old West—is alleged to have been missing a finger also; shot off while cleaning his shotgun, however, modern historians don’t agree on which digit Jesse James was missing, but I’d bet a dollar-to-a-dime that it is was not his “trigger finger”.
- Christian Bale played Batman in three different movies. He has also had roles in many other successful movies. I’ve never noticed a missing finger.
- It is a funerary tradition—in the Dugum Dani tribe—for young women or girls, to disjoin themselves from the distal phalange of one of their digits, whenever family members die. To not perform this ritual, would incur the wrath of a “Ghost Warrior”, whom it was thought, would terrorize the village. They simply could not have that sort of thing going on so; chop, chop!
- I’m not sure how cousin Congo lost his finger. He was a mechanic so, maybe he was trying to make a Car-Go!
Granddaddy Leroy was missing parts of several fingers, however, I never had the courage to ask him about the factors of causation for the state of his extremities, but my Mom and her siblings did. This is how she related his ensuing response to me:
“My daddy had four and a half fingers on each hand. One of us inquisitive kids asked him what happened to his fingers. He patiently replied, ‘This finger got caught in a folding chair. It had to be taken off by the doctor’, he explained, as he held his hand out for us to see; his ineradicable, ‘roll-your-own’ cigarette, dangling precariously from his lips.
He held his hands before him, turning them slowly, first this way, then that; staring at them as he talked as if, once again, experiencing the painful event he was describing, then he pressed on, ‘the other hand’s missing finger was caused when me, Coley, and Jimmy was foolin’ around near the choppin’ block. I bet them that they wouldn’t cut off my finger.
So, I laid my hand on the choppin’ block’, then he paused. A shadow crossed his face, his brow furrowed, as if he was asking his hands, ‘Why?’, then the shadow and the furrowed brow were gone, and the insuppressible smile was back. Now, more matter-of-factly, he continued, ‘I lifted my hand from the choppin’ block and half of this finger’, he said, pointing at the missing finger, ‘was gone!’ he finished, indicating the remaining half of the victim of this aggravated assault of a phalange.” Thus, Mom completed her recounting of the Factors of Causation for the Multiple and Traumatic Loss of Leroy’s Phalanges.
In a different place and in a different time, my brother, Eric, was born with two extra digits. I wonder if some version of the Entanglement Theory could be implicated in these events? My paternal Granddaddy was missing a couple of legs, but that’s a story for another day.
In short (that’s a joke) …
Granddaddy didn’t seem to be, in any way, impaired by these missing digits. He worked, he tinkered, he rolled those cigarettes, and most of all, he cared for and provided for; his wife, his children, and grandchildren.
As for his Marbles game? Well, let’s do some reasoning, by way of induction:
- Jerry Garcia, played the heck out of his guitar, until his recent death.
- Daryl played a mermaid, among other things, and is still considered, a “10”!
- Scottie, served as engineer of a starship.
- Jesse was so good with his gun, that over the course of 15 years, held up 11 banks, seven trains, three stagecoaches, one county fair and a payroll courier, in the process stealing some $200,000 and killing at least 16 men.
- Christian Bale played one the greatest superheroes of all time without missing a single bat beat.
- Old Dugum women can still be seen walking around with several missing fingers and finger joints, having successfully birthed and raised children and taken care of their warrior husbands.
- Congo continued to make Cars Go, until he had a stroke in his 60’s!
So, yes! I believe he adapted to the missing fingers and became one of the deadliest Marble’s marksmen of all time, thus proving that, if you have the will, you can overcome any obstacle.
But I wonder if the children—who picked on him for his “Whiteness” and whom he ran from every day to avoid their hurtful remarks—also teased him about his missing fingers? Hmmm!
To Be Continued…