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[at-l] Re: Sloetoe remembers

I love stories.

>From: tmcginnis@ucclan.state.in.us (Thomas McGinnis)
>To: "Cora Drake" <cora_drake@hotmail.com>
>CC: at-l@backcountry.net, progeng@spartanburg.net
>Subject: Sloetoe remembers, was  [at-l] Freedom a thruhiker sighting
>Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 16:11:35 -0500
>Why thanks, suh.  Tell me the tale of your trail name?  JPJ
>         Hawk Mountain Shelter, April 10, 1979. It was cold. Wet, windy, 
>         cold. We, the eight of us, all newly met aspiring throughhikers,
>         moved slowly and tentatively, trying out sore bones and new
>         insulation, seeing if the insulation would win out over the wind,
>         and warm the sore bones to moveable temperatures. Some were up
>         earlier than others. I'd frozen all night in my North Face Cat's
>         Meow (20* bag) wrapped inside my tent laid out on the floor of the
>         leanto as a ground cloth / bivy.
>         A gray day, low clouds lowing close over the summit on the stiff
>         wind. People huddled with hands thrust deep into pockets, trying 
>         shield whomever was brave enough to work a lighter on unwilling
>         stove. I saw this and decided to adopt permanently my mantra of 
>         previous morning: (With apologies to Paul Masson) "I will see no
>         morning before its time." I could not figure the wisdom of leaving
>         a (halfway) warm sleeping bag in order to stand shivering in the
>         wind doing stove stuff. Nah! Not even my teenage male ego was
>         speaking out; it said instead "Warmth! Do Warmth!" I concurred and
>         slipped back into my bag until sunlight warmed me sufficiently to
>         allow movement with out impeded fine motor skills -- that took an
>         hour or two.
>         Eventually, I did the breakfast thing, and then had to confront 
>         "what do I do as part of establishing a morning routine???"
>         question. What I do this morning (I thought at the time) will
>         follow me as a morning routine all the way to Katahdin (which, in
>         my mind's eye, I would probably begin to see in a week's time, two
>         tops). Well, I remembered, along with teeth and hair (ha! that
>         lasted!), I needed to trim my toenails. I'd neglected to do this
>         before I left the motel in Commerce, GA on the morning of the
>         Eighth....
>         Trimmed the toenails like any other day, like any other person,
>         like any other place, but as I was finishing my right big toe, a
>         tiny little tab on the right side was missed. Stuck up a bit;
>         thought it might catch on a sock; I grabbed it between my thumb 
>         forefinger and gave a quick, sharp pull out and away. Poof, it was
>         gone.
>         But then I noticed in the place where the little tab of toenail 
>         been was a small drop of blood. Oh, no matter -- tish-tish, 
>         to it. I smeared it with a nearly thawed hand and put on my socks,
>         trying to tell myself that the sun struggling through the
>         wind-driven clouds really was warming my body, and that if I was
>         truly AT-worthy, I'd be able to feel it. I went unconvinced.
>         In any event, time marched on, and so did the toenail. A scab grew
>         into a swollen sore which needed to be drained every morning if it
>         wasn't going to leak green/yellow/red/brown all over my liner
>         socks. Sometimes this draining process elicited howls of pain from
>         me, especially if I thought I was alone as the last to leave
>         "camp." Went through toilet paper, bacitracin, boiled water. 
>         in salt water in Fontana, Epsom salts in Hot Springs, but it was
>         just getting worser and worser. The infected tissue now comprised
>         the upper third/top of my big toe, whilst the nail itself was
>         ingrown so far that fully half of it was buried. The toe throbbed
>         in pain just to be looked at, but once ensconced inside my 
>         boots, it was unaffected by even the most deliberate provocations:
>         I could kick a tree with my boot on and not feel it, but to stroll
>         around camp in my moccasins was to chance a stumble and pain
>         radiating up my leg sufficient to make me faint. Or WISH I'd
>         fainted. But the short story was that as long as the boot was on, 
>         was comfy, and so I hiked northward. I was still "Connecticut
>         Yankee."
>         Climbing Roan Mountain was about the only place where the pain of
>         the toe was too great to continue without a break. I stopped,
>         drained the colorful toe again, took pictures of Its Hugeness, and
>         tried to enjoy a beautiful day, but the toe hurt too badly. I 
>         that's where the idea of "Sloetoe" -- with a Winged (Mercury) Foot
>         with a Huge and Inflamed Toe cartoon symbol was conceived. But I
>         forgot about it until Damascus.
>         The morning I got up to hike into Damascus (May 2?, 7 weeks and 
>         miles up the trail), I noticed red streaks tracing up my calf --
>         first signs of blood poisoning, as I recall. Hit The Place, 
>         to have a Doctor lookie at the toe, and availed myself of the
>         services of the good Dr. J. Thomas Luck at this little glorified
>         garage of a clinic 100 yards from the hostel. Was able to get in
>         right away, and (after a shower and what I thought was a really
>         excellent job making the toe look as healthy as possible) went in
>         for the 500 mile inspection.
>         Dr. Luck noticed the red streaks and casually mentioned it was a
>         good thing I hit town before they hit my abdomen. Ohhhhh. Then he
>         suggested that he take care of the toe right away. Okie-dokey! He
>         got out this and that, prepared a syringe of local anesthetic,
>         turned to the nurse and said (casually)
>         "Why don't you get a hold of his foot."
>         I said "Why? You're not going to give that to me Chinese style, 
>         you? You know, under the nail?"
>         "Oh no, from the top." He assured me.
>         I should have gotten a clue from the vice grip the nurse put on my
>         ankle -- both hands, full body weight. I'm laying back, but I can
>         still see Luck winding his arm up like Luis Tiant presenting a
>         submarine fastball across the plate. WHAM! Right up the length of
>         the toenail. I took a full throughhiker lung of air and cried out
>         "OOOWWWWWUUUNNNNGGGHHH!!!" "Careful!" came the reply, "It's not 
>         the way IN yet" and he pushed again, visibly hard and far -- I was
>         SURE the needle was going to come out my ankle. "SONOFABITCH!!!" I
>         cried out again, and this time, even with the nurse doing Full
>         Nelson on my ankle, my entire body came off the gurney. (I only
>         know this because I felt the "thump" of my landing.) "AWG!!!" I
>         cried. This was the most painful thing I have EVER experienced.
>         At this point, I heard hurried footsteps running from the waiting
>         room next door, and the screen door opening and slamming
>         repeatedly. I was emptying the clinic.
>         But that's when the cool stuff started. With the toe (and, I
>         suspect, half my foot) now thoroughly numbed, J. Thomas took out
>         the Nephrecator, a marvelous little pen device which burns off 
>         and tissue with the stroke of a ball point. I watched (I'm leaning
>         up now, observing everything frantically, ready to grab for a
>         scalpel and escape with my life if anything looks suspicious) as 
>         drew the Nephrecator over my toe, again and again, leaving charred
>         and smoking blackness instead of ink, wherever it passed. When the
>         affected area was completely cooked, he'd take iodine and scrub
>         brush the char away. It was REALLY cool to watch, until it 
>         to me that he was going REALLY far down into the toe. He was
>         amazed, too; "Where's your toenail?" "I don't know. Urp."
>         But I kept watching, and he kept Nephracating, and eventually the
>         toenail was revealed. At that point, it was a simple procedure to
>         snip away under the nail, remove the offending in-growth, and form
>         a nice smooth taper that would grow out naturally over time. He
>         also instructed me to notch my toenails in the middle -- like
>         cutting a "V" into the nail at the front -- a practice which I 
>         followed RELIGIOUSLY for twenty years.
>         Afterward, while Dr. Luck chased down his escaped patients, the
>         nurse wrapped my toe inside a huge bandage with thick padding all
>         around. When I asked him when I could return to the trail, he said
>         whenever I'd like -- that the toe should be fine. With that, I
>         hobbled delicately back to the hostel, doing the three minute trip
>         in twenty. I went upstairs to the middle room right off of the
>         staircase and crashed on a mattress, moaning not at the pain --
>         because there wasn't any -- but at the MEMORY of the pain! And for
>         the next 48 hours, whenever anyone would walk by "thump thump
>         thump" in their big ol' clunky hiking boots with the big, mean
>         looking Vibram cleated soles, I'd dive protectively for my foot,
>         saying "Please! Please! Not the Foot!" That's a memory. My foot
>         hurts just remembering this.
>         As I was leaving The Place, and trying to figure out what to write
>         in the register, the "Sloetoe" idea came to me, complete with
>         detailed WINGED FOOT cartoon. Poof. I was "Connecticut Yankee" no
>         more. Never did like that name anyway. Boring. Who cares where
>         you're from? Nah! I was SLOETOE! THE MAN OF THE TOE! And I signed
>         with THE SIGN OF THE TOE! And when I was going through (fast)
>         thereafter, I was "Sloetoe stomping through!"
>         So I forgots about the whole Sloetoe thang for a number of years,
>         except for occasional visits to, say, Damascus or DWG or an AMC
>         hut. And now, like 20 years later, there's like this whole
>         cyber-community who knows me mostly as that nutball Sloetoe.
>         Ah, yes......
>         Oh, and during Trail Days this past May in Damascus, I had reason
>         to head once again by that fateful street corner which held the
>         Damascus Clinic way back when. On the site is a tidy little
>         professional building, all in brick, you know. Quite different. 
>         who's the presiding medical person? Dr. J. Thomas Luck. Bless him.
>         Regards,
>         Sloetoe'79

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