• Leta McCurry

The Big Toe Episode



Uncle Dick (his name was Alton. I have no idea why we called him Uncle Dick) was the youngest of my father’s brothers and one day he was out on the farm by himself cutting down some trees. Trimming a log, he braced it with his foot, missed his swing with the ax and cut off a chunk of his big toe.


He limped back to the house, bleeding all the way. Doctors were few and far between and it usually took hours for one to reach the house. (Yes, they made house calls.) A person could (and one family member did) bleed to death waiting for help. Plus, nobody had any money to pay a doctor.


So, Grandma pulled his boot off, emptied out the blood, and cleaned his foot and the piece of toe with alcohol. She painted both with mercurochrome, coated them with carbolic salve, stuck the piece of toe back on and tied the whole thing up with a clean rag.


The family story goes that the piece of toe did grow back on but when granny removed the bandage,

the piece had grown on upside down. I was about five at the time and I can’t swear to the accuracy of this story. The part about the toe growing back may be family legend. I don’t recall seeing the famous toe, but I did see the boot with the big gash. The damaged boot was a lot darker around the gash than the other boot because the blood stain never did come out.


Uncle Dick wore those boots for years.

He married about the time World War II began. All able bodied men were being drafted. Naturally, Aunt Gean, especially being a new bride, dreaded Uncle Dick going off to war, so she often joked about running over his foot with the car so he wouldn’t have to go.


One night they came home late. Uncle Dick told Aunt Gean to drive through the gate while he held it open. Sure enough, she ran over his foot. She swore it was an accident, and it probably was, but only Aunt Gean knew for sure.


When Uncle Dick was called up by the draft board, he was classified 4-F and turned down for service because of flat feet. Both feet were flat, so obviously Aunt Gean running over his foot hand nothing to do with it. I’ve often wondered what the army doctor thought of that toe.

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