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Northern Days Gone By: My Burned Feet

Surely you’ve had this experience of being in the doctor’s office and being asked, “How would you describe your pain level, with 10 being the most severe pain?” Mine was a 10.

We were at the cabin, north of Duluth. The sky was overcast. And it was very muggy. My Uncle Art called out from the dock, “Come look at these clouds!” On the dock we viewed the sky changing color, from gray to a green to a strange yellow. The adults joked over where we could take cover if there was a tornado. What a joke. No one could ever recall a tornado up North.

Viewing the sky we noticed one cloud looked like a huge cigar on its side, rolling. Suddenly at the far southwest corner of the lake this cloud tipped its narrow end down, and the sound it made as it hit the shore reminded me of a huge explosion. We all ran into the cabin, and I grabbed my dog Ricky and went under the kitchen table for protection. The whole area outside turned inky black. The wind blew, and the whole cabin shook. The adults were on the front porch looking at the storm approaching and the driving rain was blown through every crevice in the porch. The adults joined me in the kitchen, and we all watched trees twisting and falling over. It seemed like a long time, but suddenly, it was quiet. But our little cabin was intact. We went outside to view the damage. We counted 26 trees destroyed, twisted, knotted together and blown over, just at our cabin property. Up and down the road others had similar damage.

My uncle and my father began the clean up right away, cutting the limbs and stacking them to be burned at the end of the driveway in a bonfire. This fire continued all night as my father and uncle watched it. By morning the fire was out.

John rests in his wagon, taking weight off his burned feet — his dog, Ricky, by his side.

Four days passed after the fire, and my father parked his car right on the cold ashes. After a few hours he left for work. My sister and her friend decided to go swimming. I was ready in a few minutes and alone in the driveway. I stood on the soft ashes. Heck, it appeared safe enough for my father to have parked his car on top of it. The ashes were so soft. I pushed my toes deeper into the ashes and wiggled them. Wow, how nice this was. As I pushed deeper suddenly the bottom of my feet felt extremely cold and then hot. I ran screaming. My mother tackled me. She found one chunk of wood was burning red hot embedded in one foot. The other foot had multiple red hot particles clinging to it. She pulled the burning chunk from my foot and instantly a blister was formed, as big as a football. My mother and aunt carried me into the cabin. My sister promptly fainted. The neighbors next door ran, hearing the screaming, came into our cabin and saw my sister on the floor and thought she was the one hurt.

My mother and aunt put me in the back seat of a brand new 1954 Chevy, owned by my aunt’s fiancé. With a pan full of ice cold water that had baking soda in it we raced down the highway at nearly 100 mph, all the while the water was being poured over my burned feet trying to end the pain. I screamed all the way to the E.R. I spent a week in the hospital and the rest of the summer with feet bandaged being pulled in a wagon or on crutches. The new auto’s upholstery never looked new again. I share this account when medical personnel ask me the pain numbers I currently might have. I inform them that I know what level 10 feels like from this experience. Ricky (the grouch) my dog kept me company.

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