“I Can Touch My Nose!”

I need to say from the start that I have not injured myself recently!

Before starting The Zeiger Family Homestead Blog in 2009, I wrote a similar blog for about a year. It proved to be a mistake. Nevertheless, I wrote some decent stuff, most of which appeared as earlier posts on this blog. Some of it even made it into my book, Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm.

Some essays never got published, because their timeliness had passed. However, the story below still holds value for those who read this blog for its cautionary homesteading tales. And, it continues to remind me to be careful when doing chores (see Watch for Falling Firewood).

One note: in the years since I wrote the story below, I’ve vacillated on whether or not I broke my nose that day. As I publish this, I’m pretty sure I actually did. Michelle seems to think I did, anyway.

So . . . .

The other day I suddenly realized: I can touch my nose again!

For a long time now, I have avoided jostling it in any way that might cause it to hurt, or make that sickening pop and crackle.

I have lived a long time without managing to ever break my nose. I’ve been hit by flying balls, pillows, boxes, frozen snowballs, and siblings over the years. I’ve taken more punches than I care to remember. I’ve even walked into a few walls and doors, but my nose has remained intact.

Even, apparently, after my latest escapade.

I was chopping firewood a few months back [July 2008]. Our stove’s firebox takes lengths up to 19 inches. Anything longer than that must be trimmed to fit. Usually, I trim with a saw, but if the piece is small enough, I lay it across the chopping block and whack off the extra length with my ax.

Now, I always wear safety goggles when I chop wood. I do this because I read Shadows on the Koyukuk: An Alaskan Native’s Life (paid link) by Sidney Huntington, translated by Jim Rearden (check your local independent bookstore).

This is an amazing book. One of the many lessons I learned from it stands out particularly: Mr. Huntington, then in his sixties, lost an eye to a flying splinter while chopping wood.

This man, who by that time had chopped more wood than I ever will in my whole life, was horribly injured while performing this routine chore.

Point taken, I keep a couple of pairs of goggles near the chopping block and put them on before swinging my ax.

However, I’d finished chopping on that day, and had already removed my goggles when I realized a stick I held was too long, and needed trimming. I set it on the block and took a swing.

I swear to you, as the ax descended, I thought, “Gee, I should really be wearing my goggles!”

But it was too late: the stick sliced in two, and both pieces shot up in the air. One of them whacked me across the bridge of my nose.

The sudden blow brought me to my knees, calling for help. Michelle and Aly rushed out to find me kneeling in the dirt, my hands to my face, blood flowing through my fingers and down my shirt. I’d given myself a bloody nose, and the stick had also gashed my face.

The aftermath of flying firewood (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

The aftermath of flying firewood (after clean up and a change of shirt) (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

My head cleared, and they cleaned me up in short order. We debated a trip to the clinic in town, but decided against it. I sported double black eyes for a week or two. The gash healed into a barely-noticeable scar.

My nose was off limits for so long that I was surprised to realize recently that I could touch it again, even pinch it and wiggle it around. If it broke, it healed (mostly) straight.

I’m even more careful about wearing goggles since then.

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