The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Summer I Broke My Arm

By Grace Cash © 1987

Issue: January, 1987

I was a child of the 1920's. Looking back, I think I could have been a sad-faced clown in a circus, so many dire things happened to me. It was as though a grim discriminating fate picked me out from a dozen siblings and cousins for sprains, a bone fracture, typhoid fever and a nagging fear that poverty threatened to defeat us all.

Yet the summer I broke my arm, I remember a dazzling array of new knowledge programmed into my seven year-old mind. I fell when the limb I clutched, climbing a plum tree, broke and plunged me into the baked earth hog lot. A dozen siblings and cousins stared from their perches on the tree limbs. They left it to me to cry loudly enough to get adult help from a nearby farm house, where Mama and my aunts were visiting inside the house.

That night Dr. Myron Allen, who had entered his father's practice in the small town of Hoschton, set the two broken bones in my arm. He used chloroform to put me to sleep. I tossed and tumbled and kicked the doctor, causing him to call down one oath after another in that farmhouse fire room. He splinted my arm to the tips of my fingers, which caused a threatening stiffness and signs of canker from the summer heat. To cap it off, when Papa carried me to the clinic, the young doctor, newly out of medical school, had to break my arm and re-set the bones.

The day of the re-setting, the senior doctor had a woman patient to come in the same examining room. Her husband was with her, and I remember she wore beautiful clothes, a navy blue serge suit, and underwear of pink satin and lace. There was no nurse in attendance, but throughout the entire examination, she was modestly draped. It was all done very properly, which was actually a chest examination, it seems upon looking back. The tall, widely admired country doctor found nothing wrong with her, and they all seemed very happy that this was so.

In the meantime, my father waited downstairs for me, in a long hall that served for a patient-waiting room and for a drug store on one side of the hall. He had no idea I was getting my arm broken again, as I had when falling from the plum tree. This time there was no chloroform and no kicking. Maturity was taking fast hold of me, indeed so fast that I was speechless when I went downstairs where he sat on one of the long wooden benches. A cousin named Emmons Long, who worked at the soda fountain across from the row of benches, brought me an ice cream cone. He had rounded the cone high with pink and white and chocolate ice cream. I knew he was trying to "pet" me because young Doctor Allen had come down the steps with me and told Papa my arm was crooked, and he had to break the bones and re-set them.

I hope I responded properly with a child's joy at the gift. But I actually felt too old to be "petted." Rural living accelerated the maturity of children in those days. Besides all that, I had crossed that day, sans chloroform, sans kicking, the delightful bridge to maturity.