(Had to come back and edit this article... for those of you who read it before edits. Mom said not to worry about the error... "A few people over sixty might know the difference." Then one of my readers wrote a note to me asking if "wolf fat" and "wool fat" are the same thing. She's nowhere close to sixty, so I thought I'd better change it and maybe not look so much the fool. Oh well. Say them both. They sure sound the same to me.)
I don't really know who to blame for it, my parents for being somewhat negligent of what their children were doing, my oldest sister for being slightly irresponsible in allowing us to do it, or my other sister and myself for not being more intelligent than we were. We all should simply have known better.
But I do know who to give credit to for the miracle that took place and for the knowledge my stepfather had. Perhaps no one was really to blame but the enemy, as he sought to kill my sister and I, to steal my joy, or to destroy what could be a normal life for me. Or maybe it was God's way of teaching us all a lesson and getting glory for Himself at the same time.
It was 1977 and Carmen was fifteen years old. She was learning to drive. She learned in the same vehicle we all learned in -- a three-speed, one-ton, flatbed pickup that we called "Blue." Blue towed many trailers and hauled many sacks of horse and cattle feed. She had yellow trailer lights across the front of her cobalt-blue cab -- inviting handles for fearless kids like us.
Mom was either too busy to go to the store herself, or maybe she thought the experience of driving a few blocks through town to Mr. Q's convenience store in downtown Hugo, Oklahoma would be good for Carmen. Regardless, Ramona, my thirteen year-old sister, and I climbed up on the back of Blue and held on to the cab lights. I was the youngest of the three girls at eleven years old. I don't know where my nine year-old brother was, but he was most fortunate not to have been on the back of Blue with us.
Maybe it would never have happened had Blue had an automatic transmission. For any who drive vehicles with manual transmissions, do you remember your first experience with turning a corner when you were still unfamiliar with a clutch? I'll bet Carmen hasn't forgotten hers. She was just a little quick on the turn. Just quick enough, in fact, that Ramona and I were rudely introduced to the pavement several feet away from the truck.
Ramona was quite fortunate. Well, compared to myself she was. But you might have had a hard time convincing her of that while she still had that roofing nail shoved to the head into her hip. Ever notice that you don't really feel pain sometimes until you actually see your wounds? I had no idea how badly injured I was. I thought Carmen's reason for leaving Mr. Q's without even going in the store and that horrified look on her face probably had something to do with Ramona being hurt. Okay, so my face stung a little. Probably just a little scratch. Right?
Carmen, of course, made both of us other girls get into the seat with her. I guess she thought putting me by the passenger door would keep me from looking into the rear view mirror and panicking. She had to wait at a red stoplight and there was a man standing on the corner, about to cross the street. He took a couple of steps into the street when he looked at me and froze in his tracks.
That old man's eyes started tearing up. He shook his head side to side. And then, "Oh, you poor baby. I am so, so sorry." A tear slipped down his cheek. I don't have a clue who that man was, but he may very well have said a little prayer for me. Nevertheless, it was his acknowledgment that something was terribly wrong that made me look in Blue's passenger-side mirror. It was gone. The flesh on the right side of my face was gone. Then the real stinging started. But it was more the sting of tears and the pain in my heart than it was pain at the injury's location. No wonder Carmen was so upset.
I can still hear her weeping, "Mama, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, Mama." I was never mad at her, not even for a second. I was just scared -- scared of being a monster. But God knew and had something else in mind.
My step-dad had two main professions in his short, forty-year life span. He was a truck driver and a ranch foreman. In fact, in 1978, just one year after the accident, he landed a job as foreman of one of the largest ranches, if not THE largest ranch in Texas, Cauble Ranch near Meridian. That's when his five children from a previous marriage moved in with us and the eleven of us lived in something very close to paradise on earth -- the making of a thousand other stories to be told.
He spent his lifetime working with animals. He probably could have been a veterinarian if he'd had a decent education. He was almost completely illiterate. But he knew medicine. He practically had a storehouse of veterinary supplies. Most of the items there were in pairs, one opened and one unopened. The unopened supplies could serve two purposes -- a backup supply for when something ran out, or "for use on humans." I'm sure my parents saved thousands of dollars on medical bills.
Tetanus was easy enough, just measure the drug according to her weight, give her the shot, and then pull the nail from Ramona's hip. Viola! Good as new. But he had to take a chance with me, a chance that could mean the difference in the future of a life of normalcy. But what would medical doctors have done? Antibiotic ointment and, perhaps, thousands and thousands of dollars in plastic surgery that my parents would never have?
If the company who makes the drug we referred to, then, as "wool fat" would like for me to include the technical name on their jar of medicine in this story, I'd be glad to do a little editing... for a small fee, of course. :::wink::: (Yes, I do know the brand name and can easily get the medical term for it.) Nevertheless, it's what Daddy used on horses or cows when they cut themselves on barbed wire. To be scarred would lessen their value when it came time to sell them.
I recall a time when he rescued a puppy that was tangled in a fence and near death. He covered that little puppy in "wool fat" and wrapped him up like a mummy. Days later, and after a few shots of pain reliever and antibiotics, the little puppy was missing quite a bit of hair, but he was up and around like nothing ever happened to him. Daddy named him "Dog." That was the most loyal animal I've ever seen. No one else could ever get near him, but he was obedient to any command Daddy taught him -- the making of a lot of other stories there too.
The only problem with "wool fat" was that it either left no scars at all, or left the site of the injury with a black surface scar, sort of like the one on Ramona's hip. Daddy said it has something to do with skin pigmentation. Decisions, decisions. I sure would hate to have been in his shoes.
"Wool fat" came in a black, plastic tub about two or three cups in size. Daddy stuck his hand down in the tub and pulled out a heaping palm full of the thick, greasy, yellow balm. Very gently, he laid, not rubbed, the medicine onto my face. Then, he put multiple squares of gauze in layers over it and taped them down around the edges with medical tape.
His instructions to me were: "Whatever you do, do not take this bandage off for three days. It has to stay covered so that you won't scar." Little did he know, I was fully aware of possible consequences. Not only could there be a huge black scar, but the places where the wound was deepest might or might not heal without scarring.
That weekend, three days later, I'd spent the night at his mother, Granny Rogers' house. I got up Saturday morning and headed for her bathroom mirror. Scared out of my wits, but anxious to know, I slowly peeled back the tape. The places he had to cover would have left no place for taping. So, the tape snagged a little on some small, unhealed wounds. But, underneath that gauze was pretty, pink, new skin.
For the next few days, I kept "wool fat" rubbed into the remaining wounds. But, it was too late; Tiny, colorless scars remain around my eye, jawline, nose and mouth to remind me of how fortunate I truly am. They aren't real noticeable unless I get a lot of sun because they don't tan with the rest of my face. See, Ramona took after our dark-complected father, whereas, I took more after our fair-complected mother. So the difference in our skin pigmentation played a very strong role.
I always thought dimples were so cute when I was little. I envied those little girls whose dimples were big and pronounced compared to my little half-there facial indentations. Well, I guess I ought to be more careful what I ask for. I've got a pretty nice-sized dimple in my right cheek now. And when I'm not smiling, there's a nearly-invisible scar right in the dimple's center.
What a powerful testimony Joyce! It gave me chills to read about what happened to you. It also gave my heart much gladness to read what God did for you. Our God is amazing, and so are you. Love, Sharon