Thursday, September 20, 2012

Words of Encouragement For Patty

Physical therapy is hard, and trying to make an arm relearn how to work is not just terribly difficult, it's exasperating.  We are all pulling for you, Pat!  Here is a good story from Ernie Pyle that should encourage you a bit. 

"For nearly twenty years I had rolled my own cigarettes.  I did this because (1) I liked them better than ready-mades, and (2) people, especially in the East, admired this strange ability, and the distinction made me somewhat more of a drawing-room attraction than I would have been otherwise.  My friends all knew that I could roll a cigarette in the dark, or in the wind, or behind my back, or riding a horse, or with my eyes shut.  But that wasn't enough.  What I really wanted to do was roll 'em with one hand.  I'd rather roll a cigarette with one hand than be president.  In the West I was always watching for a cowboy who might teach me to roll 'em with one hand.  But I'd never seen a cowboy rolling a cigarette with one hand.  Most of them couldn't even do it with two hands.

One night, sitting in one of the Ketchum "clubs" watching a 21 game, I found my man.  He wasn't a cowboy; he was just a nice-looking fellow in overalls, and he had only one arm.  And I sat speechless as he laid the paper on a crease in his pants, filled it with tobacco, and twirled as neat a cigarette as you ever saw.  So I walked over to him and said, "Would you step outside a minute?  I want to talk to you."  In the East you'd probably get hit if you said that to a stranger, but this wasn't the East, so the young man said, "I certainly will," and followed me out.

"I saw you rolling that cigarette," I said.  "I've always wanted to roll them with one hand, and I thought maybe you could teach me."

"Well, " he said, "I don't know whether I can teach you, but I'll show you how I do it."

So I sat on the bumper of a car, and he squatted on the sidewalk in front of me and pulled out his tobacco sack.  "To begin with," he said, "you crease the paper way up high, like this."

I said, "Oh, I never thought of that.  How long ago did you lose your arm?"

He said, "Eight years ago.  Then you slide it down along your second and third fingers, and then joggle it with you thumb till the tobacco's even."

I said, "Did you roll your cigarettes before you lost your arm?"

He said, "No, I never smoked at all till after I'd lost my arm.  When you get it all even, then you slip your first finger over across it like this, and then press down hard."

I said, "That's where I get stuck.  My finger's too stiff.  How did you lose your arm?"

He said, "A runaway team of horses."

I said, "They must have broken your arm a dozen times, to have to have it amputated."

He said, "It got caught between the wagon tongue and the singletree and they just beat it to pieces.  There wasn't hardly anything left of it."

I said, "Are you working here in Ketchum?"

He said, "I'm not doing anything right now.  Last year I worked up at the construction job carrying water.  But they won't give me anything this year.  A big outfit like that don't give a damn for one man."

I said, "Here's my trouble.  I never can keep the edge of the paper turned under."

He said, "That's the hard part.  You have to press real hard.  It's easier with that ribbed paper you get with cans of Prince Albert.  It takes a lot of practice."

I said, "I'd think there'd be lots of jobs you could do with one arm as well as two."

He said, "Sure there is, but they won't give me nothing on account of it."

I said,  "Are you gonna stay around here if you can't find anything?"

He said, "No, I'll go down below and get a little work diggin' spuds.  After that I don't know what I'll do.  I'd like to go over close to Portland and rent a farm, but it takes a little money and I can't make any money."

I said, "I did pretty good on the first one, but this second one keeps slipping."  Then I said, "Are they just indifferent, or have thay got something against you?"

He said, "It really looks like they've got something against me.  I can't get on nowhere.  Sometimes I get so blue and disgusted I feel like gettin' me a gun and just go shootin' up and down the street.  You're gettin' onto it now, but it takes practice."

I said, "Will you be around tomorrow night?" He said, "Sure, I''ll be along here somewhere."  I said, "All right, I'll practice and let you know tomorrow how I get along."

I went back to the hotel and sat over a wastebasket and practiced.  I had to keep my right hand in my pocket, so it wouldn't always be jumping up to help my left hand.  And as I sat there it came to me that rolling a cigarette with one hand was a very trivial thing in the awful pilgrimage we were all making across the hard years to the goal of final sleep--just a little whim that didn't have to be humored at all.  And yet I sat there and tried and tried and tried, till I got so damn mad and disgusted I felt like gettin' me a gun and shootin' at the floor or something."  From: Home Country by Ernie Pyle; William Sloane Associates, New York, 1947.

And if you feel like shooting up and down the street, I bet we could help you arrange that!

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