Saving a Life With a Dirty Rag

 Today, I post a family story about my daddy — my first hero.

Daddy was always a manager. Maybe his 6’4” height caused people to automatically look up to him. Maybe his calm demeanor did the trick. I’m not sure, but I know he always became the manager of whatever he did. When we lived in Odessa, Daddy managed the railway express office. After moving to Barstow, he managed a local cotton gin. When my mother died, Daddy went to Oklahoma to manage a crop dusting crew. In my teen years, he managed the Low Farm, a show place farm in Coyanosa, Texas — the last virgin territory in the US with the exception of Alaska. This story focuses on a tragic experience at the cotton gin in Barstow, Texas.

On a hot summer afternoon, a primal shriek resounded throughout the cotton gin followed by screeching machinery being demanded to shut down in mid-process. Daddy ran from his manager’s office at the gin to the loading zone in time to see a worker fall to the floor clutching a bloody stump that ended just above his elbow. Daddy knew immediately that the machinery, designed to separate raw cotton from its stems, leaves and seeds had chewed the worker’s arm through the bone and ground it into the emerging fluff.Cotton Stalk

Until that moment, life had been good. Daddy felt excited about being back on the farm. The gin provided some needed cash, and Mother and I had adjusted to the rural community. One accident on a hot afternoon changed Daddy’s peaceful setting into a nightmare. He instinctively understood that unless he could get the man to the Pecos Hospital quickly, the worker would bleed to death.

Men scrambled to load the injured worker, a driver, and Daddy into a beat up truck. In an effort to prevent too much blood loss, Daddy tied a rag around the man’s remaining stub and clutched it tightly as the pickup rumbled along Old Highway 80. Although six miles doesn’t sound like any distance at all today, in 1945, the distance from the gin to the hospital seemed forever.

Yes, Daddy’s tourniquet saved the man’s life. Later, Daddy helped the man find different employment. Life continued. However, the experience ripped away some of Daddy’s personal pleasure and he never felt good about working at the cotton gin.