Mayhem can strike its painful mark when fatigue exceeds the exhaustion barrier. And I know weariness lurks somewhere in the dank corners of sweaty, hard work and builds bonds among hard workers.
I’m confident you also have visited that place when fatigued arms dangle helplessly at your sides, and overworked knees threaten to fold. Or a limp flop across the bed, for only a moment, turns into an epic nap, even while still wearing filthy work clothes.
But the faint, satisfied smile reflects another one of those dirty jobs endured and marked off the list.
This mayhem begins with a two-handed, tight grip on a yellow sledgehammer handle— one ring finger and neighboring pinky extended as if sipping a teacup of hot English tea.
This specific ring finger bore a heavily soiled blue splint from an earlier broken bone mishap, but it didn’t matter. The sledgehammer was in full garbage-can-compression mode with every ounce of strength those already exhausted hands, fingers, and arms could muster.
The dirty, blue splinted ring finger and its cohort pinky let the handle slip at the most unfortunate moment. Yes, it was exhaustion that caused the sledgehammer handle to break a nose.
This broken nose belongs to the son of an old farmer who did everything the hard way. The old man loved dirt— especially the soil from his farm. There were other tractors on the farm to till the ground, but this farmer loved to be on the open seated, old tractor and don his goggles. That machine kicked up dust all day as he cultivated the dry furrows and followed him through each pass until dusk. Then he awkwardly ambled off the metal seat with a final puff of dust to head home for a shower and a meal.
I’ve seen that older farmer return home at the end of a seemingly endless, dirt-billowing day. His raccoon eyes and white teeth were the only recognizable parts as he smiled his tired, accomplished smile. On occasion, he wore a single track of dried blood coming from an unknown head wound he incurred that hard-working day. When asked, he carried no recollection of any injury but offered a wink.
He was a farmer that had a crooked nose, and that nose-broken story was left untold. I rarely noticed his limp from polio that settled in one of his legs when he wore a younger man’s boots. He knew exhaustion by name. He knew it tasted much like farm dirt and limped with it from his weak leg. The yellow sledgehammer is no respecter of noses, and with a weary grip, has dealt the damage to this broken nose and brought the father and son resemblance into focus.
By Diana Warren