July 11, 2012

$4,000 and a Color TV

The Magnavox Monster 
$4,000 and a Color TV
By John R. Greenwood
That was the prize for losing a finger in 1974. I do not think of it often. It happened a long time ago. I was nineteen, newly married and working 8 days a week. You worked as many hours as you could to make that $75 trailer payment every month.  The lot where we planted our 12' x 70' castle was a gift from mom and dad. They lived next door; just a curtain pull away. The arrangement did not have a prayer. Mom’s first inquiry, “Why didn’t John go to work yesterday?” resulted in an expected young wife response. Moving day was quick to follow and life would never be the same. 
It happened quickly. I knew what I had done. That old 1940’s butter churn named, ‘Big Butter’ looked like an old Civil War cannon. He was cream colored and butter cream filled. I was just beginning the day adjusting, attaching, filling, and monitoring ‘Big Butter’. He was stubborn and had a mind of his own. Butter making is an art. The moisture has to be just right. The salt you add must be fine-tuned. ‘Big Butter’ could not help himself. He was determined to act up, spitting butter up through the salt chute. “Don’t put your hand in there”. You know better. Common sense was my best attribute. Where did it go today? When you hear a little voice on your shoulder, listen to it. The body part you lose may be your own. 
A poor decision and a split second later, I am heading for the front door of the Saratoga Dairy squeezing my right forefinger as tight as I can without breaking it. I did not panic;I did yell for help. “Grab a set of keys, we’re going for a ride.” ‘911’ did not exist in 1974. It hurt badly. I was afraid. There had been speed runs to the emergency room in my past and there would others in my future. 
This speed run involved a brand-spanking new Ford Thunderbird. A beautiful dark green Thunderbird that now boasted of blood stained carpets. My supervisor/ambulance driver was as scared as I was. After all, he was responsible for my safety. I was just a kid working 60 hours a week making less than five dollars an hour. 
I walked through the emergency room under my own power. The following minutes were a blur. I do remember nurses parking me in the hall for what seemed like hours.
They had found the end of my finger and brought it to the hospital. Doc Rockwell was old school. There would be no reattachments for Doc Rockwell. ‘Doc’ said it would be stiff and cumbersome. The choice though, was mine. I made the right decision. “Just sew it up ‘Doc’, I don’t care what it looks like, I have a trailer payment to make.” I returned to work two weeks later with a plastic bag and masking tape.  There would be no lawyers for me. To be very honest, it never crossed my mind. I am proud of that. 
Thirty-four years later, I watched a true story of a logger who lost a hand in a poorly wrapped cinch chain. He spent a year sending back uncashed compensation checks to the State because as he explained, “I’m the one who did something I shouldn’t have. Why should others pay for my mistake?” Instead he engineered and built his own mechanical hand as a replacement. That is a true man in my eyes.

 I was not that brave. I did receive 100% compensation for that individual finger. The New York State Compensation Board Blue Book of Body Parts; along with calculations of age, ability, and future earning expectations was used to come to a figure of $4,000 as a fair price for the loss of my finger. Sign-off is the magic word the New York State Compensation Board wants to hear. Sign the check; close the case. 
One year later, I bought my growing family, with the broken father, a $600 Magnavox color console television set. That beauty was as big as the sofa. We raised a family on that television. Every time I turned on that Magnavox Monster, I thought of the ‘Big Butter’. 

"Big Butter"


  1. Well written story. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry for your finger. We all would have been better off without the TV... in my humble option.
    I enjoyed your blog today. Gayle

  2. as usual, great post -- really liked this one -- it's like life: funny and sad and oh so true -- you can't make it up -- thanks for sharing