My neighbor Frank was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, pending his Woodcutting badge. He believed the badge would be easy to earn, since earning badges had always come easily to him and he lived in a neighborhood full of trees. Alas, the “Ecology” badge on his sash prohibited him from chopping down live trees, so he was faced with the task of finding a woodpile. Since he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, with its year-round heat and humidity, this was challenging. Ours was the only house in a four block radius that had a fireplace and ergo a woodstack. So Frank, with his hatchet in hand and dressed in full Boy Scout regalia, rang our doorbell and asked my Mother if he could have a go of it in our side yard. She said ‘yes’, of course, how could anyone deny a young man in the pursuit of his dream?
He consulted his Boy Scout Handbook and educated himself on form, leverage, and torque. Feeling satisfied that he was ready to begin, Frank anchored his left ankle parallel to his body on a low tree stump, raised his hatchet to precisely the height of his shoulder and swung the hatchet downward at 40 degree angle with a quick, even, determined stoke, promptly shearing off his left foot.
Adhering to the tenant of Boy Scout stoicism, Frank did not scream. It was the suspicious lack of chopping noise that drew my Mother outside, where she saw Frank rocking from side to side and clutching his leg in one hand while he held his orphaned foot in the other. Even with no experience in handling severed limbs, my Mother intuitively knew she had to act quickly. Rather than going back into the house to search for bandages, she raced to Frank’s side and whipped his yellow and blue kerchief from his neck. Tearing the fabric into strips and wrapping them around Frank’s lower leg she created a tourniquet, pulling it taught and staunching the blood long enough to drive Frank to the hospital.
Later that month, at a ceremony attended by all his den-mates, his Den Master and the Director of the Regional Council Forty-Seven, Frank was not graced with a Woodcutting badge. Instead, my Mother was received an honorary First Aid badge, which made all in attendance very proud.