Smith saga: “God must have had another plan for me to live”
Last month we began the autobiography penned by C.B. Smith, also known as Bert. He was the publisher and editor of the Creemore Star for many years. At this point in his story Bert is still on the farm at Smithdale.
Spring was early in 1902, which was my first year as an active farmer. Seeding was all finished by the middle of May. Rolling the newly sown fields with a heavy land roller was the final operation. Saturday, May 17, I was rolling the last field (the one on the corner opposite the post office and station). It was Uncle Reub’s old wooden roller made in two sections like two huge barrels with necessary framework. The seat was an improvised affair. Dad had gone to Creemore by horse and buggy. I had just finished and my team of horses evidently knew the job was done because they perked up, as I faced them toward the barn. The roller dropped into a furrow and the seat broke. I was pitched into the revolving roller and lost control of my team. They ran wild. Fortunately I was driving one young horse and old Kate, a family favourite. The result was that the team ran in a circle. Old Kate being slow, the young horse ran around her. It didn’t last long as the lines got under the roller and forced the horses to stop. I got out of my predicament myself. Fortunately the accident was seen by several. Uncle Bill was first at the scene and when he saw how I was smashed up and bleeding heavily he grabbed me and we both passed out together.
Tom Patton was the station agent and he was just about to leave the station for supper when he saw the accident; even at quite a distance he sensed it was serious. Accordingly he returned to the telegraph key and wired Creemore to rush a doctor. (Note: there were no telephones). Dr. Bradley had just returned from a country call and had a team of broncos already hitched. He reached the house almost as soon as the men who carried me from the field. Dad, in Creemore, got the message second hand and was right behind the doctor.
Evidently what contributed to saving my life was that the terribly lacerated arm was sheathed in mud. The dirt played a part in stopping the flow of blood. Even the Doctor estimated that I had lost two-thirds of my blood and there were no blood transfusions in those days.
Dr. Bradley gave me stimulants and tied off all severed arteries, etc. He said amputation of the left arm would be necessary the next morning. The injuries included two compound fractures of the left arm as well as half the flesh torn away. My left shoulder had all flesh torn off and the collarbone broken. Fortunately my head and hands were uninjured.
Dr. Bradley asked for Dr. McFaul, the leading surgeon at Collingwood to come next morning to supervise the operation. Dad was frantic and called in Dr. Ball from Singhampton and Dr. McLeod from Stayner. The latter two arrived first and agreed the amputation was the thing to do. Dr. McFaul arrived and he said there was a hope to save the arm if blood poisoning could be prevented. He said, “Put the boy in the hospital at Collingwood under his care and he would try to save the arm.” He also said he would amputate if and as a last resort. All agreed.
I was placed on the kitchen table and administered anesthetics. Dr. Bradley connected up arteries and muscles, etc. Mother told me I was five hours on the table.
It was Sunday, May 18, and even though there were no telephones it was estimated 100 people were in the yard. Jim Hamilton, a husky big man, went and took a peep at the doctors at work. What he saw through the window caused him to faint. They laid him out on the grass.
Monday noon I was placed on a stretcher to go to the hospital via the noon train to Collingwood. The rain obligingly stopped opposite the house and again a hundred or more were there to see the procedure. The majority was sure I was not likely to survive.
God must have had another plan for me to live. I survived both injuries and made good progress toward recovery. As I look back over sixty years to the ordeal I went through, I fully realize a miracle took place. The hospital was small, 20 beds and with little equipment. The matron was, however, a wonderful woman. She gave me her personal care. Her name was Morton: Irish, Anglican and Conservative.
I loved her. Frankly I shed tears when after five weeks I was able to return home. I shed tears now as I write this narrative. True, I suffered much pain but I was brave and could take it. The story is already long but let me add a final report.
Dr. McFaul was thrilled with my progress but he was wrong on several counts. He thought I would have a stiff arm. Then he was sure I would never be able to turn it. For a year it was crooked like a new moon but gradually it straightened out and eventually was 90 per cent as good as ever. Today there is no pulse to be found and the skin surface is not sensitive to the touch. I found this out a few weeks ago when I accidentally scalded it and didn’t know it for 24 hours.