The Finlander

I met Arnie in the early 70’s when he lived in a house south of Kenora, Ontario. He built himself a log cabin on the east shore of the Lake of the Woods and was a great carpenter. One winter, while continuing to work on the cabin he had an accident. He had just put a new saw blade in his table saw and while cutting some wood trim he cut his thumb off!!

He described to me how shocked he was and how badly he started to bleed. Other than his big white dog, he was alone, with no one to help him. He realized that he needed to drive into town to get help at the hospital but first he had to shut down the cabin. He rushed around bleeding profusely, turning off the furnace, the lights, and locking the doors. He managed to find a towel to wrap around his hand to limit the bleeding. His dog Tina realized something was wrong and cowered in a corner of the room.

Eventually Arnie staggered out to the truck and headed for town. His dog sat in the truck with him but sat as far away as possible. On the winding and hilly drive to town it was difficult to drive very fast and he was afraid he was going to pass out and drive into the ditch. Arnie eventually got into town but rather than go further to the hospital he stopped at his house where he fell down and passed out from the loss of blood. His wife was at home and an ambulance soon had Arnie in the hospital and taken care of. They were unable to reattach the thumb as it was left in the cabin many miles away..

Many years after the event Arnie and I were discussing the accident while out at the cabin and having a few drinks. He confessed that the whole episode upset him badly and he had trouble getting over it. When his hand had healed enough he returned to the cabin and found it still in the same condition when he left it.

Not only was the table saw covered in blood but the thumb was still lying there. At the time of the accident the pain had caused him to shake his hand up and down dramatically, while yelling and cursing at his own stupidity. The result was that not only was there blood on the floor but on the walls and ceiling. Instead of simply wrapping up the hand and jumping in the truck he went round and closed up the cabin in the usual manner. He turned off the furnace and the lights and locked the door. He left a trail of blood where ever he went and on what ever he touched. The amount of blood loss made it look like someone had been butchered in the cabin. In the end it was necessary to repaint most of the walls and ceiling. The entire situation badly upset the dog, particular the yelling and cursing, and it was many weeks before she would go near her master.

During our talk I learned that during World War II, while living in Finland, Arnie was in the Finnish Army and fought against the Germans. At one point he and a group of fellow soldiers were on ski patrol and ran into a lager group of Germans. They were forced to flee and were chased by the Germans. They came to a river which had steep banks on both sides. With difficulty they got down the near bank, abandoned their skis and swam across the river. As they were climbing the deep snow on the far bank the Germans caught up and started shooting. Of the dozen or so Finnish soldiers with Arnie all of them were shot and killed and only he managed to escape.

Because of this tragedy and all the other bad experiences he suffered during the war he considered himself very lucky to have escaped without a scratch. Cutting off his thumb made him relive his close escape and bring back all the war memories. It was these buried memories that upset him more than the loss of his thumb.

Bush Pilots & Depth Perception

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I lived in Kenora, Ontario, Canada for ten years and made many trips around the area with Bush Pilots and float planes. Landings and take-offs can be exciting. Lifting off from a small lake and clearing the trees at the other end of the lake can get the blood flowing.

One year, back in the 1960’s, a young pilot transported a Moose Hunting party into a northern lake. After a successful hunt he returned to pick up the party and their moose. The first two plane loads deposited the hunters at their main dock cabin. Then he went back for the butchered moose.

The entire hunting party watched the float plane circle the lake and come in for another landing.  It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky and without the slightest breeze.  Not a leaf was blowing and the water was a smooth as a mirror.

As the plane descended to the surface of the water it failed to pull out and flew right into the lake and crashed. The pilot was killed and the plane was destroyed.

The accident was caused by the lack of depth perception, caused by the smooth glass surface. The pilot had no reference as to how high he was off the surface of the water.  From what he saw he believe he was much higher up from the  surface of the lake and failed to level off and allow the floats to touch first.

The answer to the problem was simple.  An expericed pilot appreciates the danger and simply flies over the spot on the lake where he plans to touch down and drops a life jacket onto that spot.

When he circles back he is able to judge his height off the water surface by watching the life jacket floating in the water.  Being familure with the size of the jacket gives him a proper gauge as to how high he is off the surface of  the lake.

It does take more time to make the landing, by having to circle and extra time, but it is a small price to pay when lives are concerned.