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 cabinĀ 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.