Damn right it's copyrighted, ©Kent Lundgren, 2005
Pain! -

is Mother Nature's way of telling you you just screwed up.

Safety Wire
is bad stuff.

Kids are
Pain is a fact of life, as we learn very early in our existence.

This thought was foremost in my mind as I nursed a wound incurred while working on my FXRT one afternoon. I had been feeling around under the oil pump, looking for a nut that had developed legs when I took it off the rear cylinder exhaust stud. The little buggers will jump down and find hidey-holes, often on top of the structural crossbar between the right and left frame rails.

Anyhow, as I ran my fingers up, down, and around under there, working by feel of course, I managed to create a serious interface between my index finger (actually, the cuticle of the nail) and the end of a piece of safety wire on the bolts that hold the footpeg bracket in place. Ran that sucker right up under the cuticle, I did.

Now if you've never worked with safety wire you may not know that the end of a clipped-off twirl of safety wire is the sharpest object in this universe, but it is. Fresh scalpels, for instance, ain't even in the running.

There are two distinct points on the end of the twirl, each with an edge that'll carve diamonds, splayed slightly outwards, and they operate in close conjunction to create their damage. While they can slice when provoked, their genuine strength is in the penetration game. Just a slight touch, and you wind up with a hole that is yards deep, somehow, and about an inch across. Do it just right, catch them going the wrong way, and not only will they dig in deep, they'll hold on as you try to pull back. They're sharper than a mother-in-law's tongue, and oughta be on the OSHA list of hazardous stuff.

Well, as you can guess, I spoke out loud about it in several languages for a while, some unheard since biblical times, as I stood there nursing the finger and dripping blood on my boots. Some neighbors may have thought I was talking to them too, for a couple of old ladies down the block went back indoors, several kids took the long way home from school, and the neighbor's mutt ran for his house.

While I was bandaging it up it occurred to me that as a reliable source of recurring pain over the years, safety wire has been right up there at the top of the list, even ahead of exhaust pipe burns and smashed fingernails.

Then I got to thinking about all the other pain I'd incurred, mostly while working on scooters and such like in the garage.


Early in life, when we are just itty-bitty, we do not discern well between pain and discomfort. Thus, the tendency to cry, or even yell, when our drawers are wet.

As we grow older, though, we discover the nuances between discomfort and agony. We'll sit on a motorcyle, for instance, freezing our nuts off, wet to the bone, utterly, completely, and insensibly uncomfortable, and do it voluntarily for the sake of putting down the road. We'll even set out from the house knowing that it's gonna be that way. That's discomfort.

However, I can't think of a time that I voluntarily, for any reason at all, laid my hand on a vice and whacked the tip of my finger with a wrench on purpose; that's pain, and we try to avoid it.

See, it's about discomfort versus reward. Everything in life is a tradeoff, and not too many of us will welcome pain as a tradeoff for something enjoyable.

Except through sheer forgetfulness and ignorance, of course. Those of us who work on our own bikes, or those of friends, usually do it for the enjoyment of making something mechanical turn out right (and impressing our buds, naturally, with the depth of our skills.)

But if we just stopped and considered, we'd realize that sometime along the line it's gonna hurt. And sometimes it's gonna hurt bad! Things like this nearly always come about because we've done something stupid, something we could have avoided if we'd stopped to think for a minute, or just slowed down a little. Pain and stupidity are very closely linked - you can read about it in books.

See, working on machinery requires using, and working with, objects that are large or heavy or sharp, and nearly all are unyielding. This is nothing like sitting in your recliner, beer in hand, and the remote at your fingertips. About the only way to hurt yourself there is to rip your finger little if you get clumsy with twist-off cap on the bottle, and you can even avoid that if you tell her to uncap it before she brings it to you.

Anyhow, there I was, waiting for the bleeding to stop and pondering this reality, thinking of all the ways I have managed to damage myself in the shop. Or seen others damage themselves. I thought it might be worth recording, so here it is.

 The absolute classic, one I heard about so many years ago I can't even remember, concerns the typical whack on the fingernail that leads to a massive blood pool under the nail, and a throbbing pain so exquisite that it can be seen in colors. (The worst I've had was normally a pulsating red, flashing into violet when I bumped it, or one of my kids, young at the time, grabbed it - out of love and sympathy, I'm sure. It faded to brilliant yellow/orange when I could sit down and hold it over my head, which looked pretty silly sitting in church, but caused all sorts of drinks to be delivered to me at the local watering hole.)

This particular story, which is probably true, is not about me. But it could be. God knows I've done enough similar dumb stuff. You probably have, too.


The subject of our tale is well into the next day after having trapped the tip of his right index finger between a panhead motor and the front motor mount of the rigid he was building. He set the motor down as squarely on the mount as having his finger in the way allowed. It rested there for only the moment, about two microseconds, that it took him to realize his mistake, get over the shock, then rock it back enough to get his finger loose.

Now those of you who have done this know the sequence of realization and pain. First you look at the digit, finding it delicately flattened. Then you say to yourself (and anyone else within hearing:) OH SHIT THAT'S GONNA HURT!

But for a few moments, it doesn't.

Then the blood pressed out of the fingertip by your clumsiness begins to rush back in - and the pain starts. And it gets worse. And it continues to get worse over the next 24 hours as the blood builds up a pool that presses on those tender nerves in the quick of the nail. The colors show up in your mind. You can't sleep at night. You hit the finger on things you haven't even gotten close to in years. You're scared to even unzip your own pants (much less anyone else's.) Desperation develops. You'll do ANYTHING to make it quit throbbing.

Now the pussies among us probably head for the hospital where some nurse will take care of us in the emergency room, muttering to herself about "Tough bikers! HAH!"

Our hero, though, is of the old school, tough, and he possess a drill press and sufficient imagination to realize that if he takes a sharp 1/16th" bit and chucks it up in the press he can drill a hole in the nail. That will let the blood out, and bring blessed relief.

So he gets out his sharpest, smallest bit (probably a dull 5/64ths one if he's anything like me, but that's OK; how hard can it be to drill a fingernail?) and carefully sets it up to run true in the chuck. He absolutely does NOT want any wobble going on. And since he knows there's a potential for infection, he takes the precaution of spitting on it and wiping it off on his sleeve to disinfect it first.

He places a small block of wood on the press table to rest his finger on. He carefully measures the depth of penetration to be allowed by the drill stop on the press - he certainly doesn't want to go too deep.

Finally ready, he turns on the motor and the bit spins brightly, light from the bulb dancing on the twirling tip. His finger rests on the wooden block. His left hand approaches the feed handles, hesitating, then drawing back, then advancing once more, and finally it takes hold of the device.

He begins to lower the bit slooowwwwllllyyyy. He knows that any pressure on the nail is going to hurt like hell, but it will be over in a moment when the hole is through. He bites his lip, awaiting the pain, moving the bit downward.

It touches the nail gently as a mother's kiss, and yes, the pain is there. The drill bites into the nail, then quickly penetrates and . . .

DEVELOPS A SELF-FEED!!! immediately yanking the finger and hand to the top of the bit, ripping the nail loose before flesh yields to steel's strength and the bit spins freely in his finger.

Ahh, agony. A whole new measure of what pain means. We all learn in our own ways.

As I said earlier, that's the absolute classic of it's type. It is excruciating. It is a one-time event (Count on it! All three Stooges couldn't be induced to try it twice.) It involves machinery. And it shows, in undeniable terms, the absolute linkage between actions that seem reasonable, but which are in fact poorly-considered, and pain.

The rest of these pale to near invisibility in comparison, but they are in fact, true, or at least nearly so. And even if they're not, they're still worth telling. They come from known sources of known veracity, or if I don't know the sources to be truthful, I know them to be too dumb to make up such a good story. You decide.

  The victim in this next case is almost innocent of the injury. It was nothing that he actually did, but he suffered from the consequences of failure to fully consider his surroundings. That is a recurring theme with these situations, but in this case his ignorance was almost excusable.

He was lying on the ground in his driveway under his '67 Camaro, which he drag raced, putting in a roll cage and harness. The front of the car is up on blocks. As you usually see, his tools were laying around him, conspicuously including an electric drill chucked up with a half-inch bit.

The neighbor child wanders by, a youth of but five or six years. He has watched the victim on many occasions, and he is fascinated with tools and machinery - especially electric drills. What boy child isn't?

So he picks up the drill, pulls the trigger, and touches it to our hapless victim's crotch - where the bit immediately snags the heavy fabric of his jeans and wraps it up into a knot tighter than, well, tighter than our victim's personal treasures would fit conveniently into. There is some suspicion that his dick, even to this day, is a source of particular amusement to the women of his close acquaintance.

This, of course, brought about an immediate reaction from the victim, the vocal part of which caused the dear child to abandon the scene - for about five years. Another part of the reaction brought about an abrupt and violent attempt to sit up without fully considering the clearances involved. That caused a hard collision between his forehead and the drive shaft, which gave not one damned inch.

He describes the aftermath: "There I stood beside the car, a drill hanging from my crotch, my jeans twisted up tighter than a radiator hose clamp, screaming at the kid in a voice like Tiny Tim's, with a bleeding gash in my forehead that looked like a cop had used his stick on me."

The scene is clear to anyone - don't you dare laugh.



That damn gravity will have its way with us, and it behooves us to pay attention to where it will lead us. When we forget, there's a price to be paid. "Look before you leap" has been a valid statement since the first cave man said it.

He's been up on the deck of a gooseneck trailer welding on some tiedown points for a piece of heavy equipment waiting outside the shop to be loaded.

Hurried because they want to get the rig out on the road, he nails down the last ring and thumbs his helmet up on his head. Satisfied with the weld, he backs to the edge of the trailer deck, crouches, puts one hand down for balance, and springs lightly backwards to dismount.

And stops in midair, the soles of his feet an apalling distance off the floor, held there by the open pipe vice he has straddled on the way down.

He gave up riding his rigid-frame bike in favor of a dresser some time later, when he could ride again at all.


We all know that changing tires our own selves can be a tricky operation. With tools usually found in the home garage, it's dirty, inconvenient, easy to screw up, and potentially dangerous. Especially it's dangerous if you suspend your thought processes for a moment, and ignorantly challenge the laws of physics.

Now what we're looking at here is a common situation. Our victim has just reinflated the rear tire off his scooter after having patched the tube. He's examining the rim, looking for a good seat of the bead all the way around both sides.

And, dammit, he finds one spot where it's not seated clean.

Damn! Damn! Damn! Gotta deflate it, move it around, risk pinching the tube again, then reinflate.

Nah. Let's just take this BIG dead-blow hammer over here and whack the tread area right over the bad place. Maybe it'll jar it down to where it belongs.

So, he takes his big ol' hammer in hand, straddles the wheel to hold it in place with his knees while he hits it, winds up with an overhead swing, and WHACK!

Dead blow hammers are made so's not to bounce when you whack something with them, but that's on the assumption that what you whack doesn't have some built-in rebound. Like a tire does.

The hammer came flying back not nearly as hard as he swung it, but it was a difference he didn't much notice. It caught him just north of his eyebrows and knocked him out colder than a wedge.

And it left an interesting crescent-shaped scar that he has all sorts of fancy explanations for, not one of which bear the slightest resemblance to the truth.

Stay tuned - more to come.

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