The Story of the Broken Ankle

The only smart thing I did that day was to sneak off into the woods and relive myself behind the tent as soon as I woke up.  My brother was shuffling around down by the boat so I walked over to see what the commotion was.  Woody had just tossed back what we affectionately call a snake (an undersized northern pike) and was parking his fishing pole against a tree, all proud of himself.  It was around 9:30 a.m. on a chilly Yooper summer morning on a remote, wilderness island anchored two miles north of our base camp on the Michigamme Reservoir near Crystal Falls, Michigan.

Snake Extraction

“Our spot” had all the creature comforts any adventurer would expect from two seasoned campers.  A green, dented Coleman cook stove was percolating some cowboy coffee on top of a sturdy, white pine picnic table.  Nails were pounded into trees to hold ropes, lanterns and supplies.  The fire pit was protected by heavy stones of every hue and shape that we’ve carried in year after year and arranged as the years blur by.  There is a tarp covered cache for our food and we have a flat bench by the fire where boat cushions are stacked for extra comfort.  The best part about our camp is its location, on the back side of this island, hidden from view by a secret passage.

Oh yeah…deluxe!

Still in my sleeping shorts and tee shirt, I gathered up a Pop Tart for breakfast and sloshed it down with an ice cold diet Coke from the cooler.  Woody finished his coffee and wanted to head back to Way Dam Resort, our base camp.  The day was so perfect, so peaceful, so beautiful, so aromatic and satisfying that we struck a deal.  He would take the boat, go back to the resort, and return for me about five hours later, at 3 p.m.   I’m thinking, “I have my pop and my Reader’s Digest so I’m all set.  Go!  Leave me alone in paradise.”

Pure Michigan Sunrise

He wasn’t gone but ten minutes when I got to thinking about that fish he caught.  I figured if he could catch a fish from the shore right there, I could too.  I snagged his pole and walked down the steep, sandy bank to the water’s edge and began to cast and retrieve.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  Then I got to thinking maybe the boat’s wake mucked up the water right there so I should slip over a bit and try my luck again.  My luck struck.  Instantly.  Before my mind could grasp the consequences of my actions, I was splayed out on the ground and my leg went one way while my foot went the other:  a washout was under the sand.  On the way down I was fortunate enough to hear two crisp snaps.  Uh-oh.

This was ugly.   I took an instant inventory as adrenalin spiked my senses.  I remember thinking, “This isn’t good.”  When the horror of it subsided, and without extra or really any thought, I grabbed my foot like one would instinctively swat a bee and snapped it back into place.  Within a couple of minutes, I had kankles!

Kankles!

Suddenly I realized how wet and cold the sandy shore was.  It didn’t worry me much because the sun was getting higher in the sky.  Screaming for help was not an option; I knew that no one could hear me or find me.  So I did what any Campfire girl would do.  I started to sing songs and make a mental note of the birds I saw flying overhead.  At one point a giant, white headed bird sailed low, very close and my thought was, “Buzzards!”  I continued to entertain myself and wait calmly, knowing that in reality, THIS was the best the day was going to be for me because, once I was rescued, doctors would be poking, prodding and pinching me.  I was in no rush, and, surprisingly, it wasn’t as painful as you might think.

The passing hours allowed me time to figure out a plan.  Our boat was a deep-V Lund aluminum one and my dad’s boat was a  bass boat with a flat front style.   Woody would be coming back in five (short) hours with our deep-V boat and I was intent on sending him back for dad’s.  There was no way I could move or crawl up on the bank back to the tents so there was no way I was crawling up into a boat with my ankle dangling.

Soon, I began to shiver…just a little at first, goosebumps, and then some violent shivering.  Hypothermia was setting in from laying so long on the wet sand coupled with the strong breeze and wet clothing.  Did I mention the nifty “Y” shaped stick I found to prop up my leg?  I lifted it out of the sand and dragged myself up the bank using my elbows and one good leg to reach a patch of tall grass and reeds.  They made a great blanket as I picked and wove them to cover my body and got the ‘ol leg propped back up on the stick.

Back at the cabin…how I spent my summer vacation!

Then he saw me.  Woody glided the boat to shore and instantly sprang into action.  I’m waving my hands and telling him not to worry and that I’ve got things all figured out.  He runs up to his tent, grabs his sleeping bag, and throws it over me.  Then my handy, awesome brother gathers two long, flat pieces of driftwood and some duct tape to construct a makeshift splint.  He springs back into his ride and blasts out of there as I’m yelling, “Tell Dad to get his van ready at the far boat launch so I can crawl into it.”

My day ended as you might suspect:  emergency room, x-rays, and glorious medications.   Doctor’s orders were to get to an orthopedic surgeon the next morning.  Diagnosis:  broken heel and small broken ankle bone.  Snap-Snap.

 

 

 

 

 

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