How I broke my right arm

Doug MacLaren-Smith

I lived on a farm in the country with my parents and each day my elder brother Gordon and I rode our pony bare-back to school. School was a mud-built farmhouse down a dusty, winding country road about two miles away. I doubled on our old, half-blind pony with just a bridle and my brother's waist to hang on to. Sometimes we would use an old wheat bag as a saddle but it kept slipping off and it was a nuisance to get off and on again. To get back on we had to lead our pony to the nearest tree stump and climb aboard.

Sometimes the Anderson children from the next farm would ride along with us. We envied them as they had smart horses with bridle and saddle. They would torment us and always wanted to race us, as they knew our pony was too old to gallop very fast and we would fall off. This would annoy us and sometimes we would give it a go and lose the race. We got very tired of losing all the time, so on the 24th February , 1936 as we left our school grounds we were determined to beat the Andersons. I clung tightly to brother Gordon as he urged the pony on. Everything was going well and we were holding our own, the faster we went the more I bounced from side to side. Then the pony shied at a rabbit crossing the road, I fell off and hit a tree stump, cracking my elbow.

I would have been six-and-a-half years old, just a little fellow, so in keeping with my age I made a lot of noise and before long Mrs Agnes Rolls, from a nearby farm, drove up in her T-model Ford to see what all the fuss was about. I remember quite clearly Mrs Rolls pulling the thick bark from an old tree stump, and as she did so many spiders ran out. She dropped the bark and hit it with a stick to chase the spiders away and used the bark to make a splint to support my arm. After tying it around my arm with a piece of binder-twine Mrs Rolls then put me in her car and drove me home, leaving Gordon to catch the pony. I soon forgot all about the race and began to worry about what story I would tell Dad, as he was a very strict father and had told us not to gallop the pony as we would fall off and hurt ourselves. Well, we told Dad that our pony shied and as it shied I had fallen off. Thank heavens he believed us.

The next day Dad's brother, Uncle Jack, drove me to the Albury Hospital, which was some 45 miles away along a rough and dusty road, no tar in those days. I don't remember much of the trip, but I do remember Dr. Mattinson attending me at the hospital. I remember being wheeled into the operating theatre and being put on a table with a massive round light above me. I had no idea what was going to happen next and I was very scared. Then the Doctor put a mask over my face and poured something on to it. I later found out that this was chloroform. I was told to take a deep breath and as I did so I could feel myself flattening out like throwing a stone into a millpond.

The next thing I remember was being in bed in the women's ward with my right arm strapped to my shoulder with sticking plaster with my hand on my left shoulder. I also remember some days later the Doctor came in and said it was time to take the sticking plaster off to see how the arm was. The nurse got hold of the end of the plaster and ripped it off around my body. As it was stuck to my bare skin some skin came off too. I hardly whimpered and the nurse said what a brave little fellow I was. My arm was stiff so Dr. Mattinson gave it a tug to try to straighten it but it was too bent and stiff.

The next day my grandfather and grandmother came and took me to their place in North Albury. Grandpa and Grandma were very kind to me and said I must use my arm as much as possible to get it straight again. I remember Grandpa gave me a little bucket and we would go down the paddock to fill it up with cow manure. I would carry it home in my right hand, but would change to my left arm when he wasn't looking. This went on for some time, then the Doctor came to Grandpa's and I heard him say that he was going to test my arm to see if it had mended and to make sure it wasn't going to remain stiff forever. I was scared, and wanted to go home to Mum and Dad, but this wasn't possible.

The dreaded day arrived and I was taken into the spare bedroom and put on the bed. Grandma gave the Doctor a towel and he poured some chloroform on to it and put it over my face. I wriggled but was held down and soon I was asleep. While I was asleep apparently the Doctor moved the arm up and down and said that everything was O.K. He left the room fro Grandma to clean up, and I remember the smell of chloroform remained in the house for days.

All was well and I soon went home to the farm and family. However, from then on I favoured my left arm and began to use it for everything except writing.

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