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  • Julie

A Cautionary Tale

I’m lucky! My husband has cousins who live in New Zealand, and over the years, we’ve visited a number of times. Every trip promises many adventures, and I always come away with new stories.

Our cousins live on a sheep farm outside of Auckland. They have horses. They play polo.

They grow their own vegetables, eat eggs from their own chickens, and catch fish in their own lake. Pretty different from what this California girl is used to. And I love it. 

Last time we went, we arrived just in time for the New Zealand Open, the biggest polo tournament of the year. I couldn’t wait to get there. We were welcomed by our “Kiwi” cousins and friends who happen to be among the nicest people in the world. I walked right into the middle of a Ralph Lauren ad – rolling green hills, white canopies and tents, ladies in wide-brimmed hats and silky flowered dresses, dogs, horses, antique cars, babies in prams, and flowing champagne.

As I accepted a flute of bubbly and took a seat under our canopy, I noticed a line of red droplets on the grass. I followed the trail to my husband’s hand, blood dripping off his fingers. Mark’s palm looked as if he had dipped it in red paint.  

“My God, what happened?” I asked.

“I caught my hand on the barbed wire fence.”

“How’d you do that?”

“I was following the guys who climbed through it.”

Why is it that when grown men get together they function like little boys? What kind of nut climbs through barbed wire? And what kind of nut follows the nut who climbs through barbed wire?

“I guess you discovered why it’s called barbed wire, didn’t you?” I suppose I could have been a tad more sympathetic. 

Everyone rallied around Mark’s bloody hand to assess the damage and give advice. One of our new friends, who claimed to be a nurse, thought it looked nasty. After chastising all the men who crawled through the fence, she told us to pour salt on the wound.

Salt? I always thought that “putting salt in a wound” was a cliché for making something worse (which it is), but evidently, salt will disinfect a cut. At this point, it was either salt or gin, but the gin was too expensive to treat it like rubbing alcohol.

Mark held out his hand, and the our nurse-friend dumped a pile of salt into the cut. I cannot write the words Mark uttered. Suffice it to say, adding salt to a wound is painful. After his hand was cleaned and wrapped in white gauze, another helpful friend suggested Mark needed a tetanus shot and offered to give him one. We were a bit leery, because this friend was not a doctor or pharmacist or in the healthcare field in any way. However, he said he had a good supply of sheep tetanus vaccine at home and felt sure a double dose would do the trick. And he had a few clean needles. Such a kind offer, but Mark politely declined. 

The following day, instead having a grand time on the farm, we drove out to the A and E (accident and emergency clinic) for a tetanus shot. The doctor was somewhat impressed with the salt cleansing and gauze wrap around his hand. When asked what happened, Mark tried to fudge the truth, but the clever doctor had seen enough skin shredded by barbed wire to know exactly what happened. Usually on children, she told him, not fifty-something-year-old men.

My guess is Mark won’t be climbing over or under or through barbed wire again. At least I hope not. As our Kiwi nurse-friend said: “If you can’t set a good example, you’ll end up being a cautionary tale.” And it might involve blood. 

Feel free to share my story with your friends!

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