The Sawmill Incident
John Thoms is one of those gifted storytellers who can make the act of splashing water on his face on a hot summer morning sound like a great adventure. I was taken on several exciting journeys as John regaled his daughter, Annie Thoms, with stories of his youth in Seattle, Washington and his young adulthood in New York City.
One particularly gripping story goes like this: John was the tag along in a gang of boys led by his older brother, Bob. They spent their days getting into the kind of mischief that threatened life and limb. In fact when he was around seven years old, John would have lost his life if it weren’t for the quick thinking and agility of his big brother. The gang was exploring a local saw mill when John stepped into what he thought was a sand pile. Within a heart stopping second, he realized he was being sucked into a well of sawdust. The rest of the gang were off in other areas of the mill as John quickly sank. Up to his shoulders in sawdust, yelling at the top of his lungs, he finally caught Bob’s attention. A vision that John will never forget is the sight of Bob leaping from log to log like an antelope towards him, and just as he was almost to his chin in sawdust, Bob grabbed him by the neck and pulled him out.
Of course, there are the stories of John’s polio as a young child, being home schooled by his mother, his absolute joy at being set free to attend school (and the day he stood up to a bully in elementary school, with a plate of hot spaghetti as his only weapon), growing up with two deaf parents, witnessing their often stormy relationship. John’s emotional telling of his first date with his future wife, Judy, at the Living Theater to see Paradise Now brought us all to tears.
But these are stories for another day and another blog entry.
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