Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Once Burned, Twice Awesome

somewhat true adventures in yard work and skin damage

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

Last weekend, I burned my hand. I burned it bad enough to have a doctor look at it. How did this happen? Well, this is how I wish it had happened ...

On a cool and pleasant Saturday morning, I found myself toiling away in the ol’ backyard. I was finally tackling some projects that’d been nagging at me for weeks. For example, I cut dead limbs from a tree. I used large, sharp tools to do this. It was extremely manly. I also hauled some heavy wood around in a sturdy wheel barrel. This was also extremely manly.

My father was in town to help me out, and he’d brought along his mighty rototiller so I could start preparing our vegetable garden for the many, hearty food-bearing plants we will grow. Technically, we didn’t have a plan to plant anything anytime soon, but I figured, “Why not? Today is made for doing robust and burly chores, so let’s churn up the earth with heavy, petroleum-fueled machinery just to show the earth who’s boss. We can worry about cherry tomatoes and string beans another day.”

After I had completed a goodly amount of mighty-tilling, I stopped to take a number of deep, vigorous breaths of fresh air. I knelt down to smell my freshly shredded turf. And that’s when things took a turn for the ... heroic.

Unbeknownst to me, a mischievous squirrel had climbed atop the rototiller. As it fiddled about, it somehow (we’ll never know for sure) fired up the engine. Upon hearing the manlike roaring of the motor, I thought, “Whoa there! Be still my friend. I know how you long to gnash at the soil, but rest for now. Soon, we shall till again.”

Unfortunately, fate had other plans.

The squirrel somehow (we’ll never know for sure), engaged the tiller’s ... um ... tilling mechanisms. The machine lurched forward and, propelled by its sod-slicing blades, it began to rumble across the lawn. And this was not good. For directly in its path was my two-year-old son – my innocent little boy/heir to my manly body hair. He was holding a single, yellow daisy in his tiny hand.

“Dear god,” I whispered, standing up to survey the situation. If one was able to look at my face as I did this, one may also have noticed storm clouds building upon the horizon behind me as a bolt of lightning slashed across the sky. I lingered a moment longer before growling, “Not today.” 

And then I sprang into action. Like a rocket-powered grizzly bear.

I charged at the tiller, my flip-flops slapping against steel-toed boots thundering against the ground. I nonchalantly overtook the machine, hurdling a clump of fragrant peonies as I did so. As I reached my son, I whipped around to see the damned dirty squirrel starring me down, mounted atop the rototiller like a tiny Napoleon Bonaparte riding a shiny robot stallion manufactured by Craftsman. 

There was no time!

Acting solely upon my laser accurate instincts, I ran at the tiller, closing the gap in nanoseconds. As it smashed into me, I wrapped my arms around the engine in a (rocket-powered) bear hug and heaved it up into the air. Then I thrust it skyward like an Olympic weight lifter and held it there. I paused to summon up the last of my man-strength, and then I tossed it over a row of lilacs into the neighbor-we-never-talk-to’s yard. Where it exploded. Like the Death Star.

Once the dust and debris had settled, I noticed a bad burn on my left hand. I must have grabbed something scalding hot on the tiller before I threw it. So I went to Urgent Care to have a doctor look at it. He said I was going to be OK. It was just a minor wound – a kiss goodbye from the squirrel-driven rototiller that had tried to kill my son.

Now, I could just leave it there and claim that, yes, scout’s honor, this is exactly how I burned my hand. However, I have an inkling of a feeling that you don’t believe me. So, let’s just replace “mighty rototiller” with “tiny tiller the size of a large toaster,” and replace “heroically saving my innocent son’s life” with “pulling a long weed from the tiny tiller blades and putting my hand on the exhaust vent as I stood up.” 

And let’s just add “like an idiot” to the end of the whole story.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.