SPECIAL NOTE: YOUNG SURFCASTER PIC IS FOR EXAMPLE. WE DIDN'T DRESS THAT WAY IN THE '50S.
One thing notably different today at the beach is the provision of medical care for any situation, including minor accidents and ailments. Back in the mid-twentieth century, finding a doctor could be difficult late in the day or on weekends and there weren’t any quick care facilities. In fact, patients requiring any hospitalization would usually go to Norfolk, the only large city in the area at the time. Minor issues were handled internally by the family, sometimes even by a doctor vacationing at the beach whether he or she was licensed in North Carolina or not.
Much of the difference today has been dictated by government, the different way in which physicians and society look at the Hippocratic Oath as well as the litigious nature of our society today where lawsuits rise to the forefront on so many issues which should not require the law. But with the growth of society and crowding, civility frequently gets trampled.
A good case in point was the situation when someone surfcasting on the beach or pier fishing was nailed by a fisherman’s errant cast which imbedded a fishhook in human flesh. The cause was usually a combination of carelessness and lack of attention to detail but when it happened, it hurt. I witnessed one particular situation while we were surfcasting with friends late one Saturday afternoon right on the beach in front of our cottage. There was a wonderful cool breeze at the end of a hot day, the sea was slight and blues were running.
We already successfully caught four nice blues and a stray flounder when one of the boys, John, prepared to cast. Scott, standing between John and me was in the direct line for the strike and I yelled out a warning but it was too late. As John brought his rod back to cast, the hook landed in Scott’s left shoulder and as John moved to thrust it forward, it imbedded deeply, with Scott letting out a howl of pain. John quickly stopped his attempt and came to Scott with rod in hand reducing the pain by the slackening of the line. As we gathered around Scott and looked at his shoulder, we knew it was bad. The barbed part of the hook was firmly imbedded and would require a knife to remove it, or so we thought.
We told Scott to sit in one of the fold up chairs and try and relax and I went to get Dad, for I knew he always brought his medical bag to the beach. He would at least know what to do and might even be able to take care of it himself. He was reading a book after spending several hours on the beach and he quickly heeded my call, but first he walked over to the rental cottages next door to find Scott’s dad. Luckily, he was there and he joined us as we hustled to the beach. Dad wanted him there in case it was something that could be handled without spending hours to find a North Carolina facility. The sooner the hook was out, the sooner Scott would be on the mend.
Scott’s dad spoke to his son softly, saying, “Dr. Dick is going to try and fix you up fast, Son. As soon as he knows if it can be done without surgery, we’ll know what will be required. If real surgery is required, we’ll have to take you to the hospital.”
Dad took a close look with a few “ah ha’s” and opened his bag, pulling out a medical utensil that looked similar to wire cutters. He applied some alcohol around the wound, generating an “ouch” from Scott. He then cut the hook just above the skin and now the only part left under the skin was the imbedded hook. Luckily, however, it was lodged sot that the barbed and pointed end was near the surface and surgery would be avoided. It was amazing to watch him work, he reached down, applying a little pressure and was able to ease the barb through the skin and out without using a knife. Had it been necessary to go the other way, the barb would have ripped the skin and been much more dangerous. And once the barb was out, he used the cutting instrument and just pulled instead of cut the remained bit of hook steel shaft and it came out easily. Only a small open wound was left and dad applied an antiseptic and a pad and gauze cover. We all then went back to the cottage and Dad gave him a shot of penicillin and one for tetanus.
Two days later, Scott was almost as good as new. He was able to fish, he just needed to avoid getting water on his wound and when he returned to the beach the following summer, he didn’t even sport a scar. Were we better off back then? Well, it’s true today we have much more advanced technology for doctors to use in their trade, but I sometimes wonder if all the rules. legal mumbo jumbo and the lack of neighborliness that we so often find today is a step backward. And I think if dear old Dad could come back for a visit, he’d take a quick look around, look me in the eye and say, “Son, I’m going back. I don’t recognize this earth any longer and I don’t think I belong here anymore.”
I hear you, Dad, and I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Hopefully, I’ll see you again one of these days and we can talk about all of those wonderful “Summers at Old Nags Head.” I’m counting on it.
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