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That time I (nearly!) blew my face off

August 30, 2023 - 00:00
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  • Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.

Dear readers, this story is a bit embarrassing, but I’m going to push through for you anyway. This took place when I was in high school on a campout with a friend of mine. Actually, “campout” might not be the right term. It was more like trespassing. We were both seasoned campers, but this time we decided to set up our site on a so-called hiking trail in the city. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

After we got all our gear situated, we were losing light quickly, so we got a fire started and set about cooking another great outdoor meal. My favorite was always Chunky Soup with steak and potatoes. Did I mention that we had an open fire going on city property? Luckily nothing happened of any consequence that night and after telling a long series of tall tales we drifted off to sleep.

We awoke the next morning quite hungry, and I nominated myself to get the fire going to prepare breakfast. This time I decided to give the fire a boost and I thought it would be a great idea to use black powder in this regard. This is the really embarrassing part. I took out a 35mm film canister full of black powder and foolishly put a match to it. What happened next was nothing short of life-altering. WHOOSH! The black powder ignited instantly and produced an enormous amount of turbo-charged fire and flame — directly on my face.

At least I had the good sense to close my eyes, but that’s where my good sense ended on that day. My face felt like it was on fire — it wasn’t, but I was severely burned, and I could smell my burnt skin and hair and it HURT. A LOT. My friend and I abandoned our gear and made a bee line to my car. The only relief I could find in that moment was to lean my head out the window so the cool morning air could comfort me ever so slightly.

My poor Mom got the shock of her life when I woke her up that morning. She told me to go outside and put some aloe vera on my face and get in the car. We made it to the ER in about three or four minutes, but it felt like a lifetime for me. Kudos to the Emergency Room staff, especially the nurses who knew what to do in that situation. They put some special cream on my face to treat my second-degree burns and proceeded to bandage me up. And when I say, “bandaged me up,” I mean like a mummy. My entire head was covered in bandages including my eyes and I was told to leave everything in place for three days and then return to the ER for re-evaluation.

After those three days as a blind man, some of my bandages were removed so at least I could see. Also, the only way I could eat anything was through a straw during my recovery. The only upside of that was I got to have all the vanilla shakes that I wanted. I don’t recall exactly how long I was in recovery, but I’m sure it was at least a couple of weeks when finally, all the bandages were removed. Fortunately, this was during Christmas break, and I didn’t have to go to school when all this was going on. The only other positive thing that came out of this was my face was not scarred in any way. In fact, my acne was completely cleared up, but take my word for it – black powder is NOT a recommended treatment for any skin condition!

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Alan Shoalmire. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.