It is said, that certain days, dates, & years, are forever etched in memory. Such would most definitely be the case for Monday morning, July 22, 1974. My Mom, brother, & I were living in a mobile home in Britt. In an earlier post, I mentioned about my brother, Ron Gjerstad, & the things we did when we were small. I now introduce you to Curt Gast, who works at Hancock County Health Systems in Britt. He is a half-brother; but Ron & I have always regarded him as a brother. When the three of us are together for a family gathering, it's always a special time.
Monday morning, July 22, started out in typical fashion. Curt was sleeping. In fact, he had overslept; as he was to have been out mowing someone's lawn. Little did we know that his oversleeping proved to be a big time blessing.
This was back in the days when we didn't have electric coffee pots. The coffee pot was on the stove & I knew which burner to turn on. I had done this time & time again without any problem. The weather in North Iowa had been very hot. My Mom & aunt Marge had been impressing upon me, the idea that I should wear my shirts on the outside. Their feeling was that I would be cooler. & so, that's what I did.
On the morning in question, I warmed up the coffee as usual, & shut the stove off. But this time, something was definitely wrong. I was feeling the heat. Somehow, my shirt tail touched the stove; & it went up in flames! "Curt, come quick! my shirt's on fire!" I started unbuttoning it; & burned my hands in the process. Three steps brought Curt to where I was. He was able to rip the shirt off me. He smothered the fire with a pillow. The heat was so intense, the buttons melted to my chest.
Keep in mind, that this was a 12 year old who was responding to my needs. Realizing my situation, he stood me by a fan so that I hopefully would cool off. I was obviously in the hurt bag. Curt called our Mom who was at work. At first, she thought it was nothing; because Curt was protective of me. As she drove toward home, & she saw me when she first arrived, she knew that the situation was much more serious.
At Hancock County Hospital, where I would stay for the week, our doctor who was a big guy by the name of John Kamp, gave instructions as to how the dressings should be applied. The nurses were more concerned about my chest, because that to them, was the worst. Dr. Kamp though, while concerned about that, was concerned about my hands; because he knew that they were my eyes. I won't describe the words he used.
The first 24 to 48 hours, there was thought that I might have to be sent to a Burn Unit in the Twin Cities for skin graft. I had second & third degree burns. & the shirt I had worn that Monday morning, was a Dacron, Polyester Shirt. Remember those?
My recovery time was slow. I spent the first week with my aunt & uncle who lived in town. My bedroom, was upstairs. My Uncle rigged up a push button; just like the call button you would find at the hospital. If I needed anything, all I had to do was push the button, & it would ring the doorbell! How clever is that? At this particular time, my uncle was depot agent for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad in Britt. During the week that I was with my uncle & aunt, often times after supper, he'd lay down on the couch & take a nap. The only problem, was that he'd snore. That was a problem for me. Because of where I had been burned, I would try to keep from laughing. No good. The snores would get me laughing all the harder; & when that happened, my aunt would start laughing, which in turn, woke my uncle up; then he'd start laughing when he knew what we were laughing about.
As part of that healing process, I spent two weeks going over to the hospital for whirlpool baths. I have thought quite often about this particular chapter in my life. I realize, what a blessed man I was, that Monday morning in July. I've always been one who has found positives, when situations have been tough. Yes, my shirt caught fire; because the shirt tail touched the stove. Yes, I had to spend the week in our local hospital. & yes, the recovery time was slow. & yet, things could have been much, much, worse. There's the question of what if. What if, Curt had not overslept & he would have been out doing the task he was asked to do. My friends, I'm here to tell you, that there is a reason why things happen the way that they do; & it's all because of one far greater than we. I shudder to think of what might have been. The panic I would have felt, let alone the possibility of losing our mobile home. Things happen for a reason, there's no question about that. Curt was my hero that Monday morning. My respect & love for him as a brother, has been deeply enhanced. For his heroic, actions, he received special citations & recognitions that were richly deserved.
Submitted by Gary Gjerstad