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Scars heal, but stories about them improve with age, retellings

Burt’s Eye View

“Say, did I ever tell you how I got this scar right here on my thumb?”

“Only about a hundred times,” the storyteller’s victim says. “I’m surprised you have any thumb left, what with all the different things that caused that itty-bitty scratch.”

“Well, sir, it had been a might fine camping trip, right up to the time the bear showed up.” The storyteller’s eyes take on a faraway look. “I hunkered behind a rock while that critter tore through our food supplies, gobbling a month’s worth of deer jerky in a single gulp. Biggest black bear I’d ever seen. Must have been 14 feet tall. Maybe 16.”

“Black bears don’t grow anywhere that big,” the listener notes through a yawn.

“After he finished the jerky, he clawed into my pack and found my Pop-Tarts. Ain’t nobody messes with my Pop-Tarts. They was chocolate.

“Well, sir,” the storyteller continues, despite no encouragement at all. “I whooped out from behind that rock and charged that bear. He put up a decent fight. Bears love Pop-Tarts more’n honey. I swatted him with such a flurry of fists. He only managed to swipe a molar across the my thumb, which you can see right here.”

The listener squints. “You sure that’s the right thumb?”

“Oh, yeah, it was on this one. That bear gouged me something fierce before I run him off. I wrapped my thumb in some oak leaves and had me a Pop-Tart. Awfully healing, those Pop-Tarts.”

The storyteller’s wife rolls her eyes. She whispers to the listener, “Actually, he nicked his thumb when the can opener slipped. Howled like baby. Wouldn’t stop until I covered it with a Scooby-Doo Band-Aid.

I can’t blame the codger for his storytelling. A man treasures his scars as evidence that he’s lived a dangerous and exciting life.

A woman views those same scars as proof that the guy’s not very bright. To a woman, scars say, “He should have read the instructions, like I told him to do.”

I have a Y-shaped scar beneath my lower lip. It comes from a time in my life when I undertook a most perilous climb, assailing heights I’d never known. The ledge was narrow, perhaps no more than three-eighths an inch thick, and covered with slippery residue apparently splattered by the denizen of the territory.

All things considered, it was a wonder I was able to navigate this precarious precipice as long as I did.

Naturally, when I fell I didn’t say a word, not even, ”Ouch.” At least, I don’t remember saying anything. Mom says I put up quite a squall, but she could be exaggerating.

Then again, I don’t even remember scootching out of my high chair and tumbling over the arm rest. I was only 10 or 11 months old.

But I have a scar, even if it was caused by my own tooth. Like most scar stories, it will improve with age. In another 10 years, I expect to recall that it happened while fighting off a bobcat to protect my baby brother. I might even remember what a bobcat looks like.

By the time my daughter locks me up in a nursing home, the story should have matured fully to the point that I was mauled in a stampede of wild buffalo but fought them off to save my family. I mean, the entire city.

I don’t know yet why the buffalo were in the city. Looking for Pop-Tarts, maybe? I look forward to remembering that part of the tale of how I got my scar.

Offer your tall tales to Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.

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