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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Five li'l piggies went, "Ouch!"

It’s been two days and I remain enthralled with the interview I saw with John Hutt, the Colorado lumberjack who severed five of his own toes when a piece of heavy equipment pinned his foot.


The guy was so funny, so matter-of-fact, that if it wasn’t so anatomically misleading I’d call his sense of humor disarming.


“Instead of calling an ambulance, I thought about calling a tow truck,” was just one of his zingers.


They made the movie “127 Hours” about climber Aron Ralston’s harrowing limb removal. They ought to at least give this lively joker his own reality show -- at least for as long as their are enough parts of him still left to film.


I’m morbidly drawn to stories about self-amputation and human cannibalism.


I think it goes back to a week in 1997 when I was covering a story about a central Pennsylvania logger who severed his leg below the knee to escape the fate Hutt feared -- bleeding to death all alone in the godforsaken wilderness.


It’s not a story for the faint of heart.


A tree he was felling twisted and crashed down on his right leg. He used a pen knife to remove the shattered limb.


He then hobbled up a gravel hill and drove a bulldozer a quarter of a mile to his vehicle, which he then drove 12 miles to the emergency room.


The only thing that could have made that part of the story better was if he’d pulled into a tavern for a booster shot of Wild Turkey before proceeding to the ER.


The story dominated the news for nearly two weeks.


That’s why people were surprised when I told them my assigning magazine, National Enquirer, passed. The reason was the saturation coverage and the one-legged woodsman fell for the comely charms of the fair Connie Chung and granted her a blockbuster exclusive.


That logistical rationale was far too boring for such a magnificent story so I upped the ante with a dandy lie.


“The story wasn’t compelling enough for the Enquirer,” I said. “For it to be an Enquirer story, to survive the man would have had to have eaten the leg.”


Truly, it would have added a great dramatic element and, perhaps, the only time in history when a right leg served as a leftover.


We can’t help but internalize these sorts of stories. What would we have done had we been in Hutt’s shoes, one of which is now suddenly more roomy.


“I couldn’t reach my cell phone,” he told reporters. “I knew I needed to do something before I went into shock or dropped the knife or something like that.”


The pinky was the first to go.


Factual intermission: Even veteran podiatrists call it the pinky. How delightful!


It may be taking my knee-jerk political correctness to the extreme, but how can dark-skinned races have a body part with the root description anchored with the word pink?


I’m sure the incongruity’s already occurred to men like the Rev. Al Sharpton, but it’s probably pretty far down on their to-do lists.


Anyhoo, Hutt mowed ‘em down one by one.


“I’d cut some and then it’d be pretty painful so I’d stop and take a breath or two and then keep cutting until I got them all cut off.”


Amazing. It makes me feel like a sissy for all my bitching when my scarred wife insists I cut my jagged toe nails.


Hutt then called his wife -- she didn’t pick up -- and left the message: “Please call. I cut off my foot.”


So well played. Overlooking the exaggeration, he deftly communicates he nearly died while she’s too busy to even answer his emergency call.


What moxie. The only thing missing was, “And have a nice day!”


He may be missing five toes, but the man now has ample upper hand in his marriage.


Who wouldn’t tune in to watch a guy like this limp through life?


Episodes can feature him doing things like making a toe bone necklace and customizing all his right sandals so they don’t slip off.


And we’ll all tune in to watch him cajole his wife to do his every bidding by gently reminding her of the time he nearly bled to death while she yapped on the phone.


Call it, “Toe-tal Recall with John Hutt.”


Even with just five toes, I’m sure we’ll all get a real kick out of it.