Image   My hand was being pulled in and gobbled up by the printing press, but the noisy factory covered up everything. No help was coming.
   Before getting into graphic design, I took a job in a door and wall paneling factory in the city of Orange, California. I was young but a good worker and I had some abilities that the boss in the In the pre-finish department found useful. I would mix the colors for the wood stain in a 60 gallon drum. The basic colors came from five gallon cans of raw pigment; oxide red, raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, yellow ochre, vivid, intense, amazing colors in pure pigment form. I enjoyed it. It seemed I was the only person on the crew who could mix the colors consistently, and manage the production line so that all the wood panels matched throughout the entire run. No simple task when you consider that each piece of raw wood that we began with was different in color from the others. Before I became the guy in charge of colors, an entire boxcar of wall paneling was returned from Texas because the wall paneling was the wrong color. It did not match the boxcar that arrived at the construction site before it.
  At the end of the day, I was cleaning up the rotogravure press that applied the color stain. The rubber roller had a splinter in it from a wall panel. It grabbed the cleaning rag I was using to wash the roller as it was spinning. Roller grabbed splinter, splinter grabbed rag, rag grabbed me and I’m in trouble. There were no safety devices at that time. Today the machine would have automatically popped open the rollers and stopped. I could not reach the power switch on the far side of the machine from me, so I could not manually turn off the press. It was useless to call for help, the closest guy was 50 yards away and could hear nothing if I shouted. Even if he did hear me, he would be too late. My options were slim and I was scared. I did the only thing I could think of, a little desperate maybe- I placed my foot against the machine and pulled with all my might.
  I landed on my back on the factory floor. My hand was a shocking sight. All the fingernails of my right hand were on the inside instead of the outside. The skin of the hand had been pulled down from below my thumb as if it were a glove half removed. I gathered myself up holding the injured limb tightly in my left hand and sought out the foreman whose nickname was Whitey. You can guess why. Yeah, he was white, with white hair.
  “Hey Whitey, I had a little accident.”
He looks. “Oh. You wanna’ go to the doctor?” I said “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.”
Whitey grabs his keys. Whitey had a white car. A four-door hardtop Oldsmobile 88. Powerful. The block-long job. Whitey put his foot in it and spun gravel from the wheels as we peeled out of the factory parking lot and headed toward the doctor. He was clearly shaken but playing it cool. He sped across a bridge over the dry riverbed of the Santa Ana River. “Nice River,” quips Whitey. “Yeah,” I respond. We both laugh. By this time the pain is setting in and I am hoping for relief. I probed, “Whitey, you know there’s a liquor store coming up here on the right…”
“Sure!” says Whitey. “I know what you mean.” He comes out with two quarts of Budweiser. They’re both for me. Minutes later I am in the office of the orthopedic surgeon. The doctor does his examination thing, x-rays and all. The doctor pulls down his bifocals and peers at my face. He can smell the alcohol. I don’t care. Surgeon says “There are two ways I can do this: I can cut you open and set all the bones, or if you can take the pain, I can manipulate the bones from the outside without cutting and everything will heal much more quickly. Can you stand the pain?”
 “Go ahead Doc, I got plenty!” He smiles at me and goes to work.  By this time the beer had me feeling a little better and it wasn’t so bad at all. I was back at work a few days later having gained a healthy respect for printing presses and for safety.
—Stewart Deats


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