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Some Injuries

by Asa Mundell (MSO '43) |

I recall the beauty of a DC-3 circling our fire at Granite Ridge, in 1944, I believe. We knew it was headed for another fire, about ten miles away, where Levi Tschetter had burned a leg when he broke through the crust over a smoldering underground area. The plane carried two Negro paramedics. The consideration for others seemed to be a natural trait of the Smokejumpers-­ especially Ollie Huset. He had had a particularly rough landing in Lolo Forest about ten miles from a road. His concussion made it advisable to call in a stretcher crew. It seems while they were carrying him he took pity on them and suggested, "Why don't one of you get down here and let me help carry this thing a while?" Ad Carlson's reply was, "Lay down, Ollie, you're rocking the boat." "Okay, Ad, I'll do what you say," replied Ollie.

Then Winton Stucky's practice jump at Cave Junction, Oregon, comes to mind. It seems he got a terrible rough opening on one parachute. Next jump he wanted another chute, but by the time he got around to it, all the other chutes were gone so he jumped it again.

This time it knocked him unconscious on the opening and he landed in a heap, fracturing one vertebrae, with the next one okay, and the next one split. His son said after his death they kept him in the back of a pickup for two hours waiting to find out who would pay the medical bills! He was released with no benefits, with a broken back, and had to provide his own livelihood after the initial hospitalization. And then there was Archie Keith. His chute hooked over a dead tree-snag, which crashed on him. The tree was about 100 feet high. On the way down, Archie thought he would hit the ground and the tree would hit and kill him. However, he remembered hitting the ground, where his right leg was broken near the hip and a 6-inch sliver broke off, the left leg broken near the ankle, and then hearing the tree hit. "If I heard the tree hit, I must not be dead." A crew was jumped in with Ray Hudson, I believe, sent along to administer morphine . They brought a basket stretcher, which was a great help. It was almost dark and they had to cut "dog hair"--young thickly grown saplings, carry him forward, then cut more almost all night long. Daylight found them exhausted and they requested relief. Another eight were sent in to carry him the 15 miles to the road below Hamilton, Montana.

The previous winter some of the Forest Service Jumpers had seen Dr. Amos R. Little, who was with the Air Force Search & Rescue, and trained with the Smokejumpers in the fall, I think. They asked the Doctor what procedure to use if they needed him. "Procedure, nothing--call me." So they called him for Archie. It was a 45-minute flight, but in 55 minutes, the doctor was at Missoula to transfer to another plane, and 2 hours from the request he was beside Archie.

He also administered aid and helped carry the basket stretcher. When in sight of the cabin, he ran ahead to get a cup of coffee before loading Archie on a pickup for the 75-mile trip to the Missoula Hospital. He spent 2 1/2 months in the hospital with cast from waist to right knee and left mid thigh, a bar across mid thighs, and a cast on left lower leg. Again, the Forest Service dropped all help when camp closed the first of 1946.