Recently Herman recalled the causes, which could have or should have killed him. The following experiences, along with his prolonged early-life sufferings, which would have driven many people insane, have given him great insight, which cannot be learned any other way. However, he is not only very sane, he is also full of zest for life. And he is still running. Literally and in many other ways.
The following is the list of “could have, should have died” experiences, which Herman has been able to recall, in a more or less chronological order:
Heat stroke as a baby: Because we lived with someone who suffered advanced tuberculosis, my mother wanted me to have a lot of fresh air and sunshine. She often parked me on the sill of a window, four stories up and opening to a slate Mansard roof. Once a little too long. I was cooked. She would write me years later, that I was a beet-red baby, and a doctor had saved my life.
Middle ear infection as a baby: This rotted out the hammer, anvil, stirrup, eardrum in my right middle ear. Along with a chunk of my skull bone. My behind-the-ear-body-piercing makes me cool, and I should get a copyright to this method of piercing, so copycats won't copy.
After my eight-day high-fever-brain-frying experience, little Nazi bureaucrats finally gave my mother permission to let me into a hospital. A surgeon informed her that I was almost dead.
Years of ear infection: Caused by continuous neglect of this what’s-left-of-it-ear infection, and by my frequent swimming in dirty water. For years, I had a little artesian spring of stinky pus running out of my ear. I needed two surgeries to remove this wild meat, proud flesh. But you may still call me “Meathead.”
Multiple fire bombings: It was not a good idea to live near airplane, dynamite and aluminum factories during a war. I still remember being in at least two different bomb shelters and huddling in a basement with other people.
Diphtheria: A painful bacterial infection that causes fever and difficult breathing. In severe cases it can cause death by asphyxiation in three or four days. It kills one of every ten patients.
I still have documentation that my little brother and I spent twenty-six days in a hospital. But this was a good place to be, because that’s when our apartment went up in flames during a bombing raid.
Whooping cough: Some babies cough so hard that they turn blue in the face and vomit. Or die.
Machine-gunning from airplane: While my mother, little brother and I were walking towards a steel bridge in a neighboring village of the city of Regensburg, where a Messerschmidt airplane factories was located, bullets from above were zinging off its steel trusses.
Ammunition train blowing up: I watched this fiery event on the opposite riverbank about two or three hundred feet away from me.
Tuberculosis: I lived in two different residences with infected people. One of them had pus oozing out of a sore on her cheek. She’d often wipe it with her twiggy fingers and smear herself around door knobs and other convenient places. Like I from my little artesian spring.
Food poisonings & E. coli charged environment: During several years of nation-wide starvation, and years thereafter, I frequently had to eat moldy and semi-rotten food from waste piles and other delicatessen sources. Once fresh pig’s guts, which our mother forced my little brother and I to scavenge from a fresh manure pile.
Falling out of a tree past a barbwire fence: One side of my hand-made shorts ripped from top to bottom, but the barbs never touched me. I landed flat on my back and was barely hurt.
Hammering bullets from cartridges: I must have been between seven and ten years old, when I found some live ammo from WW II. While I was hammering the bullets to remove them, my mother stopped me from making a great discovery.
Throwing a hand grenade: Same age as above. My brother and I found this German wood-handled grenade and tossed it back and forth on a brick-paved road. Why I don't know, and I don't think we knew what it was.
Electrocutions: As a youngster I touched both wires of an innocent 220 Volt circuit and there was no ground wire.
I was in the basement of an old house, which I was remodeling. As I was pushing an iron water pipe through the floor joists above, it touched a bare electrical circuit, blessing me with a shower of sparks.
I shut off the 120 Volt circuit breaker in an old barn, so I could connect the breaker box with a #6 bare ground wire to a grounding rod outside. Zap. I traced the faulty wiring back to an old crossover splice upstream from the breaker.
Home-made bombs, rockets, etc., with homemade black powder, and other, poisonous, ingredients: When we were about fourteen and sixteen years old, my brother and I played with such just for fun. One of our bombs chipped the cement stucco on a church. And no one ever screamed, or whispered, “no-no, don‘t do this.” We gained no fame with mug shots in post offices and newspapers. But doing such nowadays would guarantee us to become very famous.
Raging father: I still his have a copy of his letter to one of his powerful lawyers claiming that he would kill my mother, brother and me.
While he beat and kicked my mother, I didn’t pee my pants. Or maybe I did.
Overturning tractor: I did not yet have a driver’s license or safety instructions. While I was pulling a manure spreader loaded with nutrient through a creek, the load got stuck. Therefore the tractor quickly rotated backwards around its rear axle. If I had not stomped on its clutch, I would have made a big impression in the nutrient.
Recently I met a man who was crushed in such an accident. He spent about a year in hospitals.
Raging one-ton Holstein bull: My slave master forced me to lead a horny bull about one mile down a highway, by myself, with a chain fastened to a ring through his nostrils. However, he, the bull, wanted to return to his girlfriends, which were bawling from an adjacent pasture fence. For some reason he, the bull, got mad, and I became of greater interest to him. He chased me down the highway. I jumped out of his way, just about when he was going to lift me. He kept going and I, courageously, let him drag me down the road.
Because I was afraid that my slave master would punish me if I lost his bull. When I realized that he, the bull, was stronger than I, I let go of his chain, and he disappeared around a turn in the road. Just then, my slave master arrived in his pickup and complimented me with: “You old grandmother.” Did he have insurance on my life?
Careening down a dark highway sideways: Shortly after I received my driver’s license, I was driving at more than 50 mph, with a car full of kids, when someone shouted, “turn right here.” Our car slid sideways to within inches of another car stopped at our turnoff.
Highly unstable dynamite: I still have a letter, in which my subsequent slave master wrote me, from across the nation, for me to take his dynamite, which he had stored under my bed in my shack, to someone else’s farm. He also informed me that “dynamite is not all that dangerous, but I should be careful with the black powder.”
Holding its bottom together to keep it falling apart, I loaded the “wet” cardboard box containing “wet” dynamite sticks, into the trunk of his jalopy. Then I shook my way along a gravel washboard road.
I did not know that my load had become unstable and highly dangerous. Decades later, a bomb disposal expert informed me, that the clear liquid beads on the sticks and the “wet” in the cardboard was nitroglycerin, which had leached out. If I had dropped any of it only one inch, I would have departed as sausage making ingredients into the sky.
Front wheel turning sideways: My brother and I were on a 300-mile trip in a jalopy. Just before we stopped for a sign, the steering linkage came apart. If that had happened at 60 mph, …
A few weeks thereafter, the TV news showed such an accident scene, in which the driver was killed.
Hood blowing up: I was crossing a long steel bridge, with no shoulders, while traveling at about 60 mph in said jalopy.
Driving on inner tube: I was on a fifty-mile trip with my master’s jalopy and noticed that the steering felt more wobbly than usual. I stopped and I found that a front inner-tube was beginning to bulge out of a hole in the bald tire. I kept cool, or went more stupid, and finished this trip essentially on air.
Flying bullet in living room: I was visiting someone, while he was cleaning his pistol. Its chamber was not empty and the shock impacted the wax in my ears. He was shaken but I kept cool.
Horse Accident: I stood in front of my horse, while his saddle fell off but kept hanging from his belly. He jumped forward and knocked me down. Then he kicked and bucked over the top of me, lengthwise, but never touched me. Now I can poke the end of one of my collar bones out of my shoulder.
Horse Accident: While I was riding a mustang, she stumbled and rolled unto my arm and leg. This ripped the pit of my new shirt. She stopped rolling just before the saddle horn would have impaled me. Later I saw a bareback bronco rider getting crushed to death under his horse. This horse was making several attempts to get up, by rocking unto its back in order to gain momentum to do so. I was lucky that my mustang was not a rocking horse.
Riding a runaway horse: I was riding this same mustang through a broad high-mountain valley. She must have had poor eye sight, because she had often tripped and stumbled before. I was the only person for miles around. She suddenly ran away with me as fast as she could and would not stop until she was exhausted.
Car off road: I was driving at about 40 - 50mph, when the left front wheel of my car hit a slush pile. I spun around and came to a stop in the borrow pit, facing in the opposite direction.
Car off road: Same lightweight car and similar to above, except that I slid into the borrow pit on the opposite side of the road.
Car spun around on street: Conditions were similar to above, but I was driving only 25 - 30 mph. My car slid around and stopped facing the opposite direction in the middle of town.
Hitting a snowdrift while passing a semi-truck: While I was passing a truck in blinding snow, I hit a snow drift at sixty-plus miles per hour on a two-lane highway. I was sure that this would finally end all of my adventures. But we kept right on going as if driving on a bare pavement.
Driving on wrong side of a US Highway during a nighttime ground blizzard: I was driving a station wagon full of people on the left side of the highway. I had to do so, so I could stay on the pavement by observing the left borrow pit shadow from our headlights.
Jack-knifing a pickup and trailer during a Nevada blizzard: Instinctively I gave gas and straightened out again to continue my trip for another fifty miles. No one else was dumb enough to be driving under such weather conditions.
Big snow slide while on a glacier: Our five-man rope team descended from the summit of Mt. Rainier. We had to cross horizontally on a rock ledge beneath Disappointment Clever, which is a rock outcropping splitting the glacier field. When our team guide was re-entering the glacier field on the far side, a big snow slide whooshed down right in front of him.
Four storms on high sea: A ship carrying lumber broke apart during a typhoon not far from our ocean liner.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, our ship lost a propeller, and we were thrown off course. This delayed our arrival by one or two days.
Multiple collisions: All in one morning: While driving down a slippery hill with chains on snow tires, another car rear-ended ours. Its impact pushed our car into another one coming up the hill. Later, while our car was parked, a second car rear-ended it. I drove our vehicle to the bottom of the hill to get away from traffic and walked home. Sometime later, while I was taking a photo of our damaged car, another one rear-ended it at the very moment I was snapping this picture.
Almost buried alive: After squatting down in a six-foot deep hole, which I had dug in the sandy backfill of a foundation wall, I stood back up. Only seconds later, the dirt collapsed around me up to my waist. Since I was alone, I am not sure if anyone would have ever found me in my grave.
Prolonged exposures to many wonderful man-made chemicals: I was born, and for more than six years lived in a city with dynamite and aluminum factories. A Website from nearby Switzerland now states, that after World War II, the bomb craters in that city had been back-filled with dioxin-laden waste from those factories. A few years ago I visited there. The still vacant lot, near where we used to play, was cordoned off and had a warning sign that this was the most dioxin-polluted site in the world. Some one-hundred eighty feet deep. Nice bomb crater.
For hours, days(?), I had to breathe the traditional, unadvertised, concoctions created during fire bombings: An aerial combustion potpourri of everything, including paint, wood, metals, digestive gases, body hair and possibly other human parts.
For two years as a slave, I had to submerge my hands in a very high-potency chlorine and a chlorine-manure mixture for several hours a day. At times some of my fingers split open to expose their bones.
Breathed concentrated formaldehyde fumes, because someone could not read the English instructions to dilute this corpse-preserving chemical.
Long-term breathing of formaldehyde and other chemicals from newly glued down carpets. Even during their installations and thereafter, I was not able to open a window. And it was later determined that all of the fresh-air intakes to this building were frozen shut. (Guess who discovered their defective conditions?) I took on a new status in the eyes of sympathetic co-workers: “Paranoid. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Thank you for these compliments, because “Paranoids are the only ones who notice things anymore.” - Anatole Broyard.
While working in a planing mill, my hands were soaked repeatedly with wood preservative for hours at a time. I also must have been breathing its fumes and aerosols.
Mouth full of leaded gasoline. My slave master ordered this-here-recently-imported still ignorant slave to empty the gas out of his junk car by start the siphoning process by sucking a hose. Gas is not my favorite drink.
Years of breathing fiberglass puffing from ceiling air registers of office mentioned above. One could sweep up wads from desktops. And no one cared despite my complaints. The janitor rarely vacuumed or dusted this office.
One of my jobs exposed me to highly volatile methylene chloride. My employer did not give me safety instructions and wanted me to dump gallons of it into the ground. Even though I had already learned enough to know that “no good deed goes unpunished,” I responded, “That’s wrong.” Thereupon, one of my bosses bounced around like decapitated chicken, and another asked me: "You’re not going to turn us in to the Feds, are you?”
Drinking organic, unpasteurized mastitis, manure and chlorine-enhanced milk.
The usual assortment of hundreds, if not thousands, of value-enhancing chemicals and additives, such as food coloring, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, nitrates, plastics, etc.
Hardly a month goes by, when I am not learning of someone I know, who has had, or has recently been diagnosed with some form of cancer. My instinct tells me, that my own intense long-term chemical pickling should have changed me into amorphous mass of cancer a long time ago..
...but angels are watching over me.
It took me years to discover that I have MCS, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It tells me early on when to leave polluted spaces. Even while dozens of people, not so blessed, can comfortably spend hours and days is such environment. And, amazingly, while I get a feeling of increasing panic, they never notice anything. Only I know hat they are weakening every cell in their bodies. But denial-heads do not want to know this. (To verify the seriousness of this problem, search the Internet for “indoor air quality” & “multiple chemical sensitivity”).