I t was hot as all get-out on a July 4th in the late 1950s at a Clovis print shop where I worked.
There were five other employees and the boss, plus a bindery “queen.” That’s what we called women who cut up paper and package printed material for customers and did the work in the bindery department.
Everyone in the shop that day was all busy. I was busy in the darkroom with the door shut, but not locked because I wasn’t developing film.
Like I say it was hot, with no air conditioning that day in the darkroom. I was sweating and wasn’t really feeling my best as I was having trouble masking some sheets on the light table in front of me and was having trouble getting the sheets in exact positions.
Then it happened!
Somebody opened the darkroom door and threw a big firecracker and slammed the door shut. The explosion of that firecracker rattled my brains. I got mad. Who in the world would throw a firecracker into a dark room? I jumped up out of my seat where I had been sitting in front of the light table and rushed to the door.
I was so mad and I wanted so bad to find the culprit. When I got to the door, without thinking, I pulled my right foot back and kicked with all my might. I kicked that door so hard it busted the door latch.
I was wearing a pair of heavy black boots, the boots I would wear when I rode my motorcycle to Taiban with my buddies to get beer, since Curry County and Roosevelt County were dry.
Thanks to the boots and my pursuit of the culprit, I didn’t feel any pain after kicking that door open. “Who was it that threw that firecracker into the darkroom?” I asked. No one said a word.
I ran to the front of the print shop and went out the front door to see were the culprit had gone. He was nowhere in sight.
An hour later, the culprit revealed himself. It was Joe Fahnert, the boss and owner of the print shop. He was red-faced and said he was sorry the firecracker was so big. Since he was the boss and he was being so apologetic, I apologized back and we shook hands. Joe Fahnert, who previously worked at the Clovis News Journal, died July 23, 2003, at age 84. I’ll never forget him.
I went on home limping as my big right toe was swelling. I finally got my right boot off at home and stuck my toe into a bucket of kerosene as my father always did when he hurt himself working.
The next day I went to a doctor and he X-rayed the toe. He found two places where that toe was broken. Today, that toe is crooked and my toenail is curled over and partly buried in that toe. I have never kicked a door open since.
Nor will I ever.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org