The fingernail of my left pinky grows out in a series of ripples. It is a constant reminder of an industrial mishap that occurred when I was 8, a veritable scar made of cuticle.     
     It all began when our childless neighbors, Al and Lorraine, boarded a relative’s third-grade son for the summer months. A search of nearby farms was conducted in an effort to find a playmate for the boy. A search that eventually led to me.     
     I was lured to Al and Lorraine’s farm with the promise of a surprise. At last. That pony I had longed for would soon be mine.     
     As I pedaled my bike down Al and Lorraine’s driveway, a skinny, red-haired kid biked toward me. It swiftly dawned on me that I had been duped. I would show them, I thought indignantly. I would refuse to have even the slightest bit of fun with this city kid newcomer.   
     The red-haired boy jumped off his bike and, with an impish grin, exclaimed, “C’mon. I found a nest of baby birds out in the trees.”
     Well. Nobody had said anything about baby birds. We dashed off into the shelter belt and spent the rest of the day climbing trees and exploring and generally doing boy stuff. It was marvelous.     
     A week or so passed before I learned the new kid’s name. I was leaving our house to bike over to Al and Lorraine’s place when Mom asked, “Going to see Steve again?”
     “Hmm? Oh yeah, Steve. So, that’s his name. I’ll have to remember that. It might come in handy.”
    This soon proved to be true.      
     One day amidst that glorious summer, Steve and I were working in Al’s shop. We were building something. I forget exactly what; it could have been a car, but we could have just as easily had a nuclear-powered submarine in mind.     
     Steve was operating an ancient drill press, the kind that is driven by a huge crank on its side and has all sorts of interesting and unshielded gears. We were trying to bore through a tough piece of steel when I decided to help things along by wiggling one of the gears. The machine consumed the end of my pinky.     
     That is when I discovered that it is extremely useful to know your co-worker’s first name. The excruciating pain of having your finger mashed between a pair of gears has a way of bringing such things into sharp focus.     
     “Steve,” I shouted. “Back it up! Back it up!”     
     “That won’t do any good. The drill bit has to turn this direction in order to ...”.
    He saw my trapped pinky and quickly spun the mechanism backwards. I extracted my finger and sprinted to the house, bawling and cradling my injured digit.     
     Lorraine, thank goodness, was a take-charge kind of lady. She immediately put my wound under a stream of cold running water. As the blood washed away, I was able to view the extent of the damage. The fingertip had been crushed and slivers of fingernail stuck out at crazy angles. I nearly fainted.     
     I looked up at Lorraine and said in all seriousness, “This is an emergency.” Upon hearing those words, Steve bolted out the door. Good man, I thought. He is no doubt going out to flag down an ambulance, although it seemed highly unlikely that one would happen to be passing Al and Lorraine’s driveway.     
     Lorraine wrapped a band-aid tightly around the end of my pinky while I explained to her that I needed a doctor and the phone number of a good tort attorney.      
     “Nonsense,” said Lorraine. “Now go find Steven. You scared the living daylights out of him with all your blubbering about how you were going to die.”     
     I found Steve out in the trees. He was making a show of searching under rocks for interesting bugs. I joined him and that was the end of the incident. This pretty much sums up the type of relationship we had.     
     So now, I have this rippled fingernail. But what of the skinny red-haired kid?     
     My wife and I were guests at the recent wedding of a young couple named Derrick and Hannah. Derrick’s parents, Anita and Steve, stood beside the newlyweds as they exchanged vows. Happy tears slipped down Anita’s cheeks, and I noticed Steve had to wipe his eyes several times.
     Steve is no longer skinny, but his hair is still the color of a new penny. And, he still has that same impish grin that first inveigled me to search for birds’ nests.     
     Scars and friends. Some fade away and are largely forgotten.     
     But the best ones – especially those with stories behind them – you learn to cherish.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.