Pollex Verde

by Alan B. Combs. I can’t even tell you how this one came to me, and certainly you wouldn’t want to know.

Bill was a farmer by trade, but the level of his success could most accurately be described as wretched. He used all the modern fertilizers and sophisticated techniques recommended by Ag Extension at That-Excellent-Institution-at-College-Station, but nothing worked. The neighbors’ crops were bumper, while his were blooper at best. He faithfully planted good seeds and grew nothing but tares. The time came when it appeared his only option was to sell the farm.

Then, in addition to his agricultural problems, Bill suffered a severe injury to the thumb on his left hand. The wound became infected and the thumb started to turn black with red streaks running up the arm. He would have gone to the doctor, immediately, but he had a crop to get into the ground. The next day, the tiny shoots of plants came up – in greater profusion than they ever had before. Within a week he could see that his land was producing the greatest yield he had ever seen.

Because the thumb was paining him so much, he finally went to the doctor who prescribed a course of treatment with antibiotics. He started taking them and within a week his thumb was starting to get better. Simultaneously, he noticed the leaves of his plants starting to turn yellow on the stalk. This disturbed him so badly he forgot to continue taking his antibiotic. The thumb started to turn black again, but his plants started to thrive once more. There was a clear inverse relationship between the health of his thumb and the health of his plants.

Now, Bill really didn’t know what to do. He was caught in the middle of a classic approach/avoidance conflict. Clearly, what he had was a gangrene thumb.

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