My mom's father John was a farmer. I don't know a lot of details, most of them involve Hereford (heifer?) cows or bulls or something and pulling shot guns on people to get them off his property.
I'm pretty sure there were horses at some point as well.
When I was younger John noticed that I had what could turn into a Hammer Toe. Just for the sake of my mortal embarrassment I need to tell you that it didn't, it's totally normal. But I sit with my toes curled under a lot and apparently that was a cause for concern.
One day while sitting in the tv room he reached down and pulled off his shoe and sock.
He showed me the 2nd toe on his foot and I noticed immediately that it was only half there. The end joint and a half had been removed.
I asked him what happened and he looked at me gravely and said, "Hammer Toe"
He then proceeded to show me toe exercises I should do to prevent getting a Hammer Toe. I asked him why his toe had to be removed and he said because he didn't know about the exercises.
John told me that his toe curled under farther and farther until he wasn't able to hardly walk on his foot the toe was curled so far under. When he finally addressed it with the doctor his toe was to far gone and they had to amputate it. So, (dramatic pause) he tells me that if I want to live my whole life with all 10 toes I needed to A) Stop curling my toes under my foot and B) Follow his toe exercises to the T.
Well I was terrified. I already felt like a freak I didn't want to be one with only nine toes!
So I tried to not curl my toes, I tried to do the exercises. It was really hard!
I gave up and watched expectantly for the day my toe would start to permanently curl under. I started imagining stories I could tell people for the reason my toe had to be amputated. I would often curl my toes under when wearing flip flops because I didn't want anyone to see my horribly disfigured toe.
Years later when I was living in Youngstown at the dorms I was in the elevator with some girls. We were all wearing flip flops. One girl pointed at my offending toe (I had recklessly been standing there with my hideous deformity unhidden) and laughed saying it looked like ET's finger. All of the girls began pointing at me and saying "ouch" during the rest of our elevator ride and for a few days after.
Awful. Horrible. I couldn't believe all the trouble this pesky toe was causing!
The next year I had dropped out of Youngstown and had moved home. One night while sitting in the living room with my mom I was doing my toe exercises* and she asked what I was doing. I told her the whole sordid affair.
She laughed. Really hard. I almost cried.
When she composed herself she said, "Dad lost his toe because a horse stepped on it and crushed it."
Ack. Stupid telling scary stories to kids to manipulate them.
*I cannot confirm or deny that I'm still a little nervous about my toe curling under and I still do toe exercises occasionally.