Herald and Journal, Sept. 20, 1999

Hey, let's be careful out there


Last week I was reminded that I need to pick up my feet and watch where I'm going, especially at 5:30 in the morning.

Of course, it's hard to watch anything when your eyes are half shut, walking between the calf hutches in the semi-dark, doing one thing and thinking about another.

Suddenly, I crashed to the ground. I managed to save most of the milk in the pail, but not my knees.

Seconds before, I had been maneuvering on auto-pilot, headed out, pail in hand, to feed an impatiently bellering calf. If I hadn't been so concerned about saving the pail of milk replacer, I might have spared my knees.

As it was, I tore the knee out of one pants leg, gouged my knee and scraped my leg.

And what caused this sudden halt to my forward progress?

The wagon tongue that was hiding in the grass and shadows off to one side of my path. I had walked though that spot many times without tripping. That morning I was too tired and in too much of a hurry to really pay attention to what I was doing.

At least no one was around to enjoy my graceful landing. Tom was in the barn feeding the cows.

Bending down to get that first cow ready for the morning milking is difficult enough. These 50-something knees like to creak a little. Now, they were groaning, too.

These little incidents just seem to happen when I'm working around the farm. They remind you to keep your head up or, in my case, to look down.

One time, we had our whole family assembled to separate cows into the dry cow pen. We had to chase them from the cow yard into one end of the barn, give them a shot, and then chase them out the other end into the pen.

There always has to be at least one animal that acts more like a mule than a cow.

This particularly obstinate beast ran up and down the manger, back and forth across the center walkway, and around and around the barn. The kids and I couldn't keep her from charging past us, and she knew it.

Here she comes again!

As I quickly backed up, trying to block off her nearest escape route, I managed to plant one foot very firmly into the gutter. I almost fell over backward into the nearest stall, which was occupied at the time. I was lucky I wasn't kicked by the resident cow, who was just as startled and unhappy about the situation as I was.

The kids managed to keep a straight face until we got the wayward critter cornered and shooed out into the pen. Then I was the object of much merriment, as they hooted with glee over my manure covered pants and shoe.

If hurt pride is all I ever get out of my farm accidents, I'll consider myself to be very lucky.

This week Tom is out chopping corn silage. Harvest time makes you feel good when you see your crop coming in. You feel like you've really accomplished something. It's a busy time and a stressful time for the entire farm family.

It never hurts to remind ourselves that we need to pay attention to what we're doing. We need to take the time to stay safe. When you're out in the back forty and things aren't going very well, the tractor is stuck or the chopper broke down again and you see rain looming on the horizon, remember to just stop and take a deep breath. Take time to think and be careful.

Several Octobers ago, Tom lost two fingers on his left hand in a corn picker accident. Always in a hurry, he wanted to finish up the last few rows in the field before milking and then the corn picker plugged up.

When he came walking toward the house holding his arm in the air and gripping his wrist tightly with the other hand, I knew what had happened without even looking at his fingers.

True to form, he thought they would clean his hand up and send him home that afternoon. He couldn't believe they would want to keep him in the hospital for three days, and operate on his hand. After all, he had crops to bring in.

So, a word of caution on these beautiful fall days when you head out to chop that corn, fill that silo, and harvest your crops. Heads up!

And as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say to the cops assembled in the squad room on "Hill Street Blues" before they started their shift for the day, "Hey, let's be careful out there!"

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