Close Calls

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As harvest season approaches, be careful out there.

Published on: August 31, 2011

Be careful on the farm and in the fields.

Every farmer can recall specific occasions out in the field or in the cattle or hog yard when their dangerous profession nearly did them in. I have a litany of close calls and near misses on the farm, when an inch or a split second could have meant a very tragic outcome.

It is something we don’t like to discuss with anyone, especially our spouses. But farming is dangerous. Sometimes we get so comfortable with potentially dangerous equipment, livestock and situations, that we forget how fragile our bodies are and the fact that there is a very thin line between life and death.

As a kid, I recall when my Dad stepped into an auger on our grinder-mixer and the auger caught the pantleg of his jeans. Fortunately, a pin in the auger sheared, preventing damage to his leg. Another time, Dad rolled a tractor and a wagon down a steep creek embankment, and was able to duck inside a culvert to avert being crushed by the tumbling equipment.

I’ve had my own close calls. We have a field with high voltage power lines and poles running diagonally across the rows of crops. One late night while I was combining, I looked behind me to watch corn piling up in the combine bin. When I turned to look forward, I noticed one of those poles passing alongside the combine in the dark. I slowed the machine, but waited for it to hit. Fortunately, I passed beside the pole, with only an inch or two to spare.

I’ve been thrown in the air, literally, by angry cows. I’ve had my arms and legs poked by sharp steel. My Dad lost his ring finger when he caught his wedding ring on a bolt as he swung himself out of the back of our grain truck. The list goes on and on. And nearly every farmer I know has a personal list of his own.

We’ve lost friends and neighbors to farm accidents more than I care to recall. Friends have suffered from explosions and grain entrapments, ATV accidents and cows that were relentless. Our occupation is dangerous, one of the most dangerous. And it takes an annual toll on farmers, spouses and their children every year.

So, as fall begins, I plead with you to keep your family members out of dangerous operations. Maintain your equipment. Keep those safety shields in place. Keep your hands and feet away from moving machinery. Don’t get too comfortable in your occupation and situation.

Use plenty of lighting when working at night. And keep the coffee thermos handy so you stay sharp during long hours in the field. If you don’t want to be safe for yourself, think of your loved ones who would miss you so much.

Normally, I like to keep these blogs light and entertaining. But there is no entertainment in farm safety. It is serious business, and we all have a list of close calls to prove it.

Have a bountiful and safe harvest season everyone, and many, many more.

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  1. Rich says:

    A timely essay, Curt. As a kid, I had several close calls on the farm. One in particular stands out. I was loading a hay feeder with our old Oliver. Carrying the full fork & loader too high, I backed over a pile of hay and mud with the right front wheel. In memory it's like slow motion as I jumped clear, only to land and watch the entire tractor go wheels up. It wasn't fear of death I felt, so much as fear at the harrowing half-mile walk to the corn field to tell dad what happened.