When uncertainty and difficulty hit the farm, my Dad would always say, “Keep your cool.”
A few years back, I was having a really bad day. A truck came to load corn in the morning from our aged granary bins. The night before, I checked all of the electrical cords on the auger motors, fueled up my auger tractor and made sure everything was in working order. When the truck arrived, I wanted to get it loaded and get the driver down the road in short order, because the weather here in mid July can be stifling.
About 11 a.m., the driver arrived as scheduled. After he backed his trailer under the auger, I tried to start the tractor, but the battery was dead. I rolled out my battery charger, plugged it into an outlet in the granary, but a fuse had blown. I replaced the fuse, charged the battery and got the tractor started.
I plugged in the motor that operates a horizontal auger in my grain bin, but it wouldn’t run. By now, I was getting a little frustrated, and so was the truck driver. I found another cord and got the motor running. We were finally ready to start loading.
I had been checking the corn regularly, running my aeration fans properly, so I was surprised when some of the corn bridged up over the auger outlet. By this time the bin was getting empty, so I was able to climb into the bin and scoop the bridged corn, which had taken on moisture from a small hole in my wooden granary bin.
The driver was getting impatient. A thundershower was building and he was worried that the load would get wet. I hurriedly scooped corn into the auger. The heat was oppressive. There was no breeze in the bin and no breeze outside. I was soaked from sweat.
Finally, we finished loading the corn and the driver covered the load with a tarp. And the rain came down in torrents. The truck was loading on a dirt trail on the back side of my granary. He had to drive up a steep slope to get off the farm. By the time he had hopped into the truck and tried to drive out, the trail was wet and slick.
He couldn’t make it. I started up my tractor and tried to pull him out, but it was too slick. We needed the sun to shine just for a short time to dry things enough to offer a little traction. Finally, after trying to pull the truck out three times, I was at wits end.
I told the driver to call the grain elevator and tell them he was unavoidably delayed. I went into the house for lunch and told him to take it easy for a while and I would be back. In the house, I checked the weather. Forecasters were predicting sunshine all afternoon.
So, we waited about 20 minutes and the sun came out. I hooked up the tractor to the truck again, and this time I was able to pull him out and away from the bins. The driver hurriedly drove away and I wiped the sweat from my brow. This had been a tough day so far, I thought to myself. But it was only the beginning.
Later that afternoon, as I was feeding my bulls in their bunks, instead of walking around the fence to get another bucket of feed, I stepped up on my automatic waterer that straddles a fence between my yards, lifted my leg over the fence, as I had done hundreds of times before, to take a shortcut to the feed bin.
But this time, my wet boot slipped off the waterer and I fell, gashing my shin on the corner of the waterer. When I landed on the ground, I looked down at my leg and saw a large and deep tear in the flesh. I knew I was in trouble.
After taking off my shirt and tying it around my wounded leg, I limped to the house, feeling weak and disoriented. My wife was away taking a class for work and the babysitter who was watching our children had to leave in about ten minutes. I called a neighbor to watch the kids and called my Dad to take me to the hospital.
I sat down at my chair near our kitchen table and dressed the wound. My neighbor arrived to sit with our young children and Dad drove up to take me off to get sewed up. Because it was after hours, our local clinic was closed, so we had to drive to Yankton, about 30 minutes away.
As my bandages leaked blood on the floor mats in Dad’s old car, he looked over at me. “Having a bad day?” he said.
“I’ve had better,” I replied.
“Well, keep your cool. It will be alright,” was his answer.
That was all I needed to hear. It was a long road of recovery after that. After having the wound repaired at the clinic and sitting through IVs, daily bandage replacements for the next eight weeks and serious pain, it was alright. Although the injury was quite serious, I survived and have only a scar to show for my bad day.
With all of the uncertainty we now face, with budget and debt ceiling issues, grain market drops and a shaky future for the upcoming Farm Bill, I am trying to take my Dad’s good advice.
“Keep your cool,” he would say if he were alive today. “It will be alright.”
He’s never been wrong before.