Monday, December 16, 2013

The Dark SIde

For all the joy and light that come with farming there is a dark side too and it is no joke. I just learned a few minutes ago of yet another friend who succumbed to injuries after being crushed between two pieces of large farm equipment on his Ontario farm. He was forty seven years old with a wife and kids and now he's dead a week before Christmas.

Over the years I've been to way, way, way too many funerals that were directly attributable to farm accidents. Virtually all of the deaths were incredibly gory and with only a couple exceptions they were also almost all preventable. One of our neighbours was crushed to death when his tractor fell off a wobbly jack as he worked underneath in his shop. Two more friends have succumbed to silo gas. A couple more died when they were electrocuted. Another died in a tractor rollover. Yet another died when he fell off a roof. Another middle aged friend was riding on the three point hitch as his dad planted grain. He died after getting run over by a planter and cultipacker combination ten feet behind where his dad sat.

These aren't second hand stories or statistics. These are people that I've known all my life. Young people, or middle aged, mostly college educated, most with families. And that's not all the deaths either, just some that I remembered as I worked my way through writing this piece. I won't even start down the list of injuries; too many to name or even remember.

It ought to be sad that it's noteworthy that my whole family has managed to keep all their eyes and limbs despite a lifetime on the farm. To a degree  it's prudence on our part, but there's a lot of luck involved too.  My friends an neighbours didn't secretly harbour a death wish. They just got complacent and momentarily careless at a time when their luck ran out. It's easy to get complacent around big animals and big equipment. When you work up close with both every day you forget that one wrong move or a spook at the wrong time can put you in a lot of danger. It seems like overkill to switch off the tractor every time you dismount when you've left it running a thousand times and never had a problem. But the truth is that it only takes one mistake to kill you, as all of the people mentioned in this blog found out. Literally, there but for the grace of God go I.  I've made most of the same mistakes that got these folks killed at one time or another. I've either recognized that the situation was dangerous and caught myself in time or I've been lucky or both. For Melissa and for Carter I hope this continues. I'm trying a lot harder than I used to. But so were most of the ones I mentioned above.

They always say at the funerals that these people died doing what they loved and I guess as far as it goes that is true. But dying in a gruesome farm accident decades too early seems like a hell of a price to pay for doing what you love. Not much of a post this close to Christmas....sorry.....but it's what's on my mind and I have to get it off.


Anonymous said...

Timely post for me. There have been 2 farm accidents close to hear involving people I know. In one case, the ground gave way under the tractor as he drove by near the manure pond. The tractor rolled into the pond and the man was trapped inside and drowned. I can't think of a worse way to go. He was around 32 years old with a wife and 2 children. More recently, a young farmer got his arm stuck on the grain elevator and his arm was crushed. He is "lucky" in that he didn't lose the arm and should regain function in about *2 years.*

Be safe.

Anonymous said...

That was from RuckusButt, by the way. Can't remember my password :(

Jason said...

Across North America farmers die from accidental deaths at roughly 30 per 100,000 per annum. That is a staggering statistic; roughly on par with the murder rate in the most violent ghettos in the worstUS cities.....places where no sane person would walk after dark. Over the course of an 80 year lifetime this means that over 2 % of farmers will die in a farm accident. That's one in fifty and that's damn scary.

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