It was 10:30 one evening last week and we had been combining soybeans that day as it finally had dried enough for them to be harvested. We were within a few acres of finishing a 160-acre field, but the moisture was setting back in the stems and we were creeping across the field at half the speed we were going earlier.
My son said, “You go in and I will stay here to get one more bin full on the combine.” I was feeling tired and I was ready to quit. I also knew that he was more likely to stay out there and finish the field than stop with one combine bin. I drove home.
As I eased myself into my chair in the living room, my wife asked if leaving him out there by himself was a wise decision. I told her I have watched his work habits and he is a careful worker. It was a risk, but I thought he would be okay.
As I fell asleep, I thought if I woke up during the night I might check his garage for his pickup to see if he was home. I did not wake up until the next morning when my phone rang and my son gave me the nights progress report.
He did finish the field and had stayed out there until 1 a.m. Good and hew.
At the risk of sounding like a nagging parent, it is time to remind everyone of farm safety. The harvest is a month behind and time is getting short. We are taking risks to make every hour count. Please be careful and try to think at least one-step ahead.
Earlier that same day we were having problems with the combine plugging from wet stems and I would stand in front of the combine pulling the soggy stems from the center of the head as my son reversed the feeder. This was done after he made a quick trip down the ladder and under the combine to open the rock trap to make it easier for the plug to be dislodged.
When he would turn everything on to see if we had cleared out the feeder, I would stand in the bright light so he could see where I was. Even with two of us, I knew if the head dropped, those few seconds where one or both of us could be rescued might not be enough. Screaming for help in cell phone could still be too late.
It is the chores we are most comfortable with that are the ones that put us in danger. It is the job we have done many times before, the road we have traveled hundreds of times, or the machine we know almost inside-out that can still, in a brief moment of inattention or poor judgment, put us or someone else in jeopardy with life-changing results.
It was four years ago that a ladder that my son had been leaning against a bin, slid with him on it. It was a small bin and he was able to catch himself hanging from the bin about 10 feet above the ground by his hand. When he let go to drop to the ground, he fell with his elbow striking the fallen ladder.
His elbow was broken in four places and due to the skill of a surgeon and a staff at the Mayo Clinic, he has the use of both of his arms. They gave him his future back.
With improved weather, we are working longer hours not wanting to waste the precious remaining time we have. Be careful of those shortcuts, they save a few seconds, but can result in lifelong impacts that do not make them worth the time we thought they would save.
Take frequent breaks. Do not work on machinery until it has stopped. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. You have heard it all before and you know why.
In recent years around here every time you see a ladder is leaning on a bin, it is fastened with a chain.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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