You read about horrific farm accidents involving machinery, animals and/or stupidity. Often those on the receiving end are either badly injured or worse. A little common sense could prevent many of these mishaps from occurring. Before Chuck retired, he was very safety conscious at work. Health and Safety Committee meetings were held at regular intervals, written policies were drawn up and everyone followed the guidelines to the letter, including Chuck. But once he was retired, all safety measures flew out the window. I’m not sure why, and in hindsight, Chuck probably doesn’t know why, either.
Most of Chuck’s accidents and near misses are tree related. Chuck loves his chainsaws and cutting up fallen trees for firewood is a very enjoyable pastime for him, but this Paul Bunyan career can be dangerous. A wise person wears the appropriate personal protective equipment, PPE, but then, not everyone is wise. There are times when Chuck falls into the latter category.
I have dealt with Chuck’s lumber jack antics in the past. There was the time he cut his leg with the chainsaw. Not a bad cut as the saw first cut through his jeans before arriving at the skin destination plus, he had his finger off the trigger, so the speed of the chain was slowing down. Arteries and veins were missed, but there was still a nasty cut. He wouldn’t go for stitches, so I just taped it up for him. The next day, he went to the Farmers’ Co-op and bought chaps to wear when using this weapon. He now has PPE for that job.
Just lately, Chuck decided to remove a 40-foot, dead elm that had been pulled out of the ground by its roots. Rather than falling directly to the ground, it was caught up in another nearby tree.
“Better get that tree down before it falls on its own and hits someone on the head.” He announced.
Oh, the irony of that statement.
Now, to Chuck’s credit, he had thought this project out before starting. He backed his tractor up and securely fastened one end of the chain to the drawbar and the other end was wrapped around the bottom of the tree roots. In a perfect world, the tree would have smoothly pulled along the ground behind the tractor until it was far enough away from the supporting tree, where at that point, it would have gently fallen to the ground. But this is not a perfect world.
Chuck started the tractor, the chain tightened, and the tree did a complete somersault, with the top branches hitting Chuck squarely on the top of his head.
I was on the veranda and I saw this old man, with a rather glazed look in his eyes, walking up the driveway. Blood was pouring down the side of his face. Of course, it was Chuck. Did we go to the doctor for stitches? Don’t be silly. I washed away the blood, bandaged it as best I could, and he was good to go.
“Now, where was his hard hat?” one might ask.
That brand-new puppy has been sitting on a shelf in the garage for the past fifteen years, collecting dust. There is not a scratch or a dent on it. I wonder why?
But perhaps Chuck’s most ingenious plan that he not only lived to talk about, but also suffered absolutely no injuries while doing it, was the scheme he hatched up for picking apples and pears. Because our fruit trees sit on the side of a hill, this uneven ground makes it difficult to reach the crop by way of a ladder. When we first moved to the farm, it was possible for us to climb the trees or put a ladder part way up to retrieve everything, but overtime, the trees grew higher and Chuck and I grew older. We were no longer agile tree climbers. This particular year, all the trees were loaded with tasty looking fruit. I suggested that we only harvest what was on the lower branches and leave the rest for the deer. These animals could smell the fruit from miles away, and would certainly appreciate the feast. There was no way we would eat all those apples and even if we gave most away, I really didn’t feel like breaking my neck trying to pick every last one of them. But Chuck would not give up.
His pioneer spirit said, “Harvest all those pears and apples and ye shall make pies, jams, applesauce, preserves, and God knows what else, for the winter.”
Furthermore, he rhymed off a list of people we could share our bounty with. There was no stopping him. Now, Chuck has a lot of Tonka toys and a very good imagination. Two wonderful things to have – sometimes. Chuck went to the drawing board of his mind.
Everything on our farm has been given a name, including Chuck’s equipment. There is Little Blue, his tractor, RW, his red wagon, and Case, another tractor. He put his plan into motion. Chuck hitched the wagon to Little Blue and drove up the hill past the designated tree until RW was right beside the target. Getting off Little Blue, he placed a large chunk of wood behind one of its rear tires to serve as an additional braking device. He then got on Case and carefully moved it towards the back of RW. When in the proper position, he raised the bucket on Case, carefully lifting the backend of RW until the wagon was completely level. This resulted in the back two wheels of RW being off the ground and dangling a few feet in midair. His homemade scaffolding was in place. I had to admit that it looked pretty solid and secure, so I was ok with this apple picking platform.
Chuck’s mind was working overtime. In order to get the fruit at the very top, he put a six-foot ladder inside the wagon and climbed up it. I almost died. Did the man have a death wish? The higher up he went, the more the ladder swayed. Next thing you know, there were two senior citizens inside the wagon, one on the ladder and the other one holding the ladder in an attempt to keep it steady. It only took me a couple of minutes to realize that this was a dumb idea. To make a long story short, I left the scene and Chuck continued on with his pear picking. I did, however, open the windows, so I could hear his screams if he fell. All went well without incident.
The jury is still out on whether Chuck was an idiot or a genius. I’m just thankful that no matter what the verdict might be, Chuck is still alive and well to tell his tale.