Recently a headline caught my eye. The words were screaming from the page, “Three Ohio brothers die after being trapped in manure pits” (NYPost).
I can’t exactly describe the emotions that hit me. My guts tightened, my breathing stopped and I felt my heart race. My brain kept repeating the same refrain of, “No no no.”
I don’t know the Wuebker family at all. I had never even heard of it until that heartbreaking moment when I scanned the article. But my heart went out to them. Three brothers, doing a routine task that they had probably done a hundred times before, and all are gone. It’s a family’s worst nightmare.
Accidents can happen anywhere, don’t get me wrong. I could wake up tomorrow morning and fall in my shower. I could glide around my classroom and beat my head. There are a myriad of ways and places to encounter an accident; I know that. However, my biggest fear has always been a farm accident.
Growing up in a farming family, as a small child, the warnings are always present. In some places where farming accidents had happened, my grandfather would always tell the story, highlighting the end result (none were good) and then tell us exactly how the accident could have been avoided. Most of the time, the lesson was to always be careful and never be sloppy.
In theory, it sounds easy.
Who could be recklessly around a tractor that weighs thousands of pounds and is several feet taller than you? Yet when it’s 1 or 2 a.m. and you’ve been in the field since 6 a.m., it’s easy to fall back on the saying, “I have done it hundreds of times, I could do it in my sleep” then literally release your guard for a split second.
However, that split second, like in anything, could be the difference between sleeping in your own bed, spending time in the hospital, or having your family plan your funeral.
The problem with accidents on the farm, however, is that normally the accident is a family member. It is normally a mother, brother, father, sister, uncle, aunt, son, daughter or cousin who is an integral part not only of a family, but also of the operation of the operation.
I do not know the Wuebker family personally, but I imagine that the loss of three sons, fathers and brothers is a devastating blow not only to the family, but also to the livelihoods of the exploitation. On an incredibly small farm like ours, the loss of a single person could be catastrophic. Fortunately, the close calls on our operation were void and I wish it were.
But there was a time when I thought I was witnessing a disastrous event.
My brother was driving the tractor with giant machinery attached from field to field on Highway 88. I followed in the truck with turn signals on. Out of nowhere, I see this red SUV flying over us. The SUV was going over 70mph and didn’t seem to notice that we were only going around 35-40mph.
The SUV, without slowing down or stopping, went past the truck and tractor, but did not realize that they were passing just before the Highway 11 overpass and they obviously could only see a semi-trailer. came and flew over the bridge.
Luckily my brother saw this, downshifted, braked, and managed to stop the tractor and equipment to give the red SUV just enough room to slide between the semi and the tractor.
I’m sure during those few seconds I stopped breathing and my heart stopped beating. I remember thinking of all I could do if the tractor and equipment overturned. All of these things went through my head, but the overwhelming thought was, “How can I save my brother? “
Thanks to Craig’s quick thinking and conscientiousness, none of these questions needed an answer. We arrived on the ground and I could tell that even he recognized the gravity of the situation. It reminded us both how important we are to each other, but also how important we are to the survival of our small farm.
Accidents happen; it is a fact of life. But agricultural accidents seem more personal, more devastating, more painful. Maybe it’s because they’re one of my worst fears, maybe because it could be my family, but the reason is much simpler than these. Someday it could happen to me, my mom or my brother doing something simple and routine and the consequences could be catastrophic.
So when you see those headlines that make your stomach tighten up, take a moment and send good thoughts to the family. But more importantly, as the harvest season approaches, be careful with farm equipment on the roads.
And farmer friends, never take a moment for granted, always be aware. I’m not sure my heart can lose more beats.
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and received his doctorate. at Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.