Sunday evening as I walked from my job at the airport terminal to my car, the breeze caught the gentle scent of maturing grain and it immediately took me back in time. I began to think about those evenings when both mom and dad were out on the field combining and transporting canola. Some nights if a warm wind was blowing, they would both stay out til the wee hours, taking advantage of the perfect harvest conditions.
It was during one of these marathon combine sessions that my ten-year old self got into a bit of trouble.
I think I have mentioned before that my father had a water trucking company serving the oilfield. During the winter he hauled water to rigs and camps and during the summer he would farm. When the summer season rolled around, the tanks were removed from the trucks and left to rest on large metal drums in the front yard. Lined up, they were quite an impressive display and so much fun to play on!
I know, I know……..we shouldn’t have been playing on the empty tanks, but honestly, what 10 year old could resist! They resembled submarines with metal ladders and a hinged porthole cover on the top. Up and down the tanks my sister Jessie and I would climb, sometimes imagining that we could leap from one to the other (we never did….we weren’t that crazy).
One of my favourite things to do was to sit on the top of the tank and slide off the glossy painted, slippery metal into the long grass. Even resting on the steel drums, the tanks were not up high enough to be dangerous. I never once thought about the metal hooks welded to the side of the tank where the hoses were stored. They made a “U” shape and came out from the tank approximately 8 inches. Screams of delight as I slid off of the tank, immediately turning around and climbing the metal ladder to slide off again, always managing to avoid the sharp hooks.
Until that time I didn’t miss the big metal hook.
In fact, I impaled myself on the sharp piece of steel and hung there for a moment. Shock on my face, I looked up at my sister Jessie who wore the expression of “mom is going to blame me because I am the oldest and supposed to be in charge”.
Time passed slowly and I can recall wondering how on earth I was going to remove myself from this “thing” without doing more damage. I didn’t have to think about it long because as I leaned forward, I managed to free myself from the hook. I tumbled into the grass, standing up quickly like a gymnast who had stuck her landing.
I didn’t cry and I didn’t scream. I just began walking towards the house, the adrenaline blocking the pain from piercing my consciousness.
The hook caught me high on the back of my thigh and I could tell that it was fairly deep. The question was, “Was it important enough to call my mom off the field? Did we dare get on the radio and alert her to the potential for a quick trip to the community nurse?”.
Tetanus? Didn’t even think about tetanus.
As Jessie and I conferred, it was determined (by Jessie) that I was going to live and that we definitely should not call mom off of the field. It wasn’t bleeding and I was still breathing, so according to our limited knowledge of emergency medicine, there was no reason to panic.
We cleaned it with Mercurochrome and placed a Band-Aid over the deep puncture in my thigh. Now it was time to get our stories straight. We definitely were not playing on the water tanks. We definitely had not left our younger siblings in the house while we played on the water tanks.
We turned on the television and tried to focus on the Wonderful World of Disney, with one nervous eye on the front window watching for the lights of the combine to round the corner.
Nearing 10:00 p.m., the lumbering grain eating machine came into the yard. Still awake and with my leg throbbing I explained the sanitized version of events to mom and then showed her my thigh.
The look on her face said it all. It was bad. The tissue around the gash had begun to bruise and it looked ugly. A little concerned at this point, I told her the truth about how the injury occurred and prepared myself for the worst.
I shouldn’t have been worried. Of course she didn’t get angry. She gave me a hug and we shared a nervous, relieved laugh that it hadn’t been worse. Years later she shared how guilty she felt about having to be out on the field for those long hours and that I had got injured. I never played on the water tanks again.
Oh…and my tetanus shots were up to date so no worry there.
Farm life is never without excitement and an element of danger. As harvest season arrives and the grain dust hovers over the rolling fields, lets all wish our farm families a safe and successful harvest.