A12-year-old and a tractor are a dangerous combination. My family almost learned that the hard way.
On a fine fall afternoon, I thought I had perfect control over the tractor and small wagon I was pulling across the creek that cut through the middle of our farm. My brother was working in a field on the other side of the creek, and I was going to help him.
Too many years have passed, and I don’t remember the task. What I do remember is driving across that creek, and it was flowing fast at a time when it was usually just a trickle. As I reached the far bank and drove out of the water, I saw the ground had eroded from summer rains into a series of narrow fissures. The front right wheel on the tractor slipped into one. The machine lurched, but it stayed upright. Not so with the wagon. It flipped over and, in a panic, I dragged it up the bank and didn’t stop until the ground leveled out.
Stunned and shaking, I hopped off the tractor and went running to find my brother who came and somehow got the wagon turned back upright. It and the tractor looked no worse for wear, so my brother drove us home, and I believe we kept the experience to ourselves. Leastwise, I’ve never said a word about it until now.
So why am I bringing up this little story that has no tragic ending? Because that’s not always the case on the farm. In 2015 alone, 401 farmers and farmworkers died from farm-work-related injuries, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Tractor accidents are the leading contributor to on-farm fatalities, with 125 each year on average. In addition, on average, 113 children under the age of 20 die annually from farm-related injuries.
I could have been one of them. Instead, years later, I am here writing this column as the harvest season gets underway. As I thought about this column, I decided the best thing I could do this month is to encourage you to make safety a priority for you and your family. Think about it, plan for it and act upon it every day as if your life depends upon it—because it does. Please take care out there.