A 12-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 hay 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 freely 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 into a series of narrow furrows. The front right wheel on the tractor slipped into one and the machine lurched. Fortunately, 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 ends happily? Because that’s not the case for everyone on the farm. In 2015 alone, 401 farmers and farm workers died from farm-work-related injuries, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Tractor accidents were then and are now the leading contributor to on-farm fatalities, with 125 occurring each year on average. Also, on average, 113 children under the age of 20 die annually from farm-related injuries. I could have been one of them.
Because harvest is underway, the best thing I thought I could do with this monthly column is to encourage you and your family to make safety a priority. 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.
This is an editorial Rhonda Brooks wrote for the upcoming, October issue of Farm Journal.