First class mail is alive and kicking in Big Stone County, MN. Just try falling off the roof of one of the farm buildings and watch your mailbox get packed with well wishes. Just to clarify, it wasn't me that did the falling but my much loved and needed farmer-husband, Mike.
Friday, April 13th Mike tumbled off the new chicken shed and onto concrete- resulting in broken ribs and cutting open his elbow to the bone. As the story goes, he wouldn't have been hurt as badly if he hadn't tried to avoid falling on good dog Sunny. After driving himself to the clinic/hospital he began to deteriorated - slowly at first and then accelerating until he landed in the hospital the following week.
There's a reason that Farming is among the world's MOST DANGEROUS job. Farming ranks #4 (between SWAT officer and Structured Metal Workers) in this book that young Earnest brought home from the elementary school library.
All of this falling off roofs makes one realize how quickly life can change. And it reminds me to be grateful for all those we hold dear--from moment to moment.
It is also a lesson in the shortcomings of rugged individualism and the annoying stoicism of men of Scandinavian descent (and I bet we could add Germanic descent to that as well). Nearly a week after the accident, but before Mike was hospitalized we had the biggest fight in our 17 year marriage- toe to toe- in each others' faces. He was determined that he (wounded and sick) and I (inexperienced and annoyed) would put the bale fork on the John Deere 4440 and feed the cattle before we went into the clinic. I was equally determined that we should "just say YES!" to one of the dozen plus people who had offered to help us feed the cattle.
"You D#$m stubborn Norwegian! You can't be doing this in your shape!" "We have to do this now! And you need to learn to do this- NOW!" "Why in the middle of a crisis?" A number of other choice words about each others' priorities, capabilities and character ensued.
And in the way of these things, we were both absolutely right. Mike was right in that we got the bale fork on and I moved three 2,000 pound bales of hay into the pasture for the cattle and, in all honesty, with a sense of pride in the accomplishment. And I was right- in that he immediately thereafter landed himself in the hospital for 8 days and 3 surgeries. He's damn lucky to have that arm and probably his life. Without current medical interventions, I'd be a farm widow today.
I can joke now, but it's been a hard few weeks. After Mike's first two surgeries, the surgeon came out to the waiting room and escorted me down the hall to a private room. He closed the door behind me and gave me the news- not looking so good, gonna need another surgery in two days. After Mike's third surgery, the surgeon came to talk to me and didn't close the door. I knew then that we had turned the corner. And I was giddy with relief. When Mike was brought to his room after recovery, I said "Great news! No more surgeries! " "Then my arm is closed up?" "No- that's a ways out. You'll have a month of IV antibiotics ahead of you."
I cried with relief. It was the first time I'd cried at all. And Mike cried- tears of loss. Loss for an entire year of farming. Loss of the cattle he was on his way to buy. Loss of the expansion of our grazing lands to the adjoining USFWS prairie. Loss of a whole lot of plans, dreams, and investments of time and energy. April, May and June are cruel months for a farmer to be kept out of farming.
I'll just say this one last thing. My husband is a good, caring, hard working man of very few words. His daily word allotment is 40 words- so he uses them sparingly. A couple nights after he was home and trying to get his beaten up body comfortable in bed, he whispered so quietly I could have missed it, "thank you for taking care of me dear." And I'll say the same thing to many of you out there reading this.
Thank you for taking care of us dears.
Thank you for working the fields, feeding the cattle, hauling chicken feed, patching the coop. Thank you for relighting the wood boiler and filling it up anonymously. Thank you for your prayers, hotdishes, cookies, bars, and rolls. Thank you for the loads of laundry washed, dried and folded and for the loving care of our kids. Thanks to my boss and colleagues at the U for support and reminders of the priorities of life. Thank you for the cards and the kindnesses you've shown. They are sustaining and encouraging us. It is a blessing you know--this day and those around us. For these gifts, Let us be truly grateful.