The other evening my cousin Walt called me and we had a good talk. As is usual we went back to a day late in August 1970. We had had a very good year farming that year and we had all of our work caught up and we were feeling I think satisfied with how our year had gone. So looking for something to do we decided to plow up and old pasture that had never been plowed in our lives. We took my 4000 Ford tractor and plow out to the field that afternoon and began to break the ground. On about the third time across the field all that had been so good went so very bad.
As I was crossing the field I plowed up a nest of bumble bees. They began to swarm me on the tractor. I panicked and pulled the stop on the tractor and jumped off on the run. When I looked back the tractor hadn’t stopped and it was going across the ground I had plowed and headed for a hollow. I began to run toward the out of control tractor but Walt reached it first and tried to mount the tractor to stop it. He lost his footing in the loose dirt and began to fall. Walt gripped the fender with his right hand as tight as he could but lost his grip. What happened next was the most terrifying moment in my life. As he fell he went under the back tire and it bounced on him and spit him out from behind the tractor like a limp rag. I ran to him and yelled the question are you all right. (Stupid question for sure.) But what had entered my mind for that time that this happened was to ask him are you still alive?
He nodded an affirmative and I ran and somehow got on the tractor and stopped it before it went into the hollow. I ran back to Walt and he was as white as paper. He later told me that after the accident he looked down to check on his arm and at first glance didn’t see an arm and assumed he had lost it. He had suffered three major breaks in his right arm .The worst one was in his upper arm and had caused a clean break. He had two more in his lower arm along with cuts and abrasions. I looked him over even though I really didn’t know just what I was trying to assess.
I told Walt I needed to get to the house and get my car so we could get him to the hospital. He said ok. (I have tried thousands’ of times to put myself in his place when all that happened and I still don’t feel I really know yet and probably never will. Walt held himself together and remained much calmer than I think I could have. We were a mile from the house and the tractor roared at full speed at 18 mph. I yelled and cursed the machine for not going any faster. One thing I failed to mention was that we both were twenty years old and going slow on a calm day wasn’t acceptable to us back then.
I got back to Walt in a minute and helped get him into the car and off to Felicity we went and we went quickly. I recalled that the prior year I had ruptured a disc in my back and I had to be Trans ported to the hospital. In those days transporting people was done by Bob Hayden the undertaker. He had taken me to the hospital in the hearse. Let me stop right here and say that being a nineteen year old and riding on a stretcher in the back of a hearse was the most morbid trip I ever took. Also looking out the back and seeing where I had been and not where I was going only caused me to wonder how many folks had taken their last trip in it. At this moment it didn’t matter as my cousin and best friend was severely injured and even though it was the first farm accident we had ever experienced it was a dumb one on my part I felt. Bob was standing outside the funeral home and I told him what had happened and he needed to take him to the hospital now! He leaned in the car window and asks Walt a couple of questions and turned to me and said he will ride ok in your car and you will arrive there in half the time.
This only caused me to be just a little more upset. I looked at Walt and he said lets’ go. We did go and as we neared the hospital Walt ask me if I could go a little faster. I ask him if he was in bad pain as I was doing one hundred then. He said I’m not in pain yet but I want to be at the hospital when it does begin to hurt. So I went up to 110 and we got there before the pain. It took Walt more than two or three years to recover completely and have the pins removed.
I tell this story for the first time openly as Walt mentioned the other night. You know when that accident happened there wasn’t a life squad or even the use of the universal 911 phone number. On that hot August afternoon in 1970 we had no one to call for help. We were completely on our own and since he brought up the point it only gives me cause to realize how fortunate we were that so much more wrong didn’t happen. I know I have had to call for the life squad for my wife and just their knock at our door and their reassurance that all is going to be ok has a value that a price can’t be put on.
The world has changed so much in the last half a century and a lot of it has been for the good. We talked about how much better that day might have ended. The bones would still have been broke but we had no idea if there were any internal injuries or damage that could have been. We were only lucky there. Please don’t ever take the great folks who man the squads and rush to our needs with only dialing three numbers. I can only hope that the ambulance service in our communities never goes away. We got the chance to move past that almost fatal day to see another day and we both agreed that service available today for all of us is way better than standing all alone. We wish we had of had it then!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you are interested in reading more of his stories they can be found in his books ‘There are Places to Remember” and’ Memories ARE from the Heart.” He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.