A few years ago I heard of an Alberta farmer who was found pinned between the engine of his combine and the grain tank. I believe it was on an older Massey combine, which I am very familiar with. I used to reach down to check the turbo and it was very tight quarters. So when I heard that this farmer had got stuck in their, I really knew how horrible it must be. Little did I know, the Alberta farmer was 83 years old.
When I heard of his age, I felt bad. Nobody likes to see an older person goes through so much pain, but of course we were all glad that he was still alive. Shortly after that I saw a comment on twitter about the safety aspect of older farmers still trying to farm their land. I questioned the author of that post on what age he was referring to when he said over 80. He was obviously concerned that some of our senior farmers were still out there when maybe they shouldn’t be. The love of agriculture is very strong and I know, it would be very hard to hold me back if I ever had the chance to work on the farm at that very old age.
The aging process is relentless. My late father used to tell me that aging was hell. Of course, looking back I laughed out loud at his comments. But as father Time has passed, I am very aware of how things are changing around me. This past week, I had to call the fire department on a main road in Ontario because I had a bad wheel bearing unbeknownst to me, which was smoking up a storm behind me. I pulled the wagon over to the side of the road where I had a huge 2 foot flame coming out of the hub. I managed to get it out after I called 911 and got the fire department. Long story short, I limped into another farm I owned just up the road. Many thanks to the Dresden Ontario fire department for their quick action.
I kept telling people after the fact that the water wagon I was pulling was empty and I was going to town to get some water. Little did I know, there was an empty, in fact it was half-full and for whatever reason I thought it was empty. When I returned back to another farm I saw that I had run over some 2 inch hose I use to transfer water into my sprayer. So then I was thinking, well there are 2 mistakes I’ve made despite the incident of the fire on the main road. The question is why did I make those mistakes and does it have anything to do with getting older?
In my mind is all age-related. I’ve written this column every week for the last 27 years and I know a lot more now than I did 27 years ago. The only trouble is those 27 years add up to put me at age 54. I’m almost eligible to have a McDonald’s coffee for $.50. Sure, I’m a heavy user of computers, twitter and every other high-tech device there is. However, I find myself writing things down, just so I remember.
There might be some of you that feel I’ve had a screw loose for the last 27 years. I’ll give you that. Needless to say, those 27 years on the farm have given me a much greater appreciation for farm safety than I did in my younger days. Today, as I watched a young 20 something mechanic help fix my wagon wheel, I told him to be careful. He may be young and tough but accidents do happen. He smiled and he knew exactly what I meant. Sometimes you just can’t replace a youth and inexperience.
Having said that, I don’t want to make the mistake that being a little older means that you are washed up. In fact, an argument could be made that many of us are at the top of our game on the farm and in just about everything else. I was very heartened this week to see an article by Dr. Terry Daynard encouraging older people to get on twitter. Terry has found it to be quite a good tool for him and he simply wanted to encourage people over the age of 50 to get on Twitter. It was a great example of an older person making a constructive contribution to the betterment of our agricultural economy.
I hope I have another 10 years of actively farming. When I look over my shoulder, I don’t see anybody behind me. I want to write the end of the story. However, in the meantime I want to be working safe in my farming environment. For the younger people reading this, take note. Age is a relative thing, but aging can be hell. For those of us who farmed all our lives, extra care needs to be taken on what at one time seemed menial farming tasks. Ditto for many farming responsibilities. Take your farm safety seriously. Things can happen so fast.