Our two sons were born in 1981 and 1984. At that time, new mothers were strongly encouraged to attend Lamaze classes to learn natural birthing techniques. Danny and I attended faithfully for weeks, never missing a class. I learned how to breathe (Deep breath in through the nostrils, exhale slowly through the mouth. Deep breath in…) while he learned how to soothingly wipe my forehead with a cool, damp washcloth. (Okay, there were a few other details we both learned, but those are pretty much the highlights.)
Anyway, towards the tail end of my first labor, the cool, damp washcloth on my forehead no longer soothed me. In fact, it began to have the opposite effect. Danny swears to this day that my normally baby blue eyes turned a reptilian yellow as I grabbed his wrist in a vise-like death grip and snarled through clenched teeth, “Touch me again and you’re a dead man.”
He slowly backed away from the bed and took his washcloth with him. Lamaze breathing techniques only go so far.
I mention this because I recently had cause to resurrect those breathing techniques.
We have a large, wild mulberry tree growing along the fenceline of our pasture. There are times when we need to drive a tractor or swather under that tree, and the branches had become prohibitive. So, one morning last week, I decided to fix that.
I loaded a tree saw and long-handled clippers in the Ranger and parked directly under the tree branches. I stood in the back of the Ranger and began to saw a branch with a diameter of about two inches. I positioned myself in a way that, according to my mental calculations, would keep me from harm as the heavy branch fell. What I failed to anticipate was that the tips of the branch were intertwined with other branches in such a way that the cut end of the branch would swing towards me as it fell and … hit me right on the bridge of my nose.
Deep breath in through the nostrils, exhale slowly through the mouth. Deep breath in…
It could have been worse. The blunt side of the branch hit me rather than the cut edge, so there was no blood. It hit directly below where my glasses rest on my nose, so my glasses were not broken. There’s always a bright side. Sometimes you just have to search a while for it.
By the way, I did not tell Danny about the branch incident. He will find out about it when he reads this blog. The reason I did not tell him was because I knew exactly what he would have said.
“Why didn’t you wait for me to help?! I would have helped you!”
All true. However, I would have had to wait for his help. He works all day at his office, and the few hours of daylight that he has after he gets home are entirely spoken for with other honey-do items.
For those of you who don’t know me, I will share this about me. While I know that patience is a virtue, it is not one of my virtues. (Dear Lord, please give me patience. And give it to me NOW!)
So, bottom line, I sometimes put myself into a semi-dangerous situation in order to get my work done. When you work with half-ton animals and heavy machinery with many moving parts, any situation has the potential to become dangerous in an instant.
Every farmer and rancher who is reading this blog right now is nodding his or her head. You get it. In fact, according to Time, Farming and Ranching is Number Eight on the Top Ten List of Most Dangerous Jobs in America. This list is based on fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. The tally for Farmers and Ranchers is 23.1. (Be thankful you’re not a logger. They are Number One at 135.9! Wait a minute. When I cut that branch was I a farmer or a logger?)
Growing up on a family farm, I witnessed one brother get his fingers crushed after the jack slipped while changing a tire. I witnessed another brother fall off the back of a trailer stacked high with hay bales when the young driver turned too sharply. (Ahem. I was the driver.) Thankfully, neither of these brothers was seriously hurt.
I myself had a finger broken from a slammed gate, a lip split through and through from a fall, and got serious road rash from a fall off a horse. (Note to self. Don’t wear shorts when running a horse bareback.)
Thank goodness we had mentholatum – my dad’s cure for everything.
Since my return to my farming roots, I have had a cracked rib, a bruised tailbone (twice) and numerous cuts that probably would have been stitched – had I gone to a doctor.
When BJ was still a youngster, he tossed his head one day as I was grooming him. His nose hit my glasses, they broke, and cut my eye socket immediately below my eyebrow. Around the cut, my eye turned a dark black and blue. For about a week, it looked as though I were wearing an extremely dark eye shadow on one eye. I refer to it as my semi-Goth phase.
I saw one of my daughters-in-law the day after the accident. She asked if I had gotten stitches.
“No,” I told her, “It wasn’t bad enough to go to a doctor. I just used some steri-strips.”
She stared at me for a few seconds, then said, “You have steri-strips?!”
I shrugged. Not my first rodeo.
She then said something I’ve never forgotten. “You know, Mary Kay, we worry about you out there by yourself. We worry that you will really get hurt – or worse.”
So, to my family and friends, know this: If that ever happens, you can rest assured that I have left this world happy, on my own terms, and doing exactly what I love.
How many people can say that?
(I relate more stories about childhood incidents in September – Forgiveness in A Year on the Family Farm and May – Memories in Another Year on the Family Farm.)
Next Week: Hey! That’s My Hat!