Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Man Overboard

After a near historically warm winter, we had 7 or 8 inches of incredibly wet snow in early February followed by some fairly light but pesky sprinkles and light snow events. The bigger snow was so wet it would not feed into my 9-foot snow blower. The big augers just rolled up with snow and looked like two large paper towels turning my blower into a rear mount dozer.
We had to just let it melt. It caused quite a mess and we've been dealing with mud for almost a month now. It's been a bad time to need to haul corn the 7 miles to the nearest hard surfaced road. It's not the first mud we've dealt with. This has been a setup for one of the stories that gets rerun about every five years at a Morrow family get together.
It began in the early spring thaw of 1965. Dad, with the help of us boys, would line the north side of the feedlot with a long and high stack of small square alfalfa hay bales. That side of the feedlot was lined with a hay feeding rack made of creosoted posts and planks. We fed hay all winter from the pile and by the time it was about gone we were no longer in need of the wind break the hay provided.
The spring in question was the end of a long winter with heavy snow. The cattle had trampled hay and snow and manure into a hard deep mixture by the hay rack and were in danger at one point of walking over the top. As it melted, the mixture turned into a 'belly deep to a steer' kind of watery oatmeal type mixture. It seemed naturally carbonated and it was about two and a half feet deep. It actually had a base because the bottom wasn't completely thawed yet.
That base was fortunate because the cattle had run out of hay and the mud on the north side of the rack was so deep and gooey, we couldn't haul hay bales in the normal route.
Dad had the solution. We loaded one of our old barge box grain wagons with hay bales. Two layers of bales were squeezed in and filled the wagon to the top of the box sides and then we could hang two more tiers over the edges of the wagon above that. He hooked our 4020 to the wagon because of its wide front and besides it was tall enough to drive in the feed lot with the oatmeal mixture. I would throw the hay bales over the fence into the hay rack while Dad drove along slowly through the slop.
The mix was deep, nearly up to the tractor's oil pan. The wagon axle, wheels and tongue were all under the mud. I successfully threw off the top two tiers of bales across the fence into the feed area, but the first bale inside the box sides didn't want to come out. I had wedged them in and had stomped on them to make them go all the way in. I had him stop the tractor while I struggled to get the bale in the center of the load pulled up and out. My bale hook kept pulling hay loose but the bale itself just stayed in its place.
I took one more hard swing at the bale, burying my hook deep into the middle and with my feet firmly planted I jerked with my legs and the bale came loose. Easily. It popped out of the hole and nearly hit me in the face. I lost my balance and fell backward over the side of the wagon. I firmly hugged the hay bale to my chest as though hugging it would somehow keep me suspended above the cesspool awaiting me.
It was in slow motion from my perspective. I anticipated having the wind knocked out of me. I was prepared to get hurt. Maybe a rescue squad call in the middle of two to three feet of manure would be necessary. I landed on my back with the bale on my chest. It didn't hurt; it was like landing in deep cotton balls.
After realizing I was alive my next concern should have been drowning. The only part of body above wellÉ let's say water, was my head but only from my ears to my chin on up. The bale was sitting on my chest and I was surrounded by 1,000-pound steers trying to lick at me and the bale.
I then realized that Dad was probably worried sick about me. I shoved the bale to the side and took the wire off of the bale so the cattle could eat what parts of the bale didn't sink and then I looked up at Dad. It had bothered him worse than I thought. He was having some kind of convulsions. He had his face buried in his arm which was resting on the fender. He was really shaking, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and put his head back on his arm and shook some more. It almost had the appearance of laughter but he wouldn't do that.
Would he?
Over the years he started to retell that story many times at family gatherings and each time he 'broke up again' and then would look at me and say "You tell it," and then he'd flop his head into his arm lying on the table and begin to shake again. I guess it really was a pretty rough experience for the old guy


Peter said...

I am eternally grateful to say that I've never had an experience that even came close to that!!!

Lanny said...

I'm more of a visual learner, I needed a sketch to really grasp the set up. But really, no sketch needed for the fermenting swill you found yourself in! I can actually smell it, oh wait, maybe that was Bet just coming in from chores.

So, does havin' had your dad tell a story about you and laugh that hard do damage to your psyche? I've often wondered about that, how much damage stories like that (and their retelling) has on my girls. I don't know many parents that do that, laugh at your kid so hard you end up cryin', I often wonder if it is strictly a "growing up farming" experience.

Cliff said...

Lanny, I somehow survived the damage to my brain. I think I might like being laughed at.
Yeah, I'm weird but you knew that.

Debbie said...

Our son performed the ceremony for our daughter's wedding. He made a minor mistake in the verb tense of the vows and just kept going leading to a bigger mess up. My husband who knows the vows very well caught the mistake first thing, broke up laughing, hitting my shoulder and then just gave in lying on my shoulder shaking uncontrollably. Everyone at the wedding said the daddy really had a tough time giving up his lil girl.


Oh my goodness. That was some story. To be knee deep in that is one thing, but to be in it up to your neck quite another. I am glad you lived to tell the tale. And from the sound of it so was your dad, laughter and all. Experience teaches us things we otherwise would never know. Take care.

EV said...

A hoot! That "drain bramage" will get you every time, Cliff.

Jim said...

Good story about a very bad experience, Cliff. Did you dad tell you that he was laughing with you and not at you? Those are words we don't want to hear.

I did like your word usage. Mud was used most commonly for the stinking gooey mess but you used lots of others too. All them were very descriptive because we knew what it really was. And wouldn't liked to have heard that real word! :)
Oh yes, I am thinking that your mom wasn't laughing while she was washing your clothes.

Granny Annie said...

Talk about wet...I'm betting you got a little wet on your vacation to Oklahoma! We are ankle deep in flood water but our Missouri neighbors had to put out sandbags to save property.

Our oldest grandson was supposed to shovel out the goat pen but I wouldn't let him because of the thunder and lightening and now grandpa has to story to laugh at about my protecting the big guy from a "little rain". Why do men find such joy in perilous times?

J.Coolen said...

As I was reading through the 'scary part' I was giggling too, ONLY because I knew you have to be alive to write the story.