Farm work catches up to the hardiest

Climb to the highest point of the barn’s upper hay mow, swing out on the old rope left over from olden days in which a pulley system was used to move hay. Swing out, steady and strong, then drop in the shelled corn gravity wagon on the barn floor below.

Farm life

See who can lift and carry the heaviest buckets. See if you can spread your fingers wide enough to carry two buckets in each hand, just because it makes you look like Superman. Slip, slide and fall on icy cement.

Sled over a jagged cliff, just to feel the thrill of being airborne for a split second. Milk cows, standing on concrete for about 5 hours a day, then do the cut-and-run work of sorting hogs, loading the fat hogs on to a livestock truck.

Pick up rocks, throwing them on to a flat wagon. Climb the silo. Climb trees. Jump to the ground from the highest point just to prove there’s no scaredy-cat sissy in your bones. Pop wheelies and crash a Stingray Schwinn banana-seat bicycle with dramatic flair.
Bale hay, throwing and shoving and pulling and twisting every which way to move a bale that weighs as much as you do. Wrestle a calf that outweighs you by a ton.

Run through muck, boots being yanked from your feet as you propel your body through the swamp, searching for sign of wildlife. Run some more because you think scary, unknown wildlife might have just found you.

Pain sets in

All of the above ran through my mind recently when I consulted a pain specialist. In filling out mounds of paperwork, one simple question was asked: list activities, accidents that may have contributed to your pain.
Along life’s path, we encounter all sorts of fun, work, and challenges. I have always found it to be bearable, pushing through a lifetime of aches and pains. Mostly, it could be summed up as a pain in the neck.

Lately, that has expanded to the point I can’t find a chair that I can sit in comfortably or a bed I can sleep in for long without getting up to pace away the pain. Simple, daily chores have become difficult. Smiles and laughter are a bit harder to summon, which goes way against my character. Being sleepless doesn’t help any of it.

No accident?

I have been asked, over the years, by various doctors, studying my X-rays, “What year was your accident?” Knocking on wood, I answer with gratitude, “I’ve never been in an accident.” I should be skating through, making room for the next pain-riddled soul, thanking my lucky stars, apologizing for taking up someone’s time.
 

At some point, I am learning, it all sort of catches up. All these years later, I sympathize with all of the people I have known who reached their breaking point along the way. When it hurts to reach for a high shelf, when I whimper in pain at the simple thought of climbing a livestock fence, I am forced to admit I might have some major sissy bones in me after all.

Much of life is a hands-on lesson, all the way to the end. My awareness of others’ pain is being heightened as I walk through this one. I’m ready to cry “uncle!” and move on to the next lesson…

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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