The tragedy of farm accidents hits home

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Farm and Dairy file photo

All these years later, I remember the stark look on my father’s face. He had just frantically pulled my sister from shelled corn that was swallowing her like quicksand.

He took his eyes off of us in that gravity wagon only because a neighbor had stopped by unexpectedly.

His safety talk to all of us later that day carried the weight of what might have been. News reports this past week of three sisters, ages 13 and 11-year-old twins, who died on their family farm in Alberta, Canada, was almost too much to contemplate.

Smothering death

The girls succumbed as a result of smothering in canola seed inside the deep bin of a transport truck.

A single picture shows a happy farm couple with their four children: the oldest girl, twin sisters, and a younger boy. The father is wearing a shirt that reads, “Born To Farm.”

The Canadian family raises canola, barley and sunflowers on a generational farm near Withrow. A neighbor interviewed for news accounts described the girls as “three blond kids getting dirty as they played,” and his happy memories of them included camping, fishing, playing ball, riding four-wheelers, and participating in church youth group activities.

Close to home

This description, including playing in mud and farm ponds and grain, could have been one of us. Family farming includes the entire family.

While today’s society urges parents to push kids to get involved outdoors, away from television and video games, when it comes to farm families, this goes without saying, every single day.

Neighbors called to the farm that day helped locate and rescue the girls, buried in the deep canola seed in the bin of the grain truck, and CPR was performed for the entire time waiting for transport.

Two girls were pronounced dead at the scene, while one of the twin girls died at the hospital.

Risky business

Farming, by its very nature, is filled with risks. The potential risk factor has grown as agriculture has grown.

The relatively small gravity wagons of our youth pale in comparison to the enormity of today’s transport trucks, with harvest transferred from combines at an incredible rate.

It is known the girls were, just a short time earlier, inside the truck cab safely on that sunny, autumn day. It is likely they decided to jump in the back to play for a bit, as farm kids everywhere have done many times over.

An entire community gathered around a farm family a county away from us this past week, also.

A beautiful little boy who had celebrated his third birthday just the day before was killed in a skid steer accident after he ran, unnoticed, to the equipment when he heard it start, always wanting to be a part of the work.

The local football team came to help the farm family, along with dozens of people of all ages, offering to help with harvest, clean-up or anything that needed to be done. Such tragedies unite us, no matter how much land separates us.

We know, but for the grace of God, it could be any one of us.

Offering support

As one family grieves the loss of their only son and another tries to grasp life with only a son, they need every bit of loving support possible. From each tragedy, something is born in all who are touched by it.

We may not understand it, but the best we can hope to do is learn something from it. And hug your children just a little bit longer every chance you get.

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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.

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