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Life and Limb: A True Story From an American Farm

This article was related to me by my Dad, who sadly passed away in 2015.

A typical farm tractor.

A typical farm tractor.

A Farm Nostalgia Story

Americans are often nostalgic about ways of life from bygone eras including stories from early family farm life. Few modern people have much experience with farming as a way of life and its many difficulties.

My Dad did grow up on a family farm and has wonderful stories to tell about it. So, here is another one:

My Uncle Don continued to run the family farm with his mother, my Grandma, after Grandpa died and my Dad left farming for a more modern occupation. Uncle Don was a bachelor with no children to help out on the farm and only occasionally hired workers for particular tasks like bringing in the harvest.

Thus, he and my Grandma effectively ran a small farm as the business which provided their livelihood through good times and bad. This was no easy task and farming has always been known as a fairly dangerous occupation. Today I am about to highlight just how dangerous because Uncle Don came within inches of losing his arm entirely or at least having it mutilated beyond use!

After World War II, the farm became increasingly mechanized with tractors and other implements which improved crop yield and saved labor. My uncle owned two tractors, a small less powerful one from pre-WWII days and a larger extremely powerful one. These work implements were becoming fairly required to maintain production, but accidents involving them can be hazardous indeed, so please read on!

Hazardous Work

What started out as an ordinary day soon turned extraordinary. Uncle Don was to load corn into a storage bin (I think they call this a grain elevator) for use later to feed the cows during wintertime. The day was brisk and cold as wintertime was bearing down.

Anyway, he happened to choose the smaller, older tractor for the job at hand. He hooked it up to some kind of grain elevator device with a conveyor belt and gearing to be driven by the tractor. As he hooked up this ensemble of equipment, he was wearing the bulky, restraining type of clothing required for such a cold day.

He fired up the tractor and all went well for a few seconds or so and then the equipment jammed. In trying to clear the jam, he got the sleeve of his coat caught in one of the belts on the elevator. His arm was being pulled right into the gearing run by the little tractor!

A few seconds went by where he envisioned losing his entire arm or having it mangled horribly! Then, lo and behold, the tractor sputtered and the engine died! Shaking, he pulled out his pocket knife and cut the sleeve of his coat away to get his arm free. He then immediately disabled the engine so it would not start again. But his aching arm!!!


As you can imagine, Uncle Don was quite shaken up and had to take a break from work to assess his arm injury. He recalled thinking that Grandma would be mad at him if an expensive doctor's visit was required, as he went to the farmhouse.

Grandma was not mad, but was worried and flustered out of concern for his well-being. She performed some rudimentary first aid on the arm which had been severely wrenched, bruised, cut and aching (and ached for weeks afterward!). But the arm was not broken or the joints dislocated, so no doctor visit was required.

It dawned on Uncle Don that if either he had used the bigger, more reliable and powerful tractor, or if it had not been so cold as to cause the engine of the little tractor to sputter and die, his arm would be history. These two coincidental variables (and quite possibly some help from above!) saved Uncle Don’s arm.

Well, dear reader, incidents involving loss of limb are fairly common among farmers, but this time my Uncle Don escaped such injury. He did live to a ripe old age and thereafter was far more careful when using the dangerous machinery required for running a farm.

Other Farm Nostalgia

I have been so pleased about the responses made from readers of my "Farm Series" of hubs. It appears there is much nostalgia and many others love hearing about trials and other goings-on from early farm life.

The first hub I wrote involved the loss of a limb by one of the family dogs, A Pet Rescue Story: Brownie, the Three Legged Dog.

My second was Rabies Scare: A True Story From an American Farm.

The third hub was about a near-accident my Uncle Don had, Life and Limb: A True Story From an American Farm.

My fourth was the Hubnugget winning The Story of a One-Room Schoolhouse.

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A fifth one is Farm Life During the Prohibition.

The response of readers to these stories touched me personally and readers have continued to ask for more stories! So now I regularly call Dad so he can continue relating these stories and I will continue to publish them as he does. Thanks for reading! -- Laura in Denver


Injuries Board Ireland on August 15, 2010:

I appreciate the farmer life is full of work danger. and such major could be done to save a life after a farm accident.

farm accident compensation on June 30, 2010:

Equipment related farm accidents are just too common and occur all across the globe. The sheer size and power of these machines along with farm land is always an explosive mixture and should be always handled with care

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 22, 2010:

Thanks! You are so right about the ever-present dangers, trials and tribulations.

My Uncle Don was more stoic in more ways than I may be able to accurately relate, but I'll try. I do miss him terribly. :-(

AppGal330 on January 22, 2010:

Really great hub--good to see the true and yet often dangerous part of farming told.People today just don't understand what farmers go through!

Living in the Appy mountains of TN, we see a lot of "roll over" accidents with tractors--big hills/mountainsides are not conducive to safety on big machines!

Looking forward to more great stories :)

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 21, 2010:

So true about the *great quality* of the Deere tractors. I believe my Uncle Don had three of them when he passed away.

(I thank the lord he was using a non-Deere tractor on this particular day!)

amethyst-rose from Washington on January 21, 2010:

Congrats on having your hub chosen as one of the HubNuggets of the week! Good story! Nothing runs like a Deere -- there's just something about 'em.

chris Craig on January 21, 2010:

This is a great testament to being resourceful, tough and Miracles.

the rope on January 17, 2010:

Congrats on another great "farm" story! And congrats on the nomination as a hubnugget for the week. It will be fun over time to watch these unfold. Thank you for sharing and Welcome to HP!

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 17, 2010:

Equipment jams are one hazard, but there are others. All manner of tools with their associated danger are used on farms. Weather can be bad. There can be flooding. The livestock can do unexpected things. You name it!

Krys W from Abertawe, Cymru on January 17, 2010:

Ouch!!! Methinks this would turn me to having something very small like a Scottish croft and just cultivating a few veggies for the pot. In the meantime, I buy organic vegetables from local farms, don't know what those guys are risking...

bearclawmedia from Mining Planet Earth on January 16, 2010:

Wow, we got to be careful. I find being obsessive about things gets you into trouble when working heavy equipment. Be calm thas the key. Learn to leave that little bit.

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 15, 2010:

I am so sorry about your brother!!

The truth is, had Uncle Don's arm been caught and mangled enough, he actually could have *died* bleeding before he was found.

Grandma would have *noticed* he did not show up for Dinner or Supper obviously. But she would have had to get somebody to go search because her knees and ankles did not permit her to roam around the farm to look for him.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on January 15, 2010:

My brother Jerry died in a farm accident--a tractor tipped over on him when he was unloading it from a flatbed truck. I found this hub well-written and truthful. Congratulations for the hubnugget nomination!

Johanna Smith from Fort Collins, CO on January 15, 2010:

Cool story! I'n sorry for the loss of your uncle. :-(

John Lakewood from Lakewood, CO on January 15, 2010:

Having come from a family of sugar beet farmers outside of Loveland, CO, I know that equipment can rip off fingers, arms and worse. Thanks!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on January 15, 2010:

So glad to know that your Uncle escaped this injury and you have such wonderful memories with him. I've never been to a farm and see it only from movies. So your sharing gives me a glimpse of what is there truly. Thanks so much.

Laura, your hub made it into the Olympics Hubnuggets List for this week! Super duper wow! Don't you think so? I think so! Go,check it out!

Don't keep the joy in your heart, tell your friends to vote for your hub. Have fun with the Hubnuggets! :)

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 14, 2010:

Thanks! I really had fond memories of my Uncle when I wrote this piece. I miss him, but he had a good life.

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on January 13, 2010:

So glad this experience ended up well for your uncle. I know a few people who were not so fortunate. Can never be too careful when working with machines. I used to love being on my grandparents farm. They raised sheep and chickens. Congrats on your nomination for Hubnuggets!

Laura Deibel (author) from Aurora, CO on January 13, 2010:

Thank you. Clearing jams in machines was one of the worst problems to my understanding. I will see if I can find out more about the common problems... ;-)

James Cain from Dayton Texas on January 13, 2010:

Thanks for sharing. Living on a farm myself,we can forget about the lurking dangers that exist. Because of this hub, I will strive to be more alert to the ever present danger especially around machinery.

Nicks on January 12, 2010:

Farming can certainly be dangerous - mostly, I think, because of the combination of working almost always alone whilst operating some quite serious machinery...

Bella DonnaDonna from New Orleans, LA on January 11, 2010:

I knew one farm worker who lost half of several fingers once. Scary!

Daddy Paul from Michigan on January 11, 2010:

Good read. Anyone who had ever worked on a farm had memories of almost losing a limb assuming they have not.

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