It was a typical Thursday morning as my son and I turned the corner near my sister and brother-in-law’s farm on our way home. We had running around to do that day and since the temperatures were still in the 20s it was a good day to not be outside. I told my son that “maybe we should go see if Papaw made it over to start picking corn?”
He said, “OK.” But since it was still cold and frost was still glistening on the cornstalks, we decided to just make our typical morning phone call to Papaw and Meemaw and turn the corner the other way, back to the house. Little did we know what had transpired that morning about a half mile from where we made that turn.
It has been an unusual harvest season this year as several farmers still have crops in the field, and our family is one of them. Dad wanted to take advantage of clear skies and get some corn picked for the upcoming winter months so he had traveled the 10 miles or so to get at it.
A corn picker is a device that has many moving parts and can be dangerous to work on. Most times it requires two or three people to get the machine adjusted correctly before you can pick that first ear. Dad was alone that cold November morning and had a rather simple adjustment to make, but it was a two-man task. Everyone was busy and he had to work alone, so off he went down the steps of that dusty, green tractor. He reached over a shaft that had been repaired at some point by a bent-over nail when it happened. As the shaft spun it grabbed a piece of my 77-year-old father’s tattered, old coveralls and sent him sailing head-over-heals into the machine.
I had been attempting to call Mom and Dad, but strangely they had not answered at the house or on their cellphones. Strange, but understandable given the fact that we had a sunny day for a change. I had just pulled in the drive when the phone rang and I answered.
“Hi Mom,” I said.
Rather than her trademark “Hi Bud!” I got the tone of voice that meant business. She told me of the accident and said, in a quivering voice, “Dad is OK … but.”
That “but” that Mom was referring is called The Widowmaker. In technical terms it is an aneurysm on the aorta. Now, I’m not certain of exactly what the aorta does, but I do remember enough from Mr. Wallen’s science class to know that it is important.
When they were performing an MRI on Dad’s chest they found it. Dad has never been one to take things slow, or even do things correctly the first time, but he does get physicals and checkups regularly. An aortic aneurysm is just one of those genetic abnormalities that aren’t in the crosshairs yet for physicals to look for during routine physicals. Luckily, the doctors at HDH ran those tests and saw it.
Mom said that Dad had left the tractor and didn’t know if it was running or not, and didn’t have his cell phone. I went over to my sister’s place to get things cleaned up and try to find his phone. As I pulled up to the dusty green monster, I literally froze. I found a trail of blood from tire tracks that dug posi-track, six-inch deep trenches for about 20 feet up my sister’s driveway that led back to the corn picker. There I found a tattered old pair of blue coveralls; a shredded, bloody white T-shirt; a bloody, mangled, flannel shirt; and a bloody, destroyed hooded sweatshirt wrapped inside of the corn picker. I literally hit my knees, looked up and said, “thank you…”
I couldn’t utter anything else after witnessing the scene before me.
As far as we can tell, Dad got wrapped up in the picker around 8 a.m. For the next 90 minutes he managed to reach into the pocket of his coveralls, with his left arm hanging on by the skin, pull out his pocketknife, and cut himself free from the still running cornpicker. The shaft had stopped thanks to a shearpin that did it’s job. Unfortunately, it didn’t shear until it had taken Dad’s arm around that shaft and destroyed his shoulder, rotator cuff and part of his elbow.
With temperatures in the 20s my shirtless old man climbed into his truck, stomped on the loud pedal of the F350, and drove eastbound. He drove over SR 73, which would have led him toward Highland District Hospital, back to the house. “Just had to get back to your Mom,” is what he would later say.
Mom, who would use up all the Band Aids in the house and all of the towels in the bathroom to try to clean Dad up before convincing him that he needed to see a doctor. Mom, who 24 hours later would be taken to the emergency room herself for exhaustion. Mom, our family’s rock.
CHRISTmas Miracle? Numerous miracles. That shear pin didn’t have to work. That nail didn’t have to grab Dad’s coveralls. And the doctors didn’t have to follow their gut-instinct to look a little further into Dad’s injuries to find the Widowmaker. Yeah, I think so.
Dad is scheduled to have two or three surgeries and by all accounts is on the road to recovery. Our family will always remember that cold day in November when we witnessed a miracle. More importantly though, we want to recognize a miracle that this time of year is all about. The miracle of our Savior being more unto this world — our savior who decided to keep Papaw around a little longer.
P.S. — Doesn’t it seem like “St. Nick’s Christmas Lights” on Careytown Road are twinkling a little brighter this year?
Tim Lindsey is a Hillsboro resident.