Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



Cuidado – Spanish. (qwee-da-do) - (Be careful! Watch out!)

     Long ago, when I began writing for love (as opposed to writing for technical journals) I promised myself I would only write about good things, not sad subjects or depressing things. I'm about to break that rule. I don't want to write this, but if I do, I pray that maybe – just maybe – you will never do what I did.
     Like most bad days do, it started off just fine. On this pretty morning, Sherry had gone to Colorado for the weekend to see the grand kids, and the Rowdy Cow Dog and I were cooking and batching for a few days. I decided to ride into the front pasture and clean up some of the debris from the recent ice storm.
     The tall ash the storm had claimed - now lying across the fence – was first on my list. I carefully placed the tractor tines under the sixty foot long beast to get just the right balance, lifted it up, and we were on our way. Out of the pasture we went, through the yard, and into the big field and woods on the back side of the farm. After arriving at a large brush pile, I carefully lifted the tree even higher and over the center of the pile so I could drop it in just the right place. I pulled on the hydraulic lever to drop the tree...and
felt a wave of nausea. I looked over at Rowdy, who was safely out of the way, and thought, “I love you, dog.” Because in that instant I knew... there was a very good chance that moment would be the last time I ever saw Rowdy. In that moment I knew you don't “pull back” to drop big heavy dangerous things...you “push forward.” Done it a thousand times. Done it a thousand times, but this time, I made a mistake at just the wrong time. I pulled instead of pushing just when I had a one thousand pound tree on my tractor. And I knew that tree was going to fall on me...and it did.
   I went somewhere else for a while. When I woke up, I was frantic because Sherry had all these students coming from the university, and I was to have all this food prepared and the tables set up in the pasture, and I was worried sick because I was trapped in the tractor! The tree was lying across my lap, and my head hurt so badly I could hardly see, and … “Wait a minute, amigo,” I thought to myself. “Sherry's in Colorado, and we never set up tables in the pasture for the students. When they come, we eat in the barn...” So, I knew my thinking was a bit fuzzy, and deduced that was from a severe blow to my forehead. I felt...and sure enough, the big lump confirmed my theory. But the part of this nightmare that was true? There were no students coming, but I was, in fact, trapped in the tractor. Not good.
     It was Sunday morning. (I know – had I been in church, none of this would have happened.) Sherry would not be home until Tuesday around four p. m. I was six hundred yards down in the woods. No on was coming to see me. No one was going to find me for at least three days...and I would be a mess when they did. I didn't think I was going to die as there was no freezing predicted during coming days, but I knew the horses, steers, and  Rowdy were going to get awfully hungry.
     I got out. I know you're wondering how.
     I don't know exactly – maybe a combination of things? Luck, good fortune, not my time, grace, 'cause Jesus felt sorry for me? Small crowbar I keep behind my tractor seat? Lots of squirming, skinned flesh on my legs – at any rate, I was finally able to wriggle free...and Rowdy and I made our way up the hill to the farm house. One of the nicest walks I ever had. Laughed and cried all the way.
     Sat on the couch staring for some time. Deep regret – humiliation, joy, and over and over I thought...
     No cell phone.
     Didn't tell anyone where I was going.
     Did something dangerous alone.
     Failed to concentrate – lost my focus due to carelessness.
     Forgot what my daddy always said... “Everything on a farm is so expensive – and all of it will kill you so fast.”

     Riddle for you – How can an old man turn his tractor over and kill himself on a pond levee he's been mowing for 35 years. How is that possible?
     Ans. Because he's been mowing the levee for 35 years.
     Don't do what I did. We hear it all the time – “Take the cell phone, tell somebody where you are going, don't do dangerous things alone, tell someone your expected return time.” But we don't listen. This time – when I was trapped in that tractor - something or somebody whispered in my ear...
“Cuidado! Cuidado, Miguel!”
This time I heard it.

-- Michael Johnson                      


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