Back in February, I wrote a post with some truly remarkable segues. I don’t like to brag, but this particular piece performed the incredible feat of transitioning seamlessly from the movie Independence Day to a dating website for farmers and back again!
It was one of my proudest moments.
But now I feel guilty. Given what I know now, I would not have made fun of the dating site, farmersonly.com (actual tagline: “City Folks Just Don’t Get It”). Instead, I would have tipped my trucker’s cap to the courageous men and women who patrol our nation’s heartland and wished them good luck finding soulmates with whom they could share their hopes, their dreams, and their soybeans.
You see, back then, I was naive and ignorant. I had no idea how dangerous an occupation farming is. I mean, sure, I had read about the occasional exploding cow, but those occurrences rarely resulted in any injuries or deaths (except to the cow, of course).
But according to Modern Farmer, agricultural jobs are among the most dangerous in the world, with hazards such as: “Tractor rollovers. Grain suffocation. Deadly fumes. Goring. Electrocution. Heatstroke.” This is a grave concern for Modern Farmer, as it is difficult to maintain your subscriber base when your readers are constantly dying. AARP Magazine probably has the same problem.
But the truth is, we city folks just don’t get the dangers that lurk in those quaint, rural farming communities we drive past while yelling “Look, horses!” Hiding deep within that peaceful, bucolic scenery are the causes of gruesome deaths like this:
“A farm worker enters the bin for some mundane task, only to be overcome in a tidal rush of grain. The grain often both crushes and suffocates victims, leaving bits of corn or other grain embedded in the lungs.”
I imagine you don’t want to cremate someone who has died in that fashion, as the popping sounds might be disconcerting.
Yes, there are many ways for farmers to get hurt or killed. Don’t even get me started on toxic corn fungus or being kicked while pulling calves out of ornery cows. But what opened my eyes to the issue of farm safety was this headline on the Fox News website:
FATHER, SON LOSE LIVES TO MANURE PIT’S DEADLY GASES
Fox News covered this story in depth because, well, manure is kind of their specialty. Apparently the first thing you need to know (if you’re a city folk) is that some farms have manure pits under their barns and that these pits have to be pumped because it’s difficult to teach farm animals how to flush. So, one day, Gene and Austin Opheim were repairing their poop pit pump when the equipment fell in.
Now, I’ve never had a farm, and I have no idea how much caca cleaners cost, but I will tell you this: if I owned a $150,000 Aston Martin and it rolled into a manure pit, I would be reluctant to jump in after it.
Nevertheless, the younger of the two Opheims, Austin, did exactly that. And he was quickly overcome by fumes consisting of hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. He probably also realized that he was in some deep shit.
Now, I’ve never had a son, but if I did, and he jumped into a poop pit to pluck out a poop pit pump and was overcome by fecal fumes, I think my first course of action might be to yell, “Don’t pass out, son! Swim, boy, swim!” I don’t know that I’d go diving right in after him.
Nevertheless, the older of the two Opheims, Gene, did exactly that. Fortunately, there were no fans around for anything to hit.
I’ll let the local sheriff tell you what happened next:
“(Gene) was carrying Austin on his back and bringing him up and he got almost to the top and he got overcome, and down they went.”
One might wonder why, if he was on hand to witness this, the sheriff did not take appropriate action (“Don’t pass out, Gene! Swim, man, swim!”), but I’ll let that go. Let’s just say that the funeral most likely had closed coffins. And air fresheners.
Lest you think that this was a one-time event caused by an unfortunate combination of gas, gears, grease, goop and gracelessness, you should know that this kind of thing happens all the time. It had happened just a month earlier in another state.
And that, my friends, just has to be the worst way to die.
See you soon.