It was a cold winter day, around –10 below zero. I was visiting my friend Lana D on her dairy farm. After breakfast we pulled on our snowsuits and returned to the barn. We crawled up to the upper hayloft since they had an extra tall barn to throw down bales for the cattle to consume. I had assisted with this endeavor many times and wasn’t worried. My friend knew of my fear of altitude and would let me pitch from near the wall and not the edge. The precipice was a sixty-foot drop to the barn floor.
We tossed bales into the shoot leading to the milking parlor. Her dad closed the hatch when we had sent down enough. The hay were needed for the next couple days and we commenced to climb down. Bales are staked to each other. The stakes are long pieces of rebar that anchor one layer of bale to another. You stake each bale on the edge of the stack to improve stability. Otherwise the weight causes the stack to bow out and fall down. Unfortunately, I stepped on a corner bale that wasn’t secured. Of course, it began to twist. I wore heavy gloves and could not catch hold of another bale’s twine. I could feel the corner bale letting loose. Lana reached but could not catch me. She and her older sister grew smaller as they yelled louder. I propelled backwards forty feet and thumped onto the loft, bounced and fell another twenty feet to the floor. I fell onto my back with a wallop and everything went black.
At first I heard voices. Some loose straw on the hard cement floor had cushioned my fall but knocked me breathless. Lana and Laura had crawled down and were afraid that I was dead. Their screams stirred their father from inside the barn. He had been tending to the chilled animals. I opened my eyes and he was standing over me. He tentatively asked if I was in pain but I didn’t know because I was in shock. I felt woozy. As a fourth grader I must have weighed 80 pounds but he gently lifted me, trudged through the snow and took me inside. Laura had run ahead to alert her mother and Lana kept talking to me. I was laid upon the kitchen table. Mrs. D had been a LPN before she got married and knew how to triage a patient. She carefully poked and prodded me. No broken bones were found and I didn’t have symptoms of internal bleeding. However, I was rather confused so it was concluded that I had a concussion.
A long distance call was made to my parents. A blinding blizzard had drifted six-foot mounds over the roads during the night. It would have been profoundly difficult to get me into a town with a hospital. Nonetheless, the local ambulance was put on alert. If I showed any signs of trauma a plow would be used to break the road open for the ambulance and I would be ferried two miles to the plow on the back of a snowmobile. This was the 1970s so they opted to keep me awake. Their entire family focused on making certain that I did not slumber. We played board games, ate, drank a lot of tea and coffee, watched the two television channels that came in, talked, and drove each other a little batty. Someone was always with me as they took turns sleeping.
The next morning I was declared safe and as soon as the plows went by I was hurried into town. I was exhausted and deeply saddened. I wanted to stay a couple more days on the farm. It was one of the happiest places of my childhood. Lana had a kind and loving family who laughed a lot, polar opposite of my repressed and angry family. Their family wasn’t perfect but they faced their problems with love instead of fear. My fear of heights has never faded.
Read the first part of this remembrance “D is for Dairy” posted on January 26th.
Milkaholic = liquid lactose lover.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing