Each year, my wife and I celebrate Thanksgiving, and depending on where our daughter is, and where her soldier may be, the two generally join us for a modest but plentiful meal of turkey and other typical dishes. This year will be like most, as my daughter joined us while her husband serves a tour in Afghanistan. We talk about him, wishing he’d been here, and gave thanks for all we have, but this year is a little different than most. Life on a farm can be hard, but when you deal with livestock, there are certain hazards you accept, and while you seek to mitigate and minimize them through thinking about safety first, on some occasions, due to bad luck, absent-mindedness, or simple miscalculation, when things go wrong, they can go wrong all at once, leaving a disaster in the wake. This week has been such a time on our farm, when the mundane and simple task of feeding our horses turned into a nightmare. As it has happened, we wound up quite lucky, but it could have gone differently for this will go down in the family book of lore as the Thanksgiving that almost wasn’t.
Working the hours we do, plus tending to all the chores of the farm, one of the seasonal adjustments that happens each year is that due to shortening days as we near the Winter solstice, the evening feeding time moves up a bit to permit all chores to be completed before the sun goes down. No group of people is more tuned to the changing of the seasons than those who labor in agricultural endeavors, because that floating orb of superheated plasma that lights our days and warms our Earth is really the dominant force governing life on this planet. When I depart work this time of year, the sun is already low on the horizon, and the daylight is nearly gone. For this reason, my better half sets out to feed the herd and to dispense with the evening chores because by the time I arrive home, the last embers of burning daylight are slipping from the sky.
So it was this week that as my wife came to the last pasture that as she began to dispense the feed, the band of mares was typically unruly as any zoo at feeding time. Determined to be done with the days chores, as she began to distribute the feed, there arose a bit of euphoria among the mares: “Hurrah, it’s supper time.” One of the mares, in uncharacteristic exuberance, launched into a flurry of bucking and kicking, as a young colt might do under the watchful gaze of his dam. Unfortunately for my wife, she didn’t see it coming, looking up just in time to catch a flying hoof about her brow. An inch closer to the mare, and she’d have never placed the phone-call, but as the blood streamed from the crater, she called me at work. “I just got kicked in the head by one of the mares.”
I rushed home and kept her on the line, knowing head trauma victims are best kept calm and conscious. She refused to let me call an ambulance, insisting I would be faster anyway, without the cost. There is some reason to think she’s right, but as I told her, the EMTs in the ambulance can do things I can’t. She insisted. I continued to roll, with all apologies to any relevant authorities. I pulled into the yard, and she was standing there waiting for me, so I pulled alongside her and threw open the door. As she climbed in, I looked at the wound, and I had to look away because I didn’t wish to upset her more than necessary, as I sped down the road to the hospital ER just ten minutes away, as the Mustang flies. Arriving at the Emergency Room as she walked through the door, the nurses at the front desk couldn’t conceal their shock and they ushered her immediately back.
After a CT scan mercifully revealed no brain hemorrhaging, but also no fractures, the team in the trauma center began the process of flushing the wound and then stitching her brow and forehead back together. Multiple layers of stitches later, her face swelling as her left eye became a slit, our daughter present, we talked about happier times while we all contemplated how close this ugly accident had come to outright disaster. Life is so fragile, and our time here so short, in the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind, it is well that Americans have a day set aside to count their many blessings and remember to say thanks to the Almighty.
This evening, as we clean up the kitchen, and put up the left-overs, we’ll be thankful to remember this as the Thanksgiving that almost wasn’t. I will keep it as a reminder of how temporary life is, and how suddenly it can be lost, and how dear to me are all whom I love. For all of the ugliness of the last few days, I am still surrounded by the people I love, so that through all the travails and tribulations our nation may yet endure, we can still count ourselves among the very lucky. I hope on this day of turkey, and shared celebration, each of you find yourselves in similar company, knowing full and well the blessings of the day. Say “Thanks.” Say them often. Hug those around you a little tighter, since we never know the day or the manner in which it can all end.
Note: I wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! May you have so many reasons to be thankful as I.