Monday, July 11, 2011

A Farmer's Worst Nightmare

It's the leading cause of farm fatalities and it makes farming one of the three most dangerous occupations in the United States. It usually happens when your load shifts, or you misjudge the angle of a hillside or the stability of ground after rain. Sometimes the tractor just gets out of control. Sometimes it hits something it shouldn't. Worst of all is when it rolls over on you.

I was tilling the steeper part of the vineyard, on the slope Sally dubbed Stairmaster because of the burn we get in our butts when we ascend it, when I hit a root and the Bertolini flipped over, throwing me over the handlebars and smashing me into a row of grapevines. While it's true the Bertolini walking tractor has only two iron wheels, it qualifies as moderately heavy machinery nonetheless, especially when it lands on you. This picture hardly does the bruise justice, but what looks like the scar left from an angel wing removal, is the imprint of the handlebar that slammed me down.

Stupid, stupid, stupid is how I feel about the accident. And stupid is how I felt as I called out for help, hoping the kid running the whining diciespulietore (weed whacker) in the distance would eventually turn it off and hear me hollering. When he finally did, he came running to find me snarled in a vine trellis and unable to get the beast off my back. It took all his strength to get it off me, and both of ours to turn it upright. The good news is I made a nice cushion for the tractor, so it was undamaged. I was lucky, I escaped with only a bruised torso. I shudder to think what would have happened if I'd caught a hand or foot in the tiller blades.

An honest admission: It was a very hot afternoon, and heat hampers Jack's ability to think clearly, making him rash and accident prone. Tuscan Resolution #3: Make no serious decisions of any kind in the heat, especially when it comes to heavy equipment.

This afternoon it is 100 degrees in Tuscany. I am driving nothing more than my laptop in front of a fan.