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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Walking (driving, loading hay) wounded

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 31 December 2020

I learned, after a couple of mishaps, that it was wise to carry a walking cane with me in the hay truck – a good oak stock cane because it wouldn’t shatter when I had occasion to swat something with it.

One of those mishaps was having a sprained-ankle party hundreds of miles from home. It was after this trip the cane permanently came onboard, as I had to hop from the lodging I’d rented for the night to the truck. There I retrieved one boot of a pair of semiretired boots carried as spares and my ever-present roll of duct tape.

I slit the boot from the center of the toe through the instep and almost to the top. Without screaming out loud, I managed to stuff my wrapped, injured foot and ankle into the boot. I used a healthy portion of duct tape to wrap the outside of the boot, pulling it snug over the injured ankle, making a fairly serviceable walking cast. With the wrap, the familiar boot and the stiffening duct tape, I could actually put weight on the leg and almost walk straight.

Two days later, I was home. Since the injured part bent where it was supposed to bend and didn’t bend where it hadn’t bent before, and since I could actually drive and load hay, I didn’t even make it in to see the doctor. This wasn’t the last time a boot was sacrificed to deal with an ankle injury.

A non-ankle foot injury happened as I moved to kick over a nail sticking up through a board with my foot. Instead of bending it over, I nailed it flat-footed, deeply impaling my foot in the process.

It took almost three hours to get to the doctor’s office. A tetanus shot, some antibiotics and a prescription for pain pills later, I went home. Thankfully, I didn’t have any of my dairymen run out of hay for two weeks because that two weeks was spent going from my bed to the restroom and back on my hands and knees. If I attempted to stand, the blood followed gravity into my swollen foot and I thought the foot was going to explode.

Another trip, while tarping a load after dark, the hay hook that had been anchoring me to the bales on the side of the load as I reached for the tarp pulled free, and I dropped to the ground, bending my knee in a direction it wasn’t meant to bend. I remember wondering if that hay hook was going to fall on me when I spied it on the ground beside me. I remember finding enough elastic bandage in the truck to wrap the knee, but I have no recollection of how I finished tarping that load.

I was thankful it wasn’t the throttle leg that was injured. I made it back to a pay phone, called home and was directed to keep it elevated as I slept. The elevated worked. The sleep didn’t. Elli had a doctor appointment waiting for me when I made it home the third day after the injury.

“The X-rays don’t show a break and the swelling is coming down, and since you’ve been using it ….” droned off to what sounded like, “Paint it red and run it and watch it.”

On the way home, I got swatted for mumbling out loud, “That was a waste of time and money.”

For the haul into Charleston, Nevada, I had my home-built loader buggy on-site as the hay was loaded in blocks by a squeeze in southern Idaho. We were into and out of the ranch at night because the road was a muddy mess during the day.

After unloading the last load, I dropped the trailer and drove the truck the quarter-mile to the hump of a hill I’d use as a loading dock. I walked back and drove the “Doodle Bug” to the truck and loaded it. While dragging the chains out of the toolbox, one caught and, in a fit of anger, I gave it a massive jerk. It popped loose, but my hand caught on a sharp spot, which peeled my glove back and made a 2-inch gash from the center of the back of my wrist to the base of my thumb.

It bled profusely enough I wasn’t worried about it not being clean by the time I got in the cab and covered it with a folded paper towel held in place with elastic vet wrap.

I stopped at Mountain City and spent the rest of the night in the sleeper. I had in mind to replace the dressing with something better; however, for a wound the size of mine I had better stuff on board than was available in the store. It healed up nicely without getting stitches or infection.

Life is unfair. Since 1978, my wife has been an emergency medical technician – and only once in all those years have my injuries happened close enough to home to be treated by the one I love. end mark