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Sore Shoulders and Achy Backs

I remember the day clearly. A black, baldy cow that we were trying to get in to give her her yearly shots was getting mean. Most cows will move away from you when they are afraid, once in a while though, they go a little crazy and come toward you instead. That’s when things get scary.

Dad and me at Mom's funeral

My Dad had already ordered everyone out of the narrow, enclosed pen because he could see that this cow was on the edge. He tried to herd her into the barn and she turned and ran past him. He followed her, but when she got to the other end of the pen, she turned and put her head down and came toward him. He whacked her with a stick and she spun away from him, kicking out at the same time. Her kick caught Dad in the left knee, bending it backwards and he fell against the fence.

Dad had the presence of mind to grab the cattle panel and climb out of the pen, dragging his left leg after him. The cow, having reached the other end of the pen, turned again and ran straight at him.

Dad had already cleared the top of the fence and had fallen to the ground on the other side when the cow hit the fence between them at a full run. I’m sure she intended to kill Dad. She hit the fence full force, leaving a cow-head shaped bend in the steel cattle panel and causing the railroad ties we had put in as posts to lean more than a foot.

As scary as that was, Dad survived. At 87, though, his left knee is a problem. The cartilage is long gone and the pain of arthritis and bone on bone contact makes it hard for him to get around.

Dad's high school class of 1949

I’m not sure how old Dad was when this incident happened, but now, at 50, I am beginning to feel the effects of wear and tear on my own body. My shoulder gives me some pain now when I do everyday activities, I have a joint in my thumb that I’m pretty sure has arthritis and I have x-rays of my low back that verify arthritis.

When I talk with friends my age, I hear more and more about their aches and pains, how long it takes to recover from an injury. Then I think about my Dad and how many injuries and how much pain he has overcome, how he is still farming to the best of his ability, climbing onto tractors and running his old bulldozer.

He does this through his pain without much comment about it, other than saying that it ‘bothers’ him sometimes.

Dad at 85

I think about my sore shoulder and achy back and decide that it really isn’t much of a problem, I’ll get through it. I’ll stretch, do some yoga, eat right (mostly anyway) and see the doctor if it seems like it might help.

What I won’t do is complain about it. I won’t give it too much power over my life by focusing on it. Farming is hard enough without spending energy uselessly dissecting my comfort level. I’ll use my pain for the wisdom it provides. I don’t have as many steps left to use, use them wisely. My back won’t lift what it once would, find a better way. And when the end of the day comes, both literally and metaphorically, I’ll lay down and appreciate the rest.

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