September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Farmer hands

By Natalie Schmitt- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Holly Dunn wrote a song several years back about her daddy’s hands. With what has happened around our place, some of her lyrics keep coming to mind. 

You could read quite a story in the calluses and lines.

Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.

Oh, the stories our hands could tell. Some would be a short paperback, while others would be a novel greater than War and Peace. Jonathon is working on the novel version.

Jonathon always seems to be the one to get hurt, and his hands take the brunt of the abuse. He has the scar where he whittled his knuckle instead of his tree taps. Barb wire left another scar and war story. He has smashed fingernails and shut his hand in the car door. A couple of weeks ago, he added a new chapter the story his hands could tell.

With pressure mounting to finish the spring planting before the end of June, let alone May, accidents are lurking around the corner, ready to pounce the moment we lose focus. It happened to Jonathon during his first week home from college. We had finished planting, and he hired out to help a neighbor pick rocks. They hadn’t been on the field more than 20 minutes when Jonathon’s finger was literally caught between a “rock and a hard place” (an angle iron bracket). 

Jonathon was enjoying his pain medication when I arrived at the emergency room. He appeared to be calm and relaxed as the doctor told him his career as a concert pianist may be in jeopardy. The massive size and strength of his hands gave way to that career option years ago. The surgeon cleaned, repaired and shortened his long finger by one knuckle joint. If he ever gets a manicure, he should be able to receive a discount.

As word spread about his accident, we discovered he has become part of a large and varied group. After hearing about Jonathon’s finger, farmers would show me their hands and point to their battle wounds. In my hometown area there are a couple of “three-fingered” farmers whose ring finger became a casualty of a tug-of-war contest between their wedding band and a piece of equipment it was hooked on. I am so glad Mark doesn’t wear his band anymore. He did end up having to have it cut off because his hands grew larger than his band size. 

Farm accidents seem to be a family “tradition” - one I would love to end. Mark was Jonathon’s age when a chainsaw mauled his upper arm. The scars are the only reminder of his narrow escape. My grandfather wasn’t quite so lucky.

Why is our first reaction to stick our hand into a plugged up piece of machinery? The corn picker had plugged up and Grandpa Oscar stuck his hand into the picker to pull out the corn stalks. As soon as he loosened up the stalks, the picker kicked back in gear and grabbed his hand. He had to cut off his hand and walk to the house for help. I remember as a little girl sitting next to him and studying his metal hook. I was intrigued with how he could pick things up with his hook like a regular hand. Fortunately over the years, safety has become a focus of machinery engineers and precautions have been implemented. We just have to stay focused while we’re working with equipment to stay safe, sound and whole.

Oh, the stories a farmer’s hands could tell from the strength and power to loosen tight lug nuts to gently cradling a newborn baby. Holly Dunn’s song, “Daddy’s Hands” tells a great story too.

I remember daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer, And reaching out the hold me, when I had a nightmare.

You could read quite a story in the calluses and lines, Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.

I remember daddy’s hands working till they bled. Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us fed.

If I could do things over, I’d live my life again, And never take for granted the love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was crying

Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I done wrong.

Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand there was always love in Daddy’s hands.

Happy Father’s Day!

Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at [email protected].

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