It is easy to recall the good times, happy occasions such as weddings, the birth of a child, and that joyous day when you thought you had won the Powerball.     
    It is also human nature to try to forget the bad days, those times when disagreeable events happen. We strive to disremember things like flat tires, getting your biggest tractor stuck in the mud, and the sad realization you had actually matched only two Powerball numbers.     
    This summer will mark the 32nd anniversary of a particularly bad day for me. An unlucky day I cannot fully recall yet will never forget.     
    July 10, 1988, was a hot summer Sunday. I was rushing through morning chores in order to keep a date with my wife and our two young sons. We were to meet at the Brookings Folk Arts Festival, an annual happening held at a local park. As the name implies, this event consists of numerous artists displaying their wares in a sprawling open-air market. Being a typical guy, my feelings about this shopping fest could be summed up with one word: Meh.     
    It was no real surprise to my wife when I failed to show up at the appointed time. Angered that I had chosen to work on our dairy instead of spending time with our family, my wife gathered our kids and drove to a grocery store. A volunteer fireman caught up with my wife in the parking lot and said, “Get to the hospital! Jerry’s still breathing!”
    I had been overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas that morning when I entered a manure pit to work on a balky manure pump. My father discovered me floating, unconscious, in the manure. It would have been so much better had I let the pump wait and went to that silly arts festival.    
    There had been zero time to react when I inhaled the hydrogen sulfide. I felt woozy for a second, then everything abruptly faded to black.     
    Some while later, I slowly began to realize I was in a hospital bed. A ventilator was pushing oxygen into my lungs through a tracheotomy tube that had been surgically implanted at the base of my neck. I was lying in a tangle of catheters and IV lines, and my wife was telling me an unbelievable fable about how I had been there for three weeks.     
    The short story is that I emerged from the ordeal in much better shape than anyone could have hoped. After almost five weeks in the hospital, I walked out with only a small amount of brain damage that cost me my peripheral vision. And I did not exactly have any gray matter to spare.     
    I do not recall encountering a tunnel or a light or departed ancestors. Neither did I find myself on the banks of the river Styx with Charon, the boatman of Hades, waiting to ferry me across.     
    Nor did the accident transform me into some sort of New Age spiritualist. But if I were somehow infused with oracular insight – if I became a Buddha of the dairy barn – I would pass along the following lessons.     
    Do not be afraid to trust your doctor even if he looks too young to shave let alone practice medicine.     
    The people in physical therapy are not really sadists. It just seems that way.     
    Getting around in a wheelchair is not a minor inconvenience; it totally sucks. I have deep empathy for those who are obliged to rely on those cumbersome contraptions to move about. The next time I see an able-bodied person take a handicapped parking space, I will hire a muscle-bound goon to rearrange their kneecaps.
    Time is money, but you can always get more money. The same is not true of time.     
    There are few pleasures greater than being able to take a shower and dress yourself without assistance.     
    All of our nurses are incredible people, but those who choose to serve in the intensive care unit are especially exceptional.     
    One of the best investments a small town can make is to ensure that its volunteer firefighters are thoroughly trained as first responders.     
    Finally, you should always bear in mind that you never know when you pull on your socks in the morning how the day might end. And any day you can feel the warm sunshine on your face is a good day.     
    It has been said that every undertaking is either a success or a learning experience. One could argue that my encounter with hydrogen sulfide on that hot summer morning was a huge learning experience.     
    And I would add that it was a very fortunate learning experience indeed.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.