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On the Edge of Common Sense: Thumbs up

Baxter Black for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 December 2019

I confess to not owning a tractor. I have plenty of friends nearby with tractors. But, in a lapse of good judgment, I borrowed one to brush hog a patch of weeds. Experienced farmers, even 8-year-old farm kids, know you always drive a tractor thumbs up. I didn’t remember.

As I was farming around, I managed to hit a post with the front wheel. The steering wheel spun like a helicopter blade and jammed my protruding thumb. It swelled up so big it wouldn’t fit through the neck of a quart jar.

I only mention this humiliating self-inflicted injury because Dr. Willis sent me a scientific report regarding wound response in plants. It said, in effect, that localized injury in one part of a plant causes a protective response in another part of that plant. For instance, when a caterpillar gnaws on a near leaf, a change occurs in a far leaf that inhibits that type of caterpillar’s digestive enzymes.

It is therefore a natural assumption that, if plants are able to protect themselves, the human body – particularly my human body – would work to prevent further similar injuries to itself.

But when you listen to rodeo cowboys recount the list of their broken bones, it is obvious some human bodies forgot to read the scientific report. However, it is possible that no protecting mechanism could safeguard people who leap off galloping horses onto stampeding steers or tie themselves to 1,200 pounds of horns and hair and then scream, “turn ’im out.”

I admit, there is some sort of warning that goes off in your brain the second time you realize you have not completely latched the head gate. Or you’re fixin’ to stab yourself with the pistol-grip syringe again, or you’ve just set yer hair on fire with the branding iron like you did last year.

So you would think that through experience, if nothing else, the body would learn to be more careful.

I confess to not owning a roping arena. I have plenty of friends nearby with roping arenas. Four days after I had stove my thumb on the tractor, I was roping at a friend’s. Even a novice trail rider with a law degree knows when you dally you always keep yer thumbs up. I didn’t remember.

I managed to double hock a speedy little steer, set my horse, go to the horn and catch that same thumb under a coil. It peeled a square foot of skin off the outside and mashed the tip ’til it looked like the paddle on a butter churn. It turned black; now when I put my hand in my pocket it looks like I’m packin’ a roll of silver dollars.

But all is not lost. It has occurred to me that since the injuries were both crop and livestock related, something good could still come from my misfortunes. So I have submitted my swollen digit for consideration as poster thumb for the “Diversified Farming Movement.”  end mark

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