By TAMMIE SLOUP
Brent Pollard’s plentiful hay crop this spring was both a blessing and a curse. On May 16, the Winnebago County dairy and grain farmer was turning off his chopper box after unloading the last load of silage for the day when his clothes became entangled in a cracked power take-off (PTO) safety shield, throwing him over the shaft and slamming him to the ground.
“I felt it grab, and I honestly thought I was dead,” he said. “I felt my body to make sure everything was there and in the right spots.”
The Illinois Farm Bureau District 2 director suffered a partially fractured rib and abrasions down his side from his biceps to his thigh. He also developed two baseball-sized hematomas on his thigh from the impact.
While the crack caused Pollard’s clothes to catch and wind around at a high rate of speed, Pollard said human errors also led to the accident. He hadn’t been sleeping well and woke up tired that morning. As the sun set and air grew chillier, he threw on a loose hooded sweatshirt, which is what caught on the equipment. His hay crop also yielded much higher than anticipated so the chopping continued much longer than he expected that day.
After finding his bearings after being tossed, Pollard, whose glasses and phone also were broken, stumbled across the yard to his home and asked his wife to bring him to the hospital. By the time the couple was on their way to the hospital, the adrenaline began to wear off, and Pollard remembers feeling the full pain of his injuries. The accident left him shaken and battered, but as his wounds healed, he began sharing his story.
“After we (farmers) have done an activity so many times, we do get complacent on how dangerous it is,” he said. “Something I found after I started telling my story to more people was that other people who have been affected by (farm accidents), especially PTO accidents, have started to talk about things that have happened in their lives to family members or other people in an environment where they feel comfortable, and there can be some healing. It does leave internal and mental scars where the fear and trauma of what could have happened has a dramatic effect.”
Weeks after the accident and when Pollard was healed enough for some light farm work, he remembers his stomach dropped and feeling “shivers down his spine” as he worked with the same wagon involved in his injuries. But the work can’t stop, he said.
Aside from the takeaway that tomorrow is never promised, Pollard said complacency can be a farmer’s worst enemy. A task done 1,000 times can still have life-altering outcomes, he added.
“I probably operated that lever off the chopper box 80 to 100 times that day,” he said. “We have a very dangerous occupation and it’s good to tell these stories, just so that we have reminders that things can be dangerous on the farm, and how important it is that we take safety precautions seriously.”
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.