Farm Progress

Life is Simple: Columnist Jerry Crownover reflects on a lifetime of putting his back into farming — and the surgeries that resulted.

Jerry Crownover

April 3, 2018

3 Min Read

Farming has always been one of the most hazardous occupations that exists. Machinery accidents and animal mishaps make the news, but over time, everyday wear and tear also takes an unbelievable toll on the body of the average farmer.

Two weeks ago, I had a cow that needed assistance in delivering her calf. I managed to get her captured in the corral and began the process that I’ve done so many times over the past 50-plus years. When I quickly surmised that it was going to take more than this old man had to complete the task, I started calling veterinarians. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, only one was available, but he informed me that he had three other stops before he could get to my farm. Knowing that the calf, cow or both would be dead before then, I called one of my neighbors to see if he could help. He was here in 10 minutes.

My neighbor is in his mid-30s, strong as an ox and an excellent cattleman. With him doing most of the work, we were able to complete the most difficult pull I’ve had in years. When I saw him about a week later, he told me he was going to have his doctor bills sent to me, as his back was killing him and he was barely able to get around. I felt terrible about contributing to his disability — until he laughed and admitted that his back was “out” due to assisting one of his own cows the day after helping me.

I hope my neighbor’s back heals, but it brought to mind thoughts of my own back problems some 25 years ago. After living with excruciating pain for over a year, I began to drag one leg as I walked, and my wife/nurse gave me an ultimatum: “Have surgery or I’m divorcing you!” Evidently, I had gotten a little difficult to live with. I thoughtfully weighed the pros and cons of each, and eventually consented to go under the knife.

Take it easy
After the surgery, the surgeon told me to take it really easy for a month and not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. I had all intentions of obeying him … but … I farm. A big snow event happened about three weeks later, and I knew my wife could not make it home, down the county road and the quarter-mile lane to our house, unless I hooked up the scraper-blade to the tractor and cleared both. My scraper-blade was not a huge one, but the part that I needed to lift to get it hooked up was a little more than 10 pounds (more like 100), and it had to be done. I went in for my second back surgery the next year.

Again, the same surgeon warned me to not lift anything more than 10 pounds for the first month, sell my little square baler, and restrict my lifting to a 50-pound sack of feed for the foreseeable future. But … I farm.

The next couple of years found me heeding the good doctor’s advice, religiously. Then, one day, I needed to load a grooming chute into the back of my truck, and both sons and my wife were absent from the farm. I felt something “give” as soon as I lifted one end of the 150-pound piece of equipment. I had my third back surgery six months later.

I saw my neighbor this morning, and he said his back was getting a little better each day and he was hopeful that surgery would not be required. For his sake, I hope that’s the case, but if surgery is required, I hope he does what the doctor orders. But … he farms.

Crownover writes from Missouri.

About the Author(s)

Jerry Crownover

Jerry Crownover raises beef cattle in Missouri.

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