I’m a cotton guy and have been since the early 90s. I’ve written mostly about Cotton Incorporated’s research and promotion efforts over the lion’s share of my career. Through those years though, I have heard and read about so many farm-related accidents — some of them involving grain bins where, according to Purdue University researchers, of the 59 entrapment cases in 2010, 31 ended in fatalities.
It wasn’t until recently that one hit close to home. My parents are from Drew, Miss. I spent countless summers there as a child. Although my parents did not farm, some of their friends, like Billy Joe and Lenagene Waldrup, did. For decades they row-cropped on a piece of land they called Lost Forty.
Today, they rent their grain bins on Lost Forty to a farmer who grows corn. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Waldrups heard emergency vehicles speeding past their home and soon learned the farmer had become trapped in one of the bins after trying to dislodge a clog above the auger.
When Bolivar County firefighter Joe Phillips arrived on the scene and climbed down into the bin, the victim’s face and right wrist were the only parts of his body visible. Waldrup’s grandson, Trey, had thrown the farmer a rope to keep him from sinking further. Two farm workers were kneeling next to the man, pushing corn away from his mouth so he could breathe.
Phillips and volunteer firefighters from Ruleville, Drew, and Sumner, Miss., cut holes in the side of the bin allowing corn that had formed a high cone against the bin walls to flow out. It could have collapsed on everyone during the rescue effort.
The victim remained conscious the entire time. He was justifiably anxious and in distress. At one point, Phillips could hear him making peace with the Lord.
I have a farmer friend in Jonesboro, Ark., Steve Graddy, who sells grain bins for Valley View Agri-Systems. He recently explained to me how rescue tubes are used to extricate victims trapped in this type of situation. Phillips and the Bolivar County Emergency Management Agency have one and are trained to use it. After pressing the sides of the rescue tube down in the corn around the victim, they began the long and arduous task of clearing the corn out from the inside of the tube.
Phillips arrived at Lost Forty shortly before 5:15 p.m. At 9:15 p.m. that night, with the rescued farmer ahead of them, they all climbed out of the grain bin. As Phillips stepped onto the catwalk, he gave a thumbs-up and everyone cheered. The farmer stood on the catwalk, lit a cigarette and slowly walked down to the ground. He and his farm workers who stayed close to him during the ordeal scooped up the spilled corn, dumped it in a grain cart, covered the top and went home. It was over. Never take life or farm safety for granted.