Cat 279 track loader at Mills Apple Farm

May 15, 2020
Jerry Mills: Surviving virus tough enough without getting stuck in mud

Greetings from sunny southern Illinois. I hope everyone has survived the coronavirus. I believe this is the worst threat our country has survived since the influenza epidemic of 1917-18.

The never-ending farm challenges: We had a huge pile of green prunings stacked near the edge of a small pond. Daughter suggested I burn them before the fungus spores had a chance to mature and infect the current apple crop. That was reasonable, even though it is difficult to burn green wood.

The pile ignited but I had to keep consolidating it with the track loader. It took all day to burn a third of it. It was still burning the next morning so I started again, even though the ground was soupy.

By this time there was a small space cleared between the pile and the pond. I eased in cautiously to attempt to move the pile over to the fire. This was near an area under water where I had dug out dirt to use for building the dam, and of course, the track loader fell into the hole when I backed it too close to the edge.

It tipped almost 45 degrees with the back sunk in three feet of water. That let the engine oil pump run dry. Lights flashed with the warning and I shut it down.

It sat there for two weeks while we tried everything we could think of to get it out ourselves. In the meantime, I used the other skid loader with streel tracks to gradually clear a way through the brush to tow it out. Finally, when all was ready, a friend with a big track hoe came and plucked out our little loader. Took 15 minutes.

A scary thing happened during that time. Late one afternoon, I put on knee boots and attempted to wade out through the muck to check the track loader. It was just before sunset. The wind was blowing and 35 degrees. No one knew I was out there by myself. I moved very carefully, stepping from one mud island to another.

Then I stepped too far and the left boot went into muck six inches deep. The momentum forced the other foot to come too. I almost fell but recovered enough to find myself firmly anchored in a foot of pasty mud and water. I was stuck. The boots sank deeper with each wiggle. I fell over, landing with each hand on a semisolid mound of mud protruding above the water. Getting up was impossible.

Not to worry, I would call for help, using one hand to dial while the other kept me out of the mud. Called Lowell. The phone said, “Verizon Wireless is unable to take your call.” I was in a hollow with no phone service.

The thought of spending the night out there was not good. I knew from pilot training years ago that survival, in 32˚ F water was not an option. I had to get out by myself.

Turning around and going back the way I came in was impossible. The boots were headed north and north they would stay. Maybe I could turn east. There was grassy mud in that direction. I began rocking my feet back and forth while turning. The mud gradually yielded. One boot eventually loosened enough to come out, then the other. I was able to slowly move, crab style, until I reached the grass but it took all the effort I could muster. I was totally winded. After a little rest, I was able to move, get up and get to the four-wheeler The governor had said stay home to hide from coronavirus but he never said anything about staying out of mud puddles, especially if one is weak from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure … It’s his fault.

Signs of approaching cognitive decline in old men: They look for the zipper on the bottom of their fly opening. Signs cognitive decline has arrived: They find it there.

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P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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