Hi again everyone. Welcome back to Keep Alive – a blog by me, Andy Savage. We’ve been very busy over here at Savage Headquarters. I’ve got three books I’m working on, and I’ve been doing some work around the property. Today’s blog post is actually about something that happened while I was on my tractor.
Put your seat belt on, have I got a story for you.
Most of my stories are from events that have happened in past years. Well, here is one that JUST HAPPENED. I’m literally writing this as I’m about to hop in a shower and test out how tender an open cut on my leg is.
And as with all of my stories, I always like to call out a lesson or point, something I hope will be helpful to readers in the future.
So…what happened? In short, I almost broke both of my legs mowing my property.
Now, I’m sure most of you think mowing is not hazardous. But as many of you know, I live in quite the wild place, killing copperhead snakes as I drag them out of the bushes by their tail before I guillotine their head (see that blog here), helicoptering deep into the mountains during a harsh winter storm (here), and getting caught on a mountain in the middle of a lightning storm with water flowing like a river between my feet (here).
But of all my stories, this one takes the cake. At least as far as the circumstances being so serious that I truly could have snapped both my legs. What happened is so fresh I am still reeling from it.
My “lawn” is actually a good portion of my property, and most of it is…..well, weeds, but they’re still green and it provides more foliage. To keep it from getting overgrown, I have to mow it about every three weeks with the bush hog (which is a small tractor). My trails on the mountain, however, aren’t very wide, so I only mow up there twice a year (to maintain access for firewood and to keep the hiking trails clear).
As I was heading down one path, I noticed a very skinny tree branch that had sprouted up from some foliage on the ground, grew up, and then fell across the trail in an arch. It only looked to be about a half-inch thick, so I thought, No problem. It will get pushed out of the way as I drive through it.
This branch was actually quite lengthy, looping over the top of my tractor with the tip tangled in some other foliage to the left. Why a healthy looking branch had grown up like that and then fell over in an arch – I just don’t know the answer to that, except to say that perhaps all the recent rain we’ve been getting could have weighed it down and caused it to droop over.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
So I’m driving on my tractor, notice this branch, it’s in my path, and decide I’m just going to take the tractor right through it because – well, even though it’s not tall enough for me to make it all the way under (the arch was barely tall enough to scrape over the top of the tractor), the branch itself is only a half-inch thick and is just drooped over. It will move out of the way, I’m convinced, as soon as the tractor goes under/through it.
(That’s my rationale.)
But as I went through this arch, suddenly I noticed the tree wasn’t moving aside. Before I knew it, the branch was right at my chest. The tractor was still moving forward, and the branch began to lower and tighten across me like a seatbelt. Suddenly, my arms were trapped!
I yanked my arms free, but the branch was still tightening across my lap, right on my legs! I wondered, How can this be happening? But then I saw that the branch was caught under my left tire.
I was trapped between the branch and my tractor.
At this point, the tractor is still moving, and the pressure is really beginning to hurt my legs. It’s such a great force that it was actually forcing my foot down on the tractor’s gas pedal. I tried my very best, with all my might, to lift my foot up – I was even pulling and tugging with my hands – but to no avail. The branch kept tearing into my legs. I was totally trapped, with no way to stop the tractor, with no way to get free. And the branch – it was just not breaking!
This is it, I thought. Something REALLY BAD is about to happen. I know this is serious. Really serious. I have never been in such a predicament in my life.
Finally, just as I thought I couldn’t take it any longer, I managed to focus on my foot and slide my toes off to the side to release the gas. The tractor stopped, though the motor was still running. I was also still in great distress, and in a lot of pain. There was so much pressure on my legs I could not even move my heal off the floor toward the reverse peddle.
I managed to shift my foot two inches to the left, under the forward peddle, and lifted my heal a tiny bit (the tow / heal peddles are joined together and rock back and forth). The tractor backed up, just a few inches really, but it was enough to release the pressure on my legs. That allowed me to relaxed my hands from trying to hold up the branch.
I was now able to (barely) move my foot a little more to activate the reverse pedal. After moving several more inches, the tree branch released from under the left tire. Both legs were hurting like the dickens. The pressure was easing off my legs, but as the branch was lifting off me, I noticed a hole in my left pant leg.
I tugged at the hole and peeked inside. I was taken back by what I saw.
I have been wounded a lot in past years, and I have always doctored myself. But this? this grossed me out, if I’m being perfectly honest. I know some people would have panicked, or rushed to the hospital, but I wasn’t bleeding a whole lot, so I went ahead and finished the job.
Yes, you heard me. My legs almost got snapped (I’ll tell you how I know that for sure in a moment), but we’ve been getting a lot of rain in this region lately, and I needed to finish before it started raining again.
As I continued mowing I kept thinking, This is REEEALLY going to hurt when I get in the shower. Well, now I’m home and just about to get in the shower to test that theory. Be right back.
YEP! I’m back, and sure enough. This thing hurts like HELL under hot water. Ouch! Strangely, my right leg doesn’t have any marks. Not one, not even any redness. Nothing!
Doctoring my leg myself, as per usual, and I’m starting to wonder if the situation was as extreme as I was thinking. It sure felt extreme while it was happening. Doing some internet research – couldn’t find the tensile (tension) breaking strength of a tree branch that matches the description of the one I got tangled in (in other words, I want to know how much pressure it would have taken to actually snap or break that branch).
Amidst my internet searches, I’ve found where a half-inch cotton rope – the weakest of ropes – has an amazing breaking strength of 2,120 lbs. So…it’s likely a healthy tree branch would be more than 2,120 lbs, since we’re talking about solid wood rather than cotton fibers. And it was a “green” tree, mind you (meaning moist, flexible and full strength).
My guess? That branch probably wasn’t going to snap until somewhere around 2,500 – 3,000 lbs of tension. I’m finding different answers on the internet, but it looks like a ton of pressure (2,000 lbs) can be enough to break the human femur bone. If it’s the right angel, it’s much less.
It’s most certainly possible, had my tractor kept going, and had I continued to stay trapped like I did, that the branch could have actually fractured or broken both my femurs. And I suspect, if that tractor had continued on another 5 inches or so, I would be writing this from the hospital and not my home.
This is irrefutable proof that pants offer a lot of protection (not one mark on my other leg – the jeans were a lifesaver, as I’d have for sure injured both legs if I’d been wearing shorts). I will gladly endure feeling a bit warm wearing pants to gain the protection pants offers me when in the outdoors.
This is also why I have an extensive chapter on First-Aid and I tote a bigger than usual First-Aid Kit than most people (please see my chapter on First-Aid in my future book). Accidents usually happen in a few seconds and results are not good. Humans are very fragile. You need to be prepared to take care of yourself and others whether you are in the mountains, in your home or in a car accident. Be Prepared! Have your kit in your pack and have your pack in your vehicle, always! I will have a blog on my portable kit in near future.
I also want to encourage you all to take martial arts of some kind. It was due to martial arts training that I was able to assess the situation quickly, keep from panicking, and have the motor control to force my foot (under great pressure) off to the side two inches within a split second. Due to the pressure, I even had great difficulty lifting my toes a bit to get the tractor to back up – every once of strength was needed, and martial arts helped with that, I feel certain.
Several seconds passed between the time I felt pressure across my legs to when I stopped the tractor. We need to be ready for whatever is thrown in our path, and martial arts helps with that. Plus, it’s just a great way to keep in shape, keep reflexes topped, and develop a “take control” attitude when things go to pieces.
As always, I want to say, “Be Prepared.”
Your friend in self-sufficiency,
“The Mountain Man”
This blog post is an account of the author. Situations differ and are contingent on the abilities of each individual person involved, as well as unforeseen circumstances. The author and/or his associates are not liable for any injuries, loss, or damages incurred due to the use of such information. Such content is for general, informational and entertainment purposes only.
As they say, “Don’t try this at home.” I say, “Don’t ever try this anywhere.” Please be careful …………. hazards ………………not good.