RUSSELL ó All it took was a split second to turn a routine day into a farmerís nightmare.
On February 18, Tony Baas was working behind his dairy barn, pumping manure into the lagoon, when he ventured a little too close to the power take off (PTO) connecting the pump to his tractor.
"I remember a small tug on my coat, and the next thing I was on the ground without a coat or shirt on. I got up, and I thought, ĎThis is probably not a good thingí," said Baas, at his Russell home last month.
His coat got caught in the PTO and was ripped right off his back. When Baas tried to get into the tractor to turn it off, he noticed his right arm didnít respond as usual. Looking down, the farmer saw the limb unnaturally swinging side to side.
But he managed to shut the tractor down, then walked back to the house where he instructed his nine-year-old daughter, Rebecca, to call 911.
"Swelling only came after we got to the hospital. When I walked in the house, I didnít feel my broken arm," he said. "It was after I talked to the guys at 911 and things started to settle down [that the pain came]."
Baasís right arm was badly fractured midway between his shoulder and elbow from the force of the clothing being torn off of him. The trauma also produced serious swelling in his left arm.
He admitted there should have been a guard on the PTO.
"For the last seven or eight years I never needed one because it never caught me," he candidly remarked. "Iíve stood beside that PTO, 50 or 60 times while it was turning and never had anything happen."
Things could have gone either way for Baas, who happened to be wearing an older coat when the whirring PTO snatched the garment.
"Thatís what saved my life, was the old coat, because it ripped easily," said Baas. He surmised a newer coat would have been more resilient and pulled him bodily into the PTO, making the accident a fatal one. His wife, Wilma, pointed out that a newer coat might not have gotten caught at all.
"Everyone says farming is very dangerous. Yeah, there are dangers involved, but so is there with many other jobs," said Baas, "Itís when you let your guard down and donít continuously watch out that accidents happen."
"Iím very fortunate to come out with the minor injuries I did."
He said the accident happened so fast that he didnít have time to react. The PTO rotates 540 turns per minute or 10 times each second. His clothes were wrapped around it eight times, in the blink of an eye.
"Even if I had a kill switch in my hand, I didnít have time to react," said Baas.
Although a lesson learned for Baas, the accident hasnít profoundly altered his thoughts on farming.
"I canít change everything I do. Iím probably more careful now, but how long is that going to last? The thing is, my whole life Iíve lived on a farm and been comfortable around machinery. When you get too comfortable around machinery, thatís when things happen."
However, his wife said it has changed their perspective on life. "The way things have changed is the way of looking at things," she said. "If you want to do something, you better do it because otherwise you might not get to do it."
"Before the accident we were thinking about and talking about going to Newfoundland. After the accident ó weíre going," Baas said definitively.
Luckily, for Baas he is making a full recovery and is regaining full use of his arm.
"Itís still weak but Iím using it more and more," said Baas, "Iím thankful I got 10 fingers and both arms."
As for the missing guard on the PTO, "I ordered it when he was still in the hospital," said Wilma.
Baas was also thankful his daughter was home at the time of the accident, in itself a happy coincidence. Wilma had taken their other children and the neighbourís children to 4-H and didnít have room in the vehicle for Rebecca, so she chose to stay home.
"I appreciate that the fire department in Russell saw my daughter as a hero," he said, referring to the first emergency responders who arrived after the girlís 911 call. In an article in the Russell Villager, a sister publication of The AgriNews, the communityís fire chief referred to Rebecca as the hero of the affair because of the coolness she displayed in making the 911 call and in directing the responders to the farm.
"My wife and I, we can see her as a hero.... She can say, ĎI did do something specialí."
Baas also appreciated the family and friends that pitched in to help out.
"Everybody stepped up to the plate and kept things running."
Now with this accident behind him, life on the Baas farm is slowly getting back to normal.
"You have to live and do what you enjoy doing," he offered, "and start making smart choices on how you do things."