Friday, November 11, 2011

Cancer and John Deere

Dad and Chris discuss farm things while we wait for Dad’s new John Deere to be delivered. This should have been our first indication of what kind of day we were in store for. The smoke the driver is pointing to was actually on the other side of Cuero—more than 20 miles away The driver carries the Slow-Moving-Vehicle placard to install on Dad’s new, larger tractor while Dad wanders over to kick the tires. Chris points out something about the tractor controls as Dad moves hay. Chris buries the last of the burning hay after the fire is contained. At lest the sunset was spectacular. Maybe it was just a new appreciation of the sunset. After a long, stressful day, Dad concedes we need to take him to the Emergency Room.

This date was supposed to be an auspicious one for weddings, movies, and other things. It certainly turned out to be eventful.

I got a call the day-before-yesterday that Dad’s cancer had returned. Chris had taken him in for some tests, and they were going to keep him over night. There was a lot of anxiety and gloom in the message. The doctor felt it safer to err on the side of pessimism. I told Suna and my boss that I would do what I needed to do to tide my work project (a conference call with Singapore and some paperwork) for a few days. Then I would head to Yorktown to hear from the doctor first-hand what was going on.

It turned out that I was at the office until after 21:00, so I didn’t head out until work-time yesterday. I got the hospital just after the doctor made his rounds and determined Dad could go home. The prognosis was still very pessimistic, but Dad was chomping at the bit to get home to his cows. So we headed that direction. We did get him to eat at Whataburger on the way. He slept most of the afternoon, and we all went to bed early.

The big deal for this morning was that Dad’s new tractor was being delivered. He was excited, despite being tired and complaining of problems with his catheter. Some minor adjustments, and he said everything was good. So we went outside to wait.

Dad couldn’t stop talking about the new tractor. He listed all of the features it had that the old one didn’t. He was especially proud that after using the old tractor for three years, the dealership offered him a thousand more in trade than he paid for it to begin with. When it arrived, a huge smile broke through the fatigue covering his face.

The driver unloaded the new tractor and got it set up while the salesman talked with Dad and Chris about a spreader Dad wanted. It had been laying in the yard for almost two years and had accumulated some sun damage, which resulted in some small breakage around the edge. Dad finally agreed to take it as-is for the price the salesman said he couldn’t reduce.

After they left, Dad was agitated that he couldn’t play with his new toy. Chris and I finally gave in. We decided that if he left it in turtle mode, it wouldn’t be any rougher than riding in a car. Dad climbed in to the cab. You could feel the joy radiating out of that tractor as he moved the eleven bales of hay that comprised the total output for the year. The drought hit hard, even though Yorktown has had more rain than the Hill Country.

After the hay was all lined up neatly along the fence, Dad wanted to hook up his disc so it would be ready when he was able to work the fields. That’s where the trouble began. The bold that forms the top pivot of the three-point connection was rusted solid. A spark from cutting that bolt loose set the grass under the implant alight. The fire spread quickly as dry grass fires are prone to do.

Neighbors were showing up to help within just a few minutes. The woman from across the road got Dad to sit in her pickup while Chris and I, soon to be joined by others, fought the fire as best we could until the fire department arrived. We may have had it mostly contained, but we would not have been able to hold without the massive amounts of water they could dump—much more than the puny water hose I was using.

All-in-all, we lost only a couple of acres of dry grass, but we lost half of the hay crop. We would have lost it all if Chris hadn’t driven the tractor through the fence and pushed the unburnt bales into the empty field across the driveway. Chris showed he could make the tractor dance while fighting the fire. The house was unharmed as were most of the implements. Two of the rubber wheels on the planter melted, as did the valve stem on a tire that must have been 20-years-old. Very little damage indeed considering the potential for disaster.

After Chris finished burying the last of the burning hay, we went inside and ate some pulled poke tacos for dinner. The meat came out of a plastic tub. The tortillas were store-bought, and the cheese was the lowest-price sliced variety at the store. It was delicious.

Then Dad said he thought we needed to go to the emergency room. His doctor was out, but the answering service said to have the ER nurse call his on-call when we got there. It turns out that the anti-clotting medicine they had prescribed for Dad causes the clots to become gummy, and one had plugged the catheter, causing Dad a lot of pain. They decided to keep him over night to make sure all of the clots were cleared out.

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