Most people, I should think, monitor their recovery from a broken bone or sprain by noticing an increased strength or flexibility in their range of motion during perhaps a golf swing, knitting, or simply carrying a bag of groceries.
And then there’s farm chicks. We check our recovery by the ability to unload a pickup truck load of hay, climb onto the tractor seat, or chase the neighbor’s pitbull out of the pasture.
My own breakthrough was pretty much right at four weeks post-op for a displaced wrist fracture and trashed soft tissue, making my stiff, swollen fingers look like Vienna (and it’s only funny if you pronounce the first two letters of that word as if saying Violin) sausages. For a month, I’ve been doing everything one-handed and each time I started feeling sorry for myself, I remembered one of the ER nurses surmising my wrist and saying, “You think that’s bad, I broke both arms at the same time, and had to wear casts up to my elbow for THREE MONTHS.”
“Car crash?” I asked.
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“Nah,” she said, advancing the needle for an injection of painkiller, “Fell 20 feet out of a deer stand.”
“That had to hurt,” I said, starting to drift.
“Yeah, it did,” she nodded, “and let me tell you, I couldn’t do nothing for myself. Not a thing,” and then leaning in, conspiratorially, “and you know, as a woman ...”
“Alrighty then, yeah, gotcha,” I returned to reality with a thud, wanting to nip that baby in the bud.
I actually loved my short stint in our local hospital because my other nurse was married to a retired rodeo clown (I know, right?) both of whom I’d just interviewed while performing color commentary at the Tryon International Equestrian Center not two weeks before, and she offered his services to help me with barn chores and horse handling during my recovery. Without asking him first, I might add. But how kind! I was truly touched.
(There were other several funny conversations that occurred but I’m afraid Mr. Morphine took most of them away)
Anyway, my breakthrough occurred because just this week I’ve been able to scoop up a whole pile of manure using both arms instead of just my right arm, pitchfork crammed between my waist and elbow, for stability. And a pile of manure, particularly if the horse is well hydrated and over 16 hands, results in easily feeling the same weight as a big cantaloupe on the tines of the pitchfork. Just ask my vet.
Oh, and speaking of my vet, she was also gauging her strength in terms of a slight decline due to suspected arthritis in her shoulder.
With empathy, I asked, “Is that from a fall from a horse, or something?”
“No,” she explained, as she gave my horse his annual rabies shot, “it’s from rectalling pregnant mares for 25 years and getting knocked around. It used to be where I could pull out a big pile (now stop wincing, reader, for heaven’s sake, she wears a glove. I mean, a long glove. Basically, a wader) and lob it over a wash rack, right into the manure bucket, but lately, all I can do is plop it a few feet over.”
“Did you tell that to your doc?” I asked.
“What’d they say?”
“Didn’t bat an eye.”
Which is why I kind of feel sorry for city doctors. While the majority of their practices are probably taken up with the result of lifestyle choices and an occasional skateboard or paring knife accident, the practice of a country doctor lends to far more entertaining cocktail party stories.
The best being right after I broke my arm, and receiving an email from another vet and local horsewoman who was kind enough to wish me healing and then jokingly wrote, “Guess we won’t be riding together anytime soon,” after which she listed her injuries as she lay in the hospital, the result of being catapulted from the saddle at warp speed by a spooking, spinning horse and slammed into a huge, metal culvert pipe, only then to roll over the top of it into a briar patch: “Five broken ribs, broken shoulderblade, and pneumothorax from lung injury.”
And all of us are ‘women of a certain age.’ I wouldn’t for a moment include us in the revered ‘greatest generation,’ but you know something? I’d say we broads might just be on deck.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.