Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager
Farming is a very dangerous profession. There are times that the Emergency room should be known as the farmer’s best friend. The farming Rohrers have called the ER “friend” a number of times.
Take my father, the Farmer, for an example. Here’s a guy in his upper 70’s that still climbs grain bin ladders and works on, in and around farm equipment. He has had a few emergency room visits in his life. Most recently, over the Thanksgiving weekend! Afterwards, I told my father, the Farmer, “You need a much better story”! Here is the “true” version…
My father, the Farmer, was an excellent ping-pong player in his day. I can still remember, as a kid, a great trophy on his dresser that he won while in the Army. My dad put a ping-pong table in a room in the basement. My siblings and I spent hours playing in that basement, honing our pong skills and still getting “thumped” game after game by the Farmer. I do not remember ever winning against the Farmer as a kid and there was no “losing on purpose to make the kid feel better” in those days. When I went into high school, I became “too cool” to play ping-pong with the Farmer (or maybe I was just too hot headed to lose). Today, I regret losing that personal connection through ping-pong.
A few years ago, my wife and I cleared out a room in our basement to add a ping-pong table to our family entertainment. Since that time, I have had a blast watching my children hone their own paddle skills in an effort to beat their old man (yes me). Of course, I’ve communicated to all of them about how their grandpa, the Farmer, used to dominate the table.
Over Thanksgiving, a ping-pong game in our basement broke out. And with the “Grandpa Legend” in the house, the Farmer was encouraged to play. The Farmer now has a lot of farm seasons behind him and he has slowed down a bit in recent years. He is not as tall as he used to be. The hand/eye coordination isn’t quite the same. The nimble feet aren’t there.
And yet, when the paddle snuggled into his hand, you could see his eyes light up and a smile beamed across his face. Within minutes, his fancy shots returned, the spinning cut shot appeared, the “table hugging” serve was back and the backhand flip became crisp. The world was right again. It reminded me of the same “lighting up” of his eyes when earlier that day, he was discussing his record yielding corn and soybean crop this past year. Pride and joy of farming!
And then things went south…quickly. When I casually returned a shot into the corner of the table, I was shocked to see the Farmer lose his balance, trip, go flying through the air and nail the corner of the bookcase with his head. A big, bleeding head wound. We rushed the Farmer to the emergency room and spent three hours with other unfortunate souls as we waited for triage treatment, x-rays, CAT scan, and the doctor’s exam.
31 stitches and a swollen, black eye later , we returned home with the Farmer patched back together. Good thing the Farmer has a cast iron noggin. I tried to help him with a better story… that he had been playing ping-pong using machetes or wrestling a bear.
In farm country, stories travel amazingly quickly (Especially when my father, the Farmer, goes to the coffee shop). Soon after the event, I received a text message from a good friend of mine saying that he will remember never to play me in ping-pong at my house”. At the recent Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, a farmer asked me “why I tried to break my father with a ping-pong paddle”. , I then ran into another farmer who was wondering “what did you do to your dad?”
Apparently my father did come up with a better story… He was a victim of Parent abuse and I was the abuser! Great story, Dad!
My father, the Farmer, has another skill: Stubbornness. He will be back to play ping pong again…just as he farmed when farming prices were abysmal, produced crops when weather would not cooperate, did farm chores in snow/subzero temps, and provided for a family when we did not always appreciate what he did to put food on the table.
So…who’s ready to play a little full contact ping pong?