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Adventure of Ron Huckelberry...#3 The silo accident
Ron has not forgotten the experience of being sprayed with milk on a hot day and he is just waiting until he can surprise Auntie with a similar trick.
He has been real busy the last few days helping Mother Williams on the farm. They have spent several hours just trying to following the turkeys to see where they have a nest, so she will know where to look for eggs later. Turkeys are not smart enough to get in out of the rain, but they are very smart in attempting to insure that no one finds their nest.
“Ron, I want to collect the eggs before a fox or other animal finds them.” She explains. She tells Ron that last year she collected about eighty turkey eggs. She placed them under chicken hens that had gone “broody” and were hatching their own eggs. Hens do not seem to care what eggs they sit on and kept warm. After about four weeks the hens watch the turkey eggs and their own eggs hatch.
“Ron, I raise turkeys until they weigh enough to take to the market in November and sell them. I make enough money to buy all of my Christmas presents.” She explains.
Ron naturally listens to her tales, but he really wants to do things on his own. He loves to hang out in the milk barn and play in the hay loft...and…do things he had been told not to do.
A huge silo is attached to the rear of the barn. Two metal ladders are attached to the outside of the tall round structure. The silo is perhaps 100 feet tall. Inside the barn there is also a ladder that extends from the floor to the top of the silo. About every ten feet there is a door that can be opened while climbing the inside and outside ladders. These doors, when open, can be used to fill the silo.
He had been warned by ‘everyone’ not to ‘ever’ get close to the silo, because it a dangerous place.
This particular morning Ron knows that Mother Williams is busy doing the wash and will not likely come to the barn. This is his chance to do what he has wanted to do for so long. He goes quickly to the barn and climbs all the way to the top of the outside silo ladder.
When he reaches the top he peeps into the silo. He notices that there are ladders inside the silo also. “Oh boy, this looks so adventurous and now is my chance to have some fun.“ He says to himself. He just has to climb down a ladder inside the silo.
Six years old Ron knows that he must be very careful, so he stands for a few moments examining everything he can see inside the silo. His plan is to carefully climb down the inside ladder, which is just opposite the ladder he is now on. He will go down the ladder and then exit at the next door.
All seems to be going well as he slowly climbs downwards. It is a bit scary to look down and realize the bottom of the silo is a very long ways down. The first problem he encounters is that he can not open the first door he finds as he descends down the ladder.
He continues to go slowly down the ladder. The next door will open, but it was partly stuck and Ron decides not to chance loosing his balance opening it. He continues downwards. He is now feeling so very confident and decides to go all the way to the bottom of the silo.
The barn and silo are several years old, but Uncle Hardie keeps everything in tip top condition and replaced two ladders the year before. A state agricultural agency inspects the facility once a year. Even though the safety conditions meet the standards at the time, the old silo would not pass an inspection today.
The main dangers around silos are falls, engulfment in the stored grain, silo gases, dusts, and molds. Today a silo would be secured to prevent Ron from entering and there would be fall protection systems when free-climbing (as Ron is doing), and anyone entering would be wearing a safety belt and harness for easier rescue if necessary.
The silo is empty and Ron can see the clear bottom. As he nears the bottom of the ladder everything goes wrong. Suddenly there is a loud noise and masses of grain, that is stuck on the sides of silo, suddenly comes loose and is smashing to the bottom of the silo. Ron is near the bottom door, or about seven feet from the floor. “Oh no, I don’t think I can hold on any longer.” He near screams to himself. The weight of the falling grain knocks him off of the ladder and onto the floor.
He quickly scrambles to his feet and tries to reach the ladder, but in seconds he is totally covered, except for his head. He can not reach the ladder and when he tries to move he feels as if he is loosing his balance. He begins to cry and scream, but there is no one in the barn and no one hears him.
Ron is naturally in panic, but he can not move for fear of loosing his balance and drowning (suffocating) under the stinky mess he is in. He continues to scream. He is very scared and getting tied, but even as a youngster, he knows he must not give up. It seems like hours (more likely many minutes) when he hears Mother Williams calling his name.
He then really begins to scream. “Mother Williams, help me. I’m in the silo. Help me quickly…please help me!” Finally Mother Williams hears him and immediately realizes he is in the silo. She rushes to the ladder and climbs up about seven feet and opens the door. She is so shocked to see only Ron’s head above the fallen grain. She screams, “Ron, be quiet and don’t move. I’ll get some help.” she assures him.
Being a cool and intelligent person, she suddenly rushes to the fire alarm. Probably every barn is hooked up to the phone operator with a special fire alarm. She pulls the lever and the alert immediately goes to the nearest fire department. The phone operator insures that all the phone lines in Little Town begin to ring to alert everyone. In any small farm town everyone rushes to help a neighbor. The phone operator immediately ceases doing any thing except listening and explaining that the fire is on the Williams farm. She monitors the phones in case she was needed to coordinate the efforts in any way.
The loud fire alarm is heard all over the farm, but there are no works on the farm at the moment. Mother Williams must to decide if she should stay and comfort Ron, or rush to the front of the house and direct everyone to the barn. She decides that most folks likely assume that a fire will likely be in a barn and start looking, so she stays and quietly talks with Ron.
Within minutes the first neighbors begin to arrive. The first person on board is Mr. Tom, who lives across the highway. He quickly checks the house and then proceeds directly to the barn. He sees Mother Williams on the ladder and likely guesses that Mr. Ron is up to something again. Mother Williams is crying and begging Mr. Tom to do something quickly.
She quickly comes down the ladder and Mr. Tom climbs up. When he sees the situation he yells for Mother Williams to get a rope and hand it to him. He ties it to the ladder, climbs into the silo, and lowers himself into the fallen grain, which comes up to his chest level. He is careful not fall or to cause Ron to fall. He slowly moves to Ron and secures the rope under his arms and asks Mother Williams to slowly pull the rope towards her.
At that moment young Mr. Green is standing at the open door above Mr. Tom. He has the strength to assist hoisting Ron up to the door where he stands. Mr. Tom needs an assist also to reach the ladder that is just out of his reach.
Likely only ten minutes has elapsed since the fire alarm went off, but when Mr. Tom looks down into the barn it looks like half of Little Town is standing there looking up at him. Daddy Williams rushes into the barn and Mr. Tom yells that all is OK, but that Mr. Ron has given everyone a big scare. He puts his arms around Mother Williams to comfort her. At about that moment two fire engines are stopping near the barn.
Aunt Jane is in Nashville and Uncle Hardie is working in some field, so they do not learn about the action until later in the day.
Ron is not given a spanking, which he certainly does deserve, but his punishment is much worse. He is restricted in side Aunt Jane’s house for three days.
© GENE HUDGENS
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