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The Last Windrow: How did we survive with no warning labels?

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"Be sure to put the shields in place on the power takeoff."

Those were the warning words from my farm father as I hooked up the hay baler many years ago. I knew he would not have said those words if it hadn't been important. There was a potential danger there.

In today's world the public is protected in almost every conceivable way by government regulations and warnings. You might think that human beings have become devoid of any sense at all of how to protect themselves without warning stickers and other safety features of the various implements and tools we use.

I do believe that some machinery is held together by warning stickers and labels.

Obviously, there are reasons for all these warnings and technical barricades. We humans have a way of hurting ourselves, either intentionally or unintentionally, with mechanical things. But, somehow I lived through a time when very few of these existed.

One can no longer leave the seat of a riding lawn mower without the mower shutting down. When you meet a downed tree limb and climb off the seat, the engine quits. Frustrating, to say the least, when you must push the starter button each time you need to stop.

Snowblowers used to blow snow no matter what. Now, due to someone sticking a hand into the wrong place, the snowblower stops when you release the handle. My snowblower was made in the 1970s and has no such feature. I'm hoping the motor keeps running and the snow chute doesn't fall off before my age prevents me from blowing snow over the 3-foot drifts.

We are protected against slicing our leg off by chainsaws that have kill switches, chain brakes and other devices that try to protect our hide. I wonder what the protective world would have done if it had seen one of the old-time lumberjacks heading for the forest with a double bitted ax swung over the shoulder? I'd bet the warning label wouldn't have stuck to the ax for long.

If ever a safety class were needed, it might include some of those who venture onto the sales floor to purchase a chainsaw. They can hurt you.

The tractors we used on our farm were devoid of most safety features. I remember some kind of warning sticker pasted to the battery box warning the operator that a spark could cause the gas tank to explode, but that was about it.

There were few warnings on the many pieces of farm equipment. One of the most dangerous pieces of equipment I remember was called a "speed jack." On our farm the device was used to lift the front end of a flare box wagon so that ears of corn would roll to the back and into the waiting elevator. Open running gears were featured on this machine along with tumbling rods that ran at ground level. Any shred of overall pant leg was in danger when moving around this piece. No labels were to be found anywhere. Just looking at it running made you careful.

Even one of my fishing rods came with a warning label. It said that I should be aware of flying hooks. Having fished for muskie for many years and throwing baits with hooks the size of table forks, I must have barely escaped a near-death experience. Other than hooking the rear end of my pants one time and not breaking the skin, I somehow survived.

When I think of all the ways I could have harmed myself over the years without having been protected by a government mandate or warning label, I don't know how I'm sitting here typing on this here computer.

Oh wait, there is a warning label on this here computer. It warns me not to stick my finger in the electric socket while hooking up the power. Well, who would have thought?

See you next time. Okay?