The Last Windrow: Have you worn a face mask lately?

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Have you been wearing a mask lately? Some have, some haven't. Who would have guessed that this would be an issue in 2020? But, evidently it has become so.

Over my years I've worn a mask on several occasions. I wore a mask when we first applied nitrogen fertilizer to our corn crop. One whiff of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer would send one to the emergency room, if you made it that far. There was no question or option about covering your nose and mouth. The information on the applicator showed a mask being suggested as a precaution to getting a lung full of the stuff.

I wore a mask.

During my college years I did summer work at a feed manufacturing business. One of the tasks they "allowed" summer help to do was to unload semi truck loads of soybean and alfalfa meal. When the hopper bottom opened up on the trailer one could not see from one end of the building to the other.

Without a mask one could hardly draw a breath. Some of the veteran workers had not worn a mask in their earlier years and had developed what they called "green lung." The alfalfa dust had been drawn into their lungs and produced a fungus that devastated their breathing power.


After hearing their stories, I wore a mask. It wasn't required, but I didn't want to end up like those workers coughing and gagging for the rest of my life.

I also did summer work at a manufacturing plant that built huge aluminum grain and livestock trailers. I worked behind a steel shear where steel dust hung in the air every day. I frequently developed bloody noses until one of the workers handed me a mask one day. He was a welder and sat in a cloud of smoke most of the days and knew what breathing in that smoke and dust could do to a person.

My bloody noses subsided as a result of wearing that mask and I thanked him a number of times. There was no order from management to wear one of those masks and I didn't like wearing one, but I valued my lungs more and decided the mask was the lesser of the two evils.

There were no judgments made about your political stance in any of these places just because you wore a mask. In fact, many of the workers who did the same jobs that I did looked rather curiously at you if you didn't wear the mask during those jobs. They thought you were being rather reckless about your health. These were tough, hard-muscled men who looked like they could eat nails if they wanted to. There was no kidding them about their masculinity when they approached you wearing a mask.

I wore a mask.

Today the whole world is wearing masks to help "flatten the curve" of the virus. Well, at least some of the world is wearing a mask. Don't get me wrong, I hate the things. They impede my breathing and when the temps rise into the 90s, they are a pain. My male ego says I look funny in a mask and maybe I do. But when I see those pictures and videos of folks lying on their bellies on life support, the mask suddenly doesn't look so bad.

Here's hoping that a vaccine and treatment can be found soon to let me get rid of this thing that surrounds my ears, nose and mouth. I don't like wearing it, but knowing what the science says, I'm wearing a mask in most public places.

And, I'm not apologizing for it. I can't physically see this virus that hangs in the air. Those feed mill workers, plant welders and the guy who brought out our anhydrous ammonia didn't hesitate to put that mask on their faces. In no uncertain terms they told me to wear one.


My wife even made me a camouflage mask that I can use for deer hunting this fall.

See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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