In the spring of 1968 I was 10 years old, and I broke my leg. My brother Dave and I were driving an Allis Chalmers C and fighting over who should control the throttle. We were so busy fighting over it that we didn’t notice the garden wall until we were going over it. I was sitting on the right, Dave on the left, and Anne was riding on the back. When the tractor went over the wall and started to roll, I jumped right and Dave jumped left and Anne stepped off the back. The tractor rolled to the right and pinned me underneath it, snapping both my fibula and tibia just above the ankle.
Anne went running into the house to get Dad. Mom was at IPFW, working on her bachelor’s degree. Dad came out and heaved the tractor off of me. I don’t remember this, but Dad told me later he’d just spread manure on the garden. So in addition to being pinned under a tractor with a broken leg, I was face down in fresh manure. “I’m ok, I’m ok. Put me down. ” I remember saying to Dad as he carried me into the house. Meanwhile my right foot was waving back and forth, unconnected by bone to the rest of my leg.
These were the good old days, before 911, before there were more cars than people in a household. Mom had taken the car to school that evening. Before cell phones so Dad could call Mom and tell her what happened. Dad called my Grandma who lived 3 miles away and she came up to take us to the hospital in the 1966 Rambler. Years later it occurred to me to ask who stayed with Dave and Anne when I went to the hospital. Grandma did while Dad took me in. 
Dr Minnick, the same Dr. Minnick who would look at me 13 years later when I pinned my stupid self under a combine (pinned again), set my leg in the emergency room at the Whitley County Hospital. When I swam up from the anesthesia my Mom was there and everything was ok. 
My right foot points about 15 degrees to the right, and my right leg’s somewhat shorter than my left, but other than that, it’s just an amusing anecdote; of being young and dumb, of loving parents and grandparents, of good country doctors, and of life – tragic and comic.
1. I knew I was in trouble (and didn’t realize I had a “get out of trouble free card” since my leg was broken)
2. It has somehow never occurred to me before now that my Dad drove me to the hospital again when I got pinned under a piece of farm machinery in 1968, and again in 1981. Farming is a rough gig.
I would much rather get pinned under a few tons of iron than to ever have to pry my son out from under them. It’s a horror as old as time, “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you–O Absalom, my son, my son!” – 2 Samuel 18:33. Did my father weep for me? I wish I could ask him.
3. Mom told me later she felt so horribly guilty for not being there when in it happened. All I remember is her being there when I woke up and feeling so safe because she was .
4. 50 years gone by now, I was sitting with Mom again in the Whitley County Hospital this weekend. I wish I could’ve been the comfort to her that she was to me.
Debbie works at Arbor Farms Nursery  and every year they have a company party to celebrate Christmas and the end of another nursery season. They do a white elephant gift exchange and this year I was lucky enough to get a good gift, a basket of Burmese goodies from one of Debbie’s co-workers who’s married to a Burmese man.
One of the items in the basket was something called Cake Mout Chout which was described as a dried butter cake to dip into tea or coffee. It was cold and dark and windy and snowing this morning, so I thought it would be a good day to dip some butter cake in tea.
I got the package out and noticed something on it I hadn’t seen before.
Down at the bottom right it says “Suitable for any race & Religion.”
“What a nice sentiment,” I thought, “what a good idea to think about to start my day.” Oh, I know what they mean, it’s kosher and not made with lard. But in these days when I can barely stand to open the newspaper in the morning I chose to see it as open and inclusive, a gentle greeting for my day.
Our country seems off the rails, there’s so much hate and bigotry and misogyny and religious persecution that seems to have become mainstream and acceptable. But I don’t believe that will last, I believe some day, some day soon, America will be a place that fulfills its promise, a place “Suitable for any race & Religion.”
I was splitting wood the other day with my second favorite ax. That ax belonged to my wife’s grandfather, Glen Buckmaster. I like to split wood and remember him. I only knew him for a few years, but he was a fine man.
The ax was bouncing back at me, so I figured it needed sharpened. I hit it with the grinder to reshape the bevel and then honed it with a file. The wood exploded apart when I hit it with the sharpened ax. I clearly need to sharpen my tools more often.
And this is a good excuse to quote one of my favorite poems.
“Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.”
Robert Frost in the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”.
It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.
We’re sitting around the living room reading on this icy cold Sunday, supposed to hit -12 tonight, and I said to Debbie, “I finished the Evanovich book, you can have it. I’m going to read this thing I got at the library called ‘Mister Monkey’ next.”
Debbie, not looking up from what she was doing, said, “Oh, the new Francine Prose?”
My slack jawed stare must of echoed across the room, because she looked up and said, “What?”
“How’d you know that?” I said.
“Well, she writes for the New Yorker,” Debbie said, as if that was an explanation. 
A long time ago I remember Debbie telling me about a patron coming into the library and saying, “I’m looking for this book, it has “The” in the title and the cover’s blue.” And Debbie correctly asked, “Do you mean ‘The Client?’ ”
Debbie’s been out of the library game for almost 10 years now, but once a librarian, always a librarian I guess. She has an amazing card catalog of a mind.
1. She later explained, “When I looked up I saw “Francine” on the cover of the book.” Which of course explains why any ordinary human would assume it’s the new Francine Prose book.
2. I don’t remember exactly what book it was, this was nigh on 20 years ago, but it was a Grisham, and the point being, it wasn’t the current one, but one several years old.
As a finale to our hog butchering we rendered lard today.
If you’ve never rendered lard it’s the process of cooking pig fat until it liquefies. Then you strain it and chill it, and you end up with the very essence of piggy goodness for frying or for anything you use cooking oil . Popcorn, popped in lard, is sublime.
You start by cutting all the fat from the pig into cubes. The smaller the cubes, the faster it renders. But on the other hand, the smaller you cut the cubes, the longer it takes to finish butchering. We  were weary on our feet by the time we cut up two hogs, so the fat cubes were about 2 inches on a side.
Once you have a bunch of pig fat you build a fire under your butchering kettle. The kettle is cast iron and about 3 feet in diameter . You can move it by yourself, but once it’s over the fire and too hot to touch, it’s a two man lift.
You throw your pork fat cubes into the kettle and start stirring so they don’t burn.
You stoke the fire and keep the fat at a slow simmer, and in an hour or so the fat is browning nicely.
We had pieces that were mostly meat, and at this point we were pulling those out and salting and eating them. The most ridiculously delicious thing you can imagine .
Once you’ve rendered all the lard (you can tell you’re done by pressing a chunk of fat against the side of the kettle, if white fat squishes out, you’re not done) put the fat chunks in your lard press  and squeeze all the lard out. Then tip your fat chunks, which are now cracklin’s, into a bowl, salt them, and eat!
But that’s just a bonus. The main point is to gather lard. We strained the lard through cheesecloth and ended up with about 2 gallons of lard. Once you strain it and chill it, it’s a lovely white color.
It’s disturbing to raise your own meat. You take care of your animals, you make sure they’re well fed, have clean water, and have a dry and warm place to sleep. And then you kill and eat them. But meat doesn’t come wrapped in plastic in a grocery store. Using every last bit of pork, even to rendering the lard, respects that for us to eat, something had to die.
1. We all know animal fats are a sure route to a heart attack, and the only guarantee of a long and healthy life is to use margarine. Well, no, not margarine as we recently learned. Trans fats, from which margarine is made, are death itself. The only guarantee of a long and healthy life is to not consume trans fats. Whatever you do, don’t eat margarine, or lard. Only use Crisco which consists of a blend of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, and partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils. Then you will live long and prosper.
3. If you think about it for a moment, you might think, “How often do you use a butchering kettle? And where do you store it between times?” The answers to that are “Almost never.” and “In the barn.” So getting the kettle ready meant that we wire brushed it for half an hour and scrubbed it with fat and salt and rinsed and scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed.
Watching the Cook’s Country TV show on PBS tonight and they’re featuring homemade donuts.
And I’m remembering making donuts with my Grandma. She’d set up a card table in her kitchen, cover it with newspaper, and away my brother, sister, and I would go. The donuts were the biscuits that come in a paper tube. We’d punch the center out, fry the biscuits in hot oil, and then douse them with powdered sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon, or even dabs of jelly.
Lord, can you imagine the mess?
50 years gone by now, it’s a beautiful memory and legacy.
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.