It is said - chiefly by glib, ill-informed people - that the biggest killer on the planet is 'ignorance'. This is rubbish. Statistics show, time and time again, that far more people are killed each year by tractors.
Ignorance is merely an abstract concept, an intellectual expression with no physical form or effect. Farm machinery, on the other hand, is big and heavy and is far more likely to do you a serious disservice if you collide with it at speed.
The Sultan of Calhoon
Good evening. My name is Doctor Adolphous Bongo, celebrated practitioner of the medical arts and former physician to the Sultan of Calhoon.
You remember the Sultan of Calhoon, don't you? Yes, he was the one whose entire family was wiped out by a mystery epidemic. Unfortunate business.
Of course, certain unkind and misguided individuals have since claimed that there was no epidemic at all. For their evidence they point to the fact that the only victims were those members of the Sultan's family whom I personally attended.
The implication that I somehow precipitated their departure from this mortal coil is not only deeply offensive, but also an example of woolly logic. As the Royal Physician it was my duty to treat those unfortunate souls, and the fact that none of them survived is entirely circumstantial.
Of course, the Sultan himself didn't quite see it like that. Over the course of three weeks he lost more than fifty of his wives - many of whom were new and had yet to be 'broken in'.
Well, I sympathised with him, obviously, but I thought the firing squad was going a bit too far. In fact, I felt he was being rather childish, and the following morning, as I faced the line of blank expressionless faces staring at me down the lengths of their rifles, I remember thinking to myself that I ought to write a strong letter of complaint to someone about all this.
Nothing to do with tractors
Anyway, all this is nothing to do with tractors, which I'm sure will be of far more interest to you.
I currently practice in a small market town and there are a large number of surrounding farms. As a result many of my patients are farm workers, labourers, yokels, bumpkins, hayseeds - you know what I mean... retards. I don't mean that in a nasty way, of course, it's just that they're different to the rest of us. Stands to reason, doesn't it? They spend all day out in the baking sun, shovelling shit, eating grass and talking to potatoes. Bound to send you a bit gaga, isn't it?
And let's face it - the farm is a dangerous place to be. I've lost count of the number of patients who have come to me after choking on a pig, being savaged by cows or nibbled by chickens.
Actually, it's not that many, it's just that I haven't bothered to count. I could look it up, but our records department is in the basement and due to a recent plumbing catastrophe it's currently under four hundred gallons of sewage. I'm sorry, but I'm not prepared to spend my afternoon scooping shit out of box files with a dessert spoon just to satisfy your curiosity.
Poking the ground with a stick
Of course, it's not just the animals that present a danger. The trouble is, farming is a great deal more industrialised than it used to be. Gone are the days when farmers would spend all day stroking cows' tits and poking the ground with a stick.
Farms today are full of heavy machinery; dangerous machinery. Stuff that whirrs and grinds and slices and gouges. There are things that can chop the average hick into bits and bundle him up faster than he can bang his own sister.
You've gotta have your wits about you otherwise you're simply not going to make it to the end of the day. It's kind of a commercialised form of natural selection.
Many years of experience have shown me that agricultural accidents are of a far more serious nature than those that happen in town. For instance, if you're crossing a road and you're run over by a hatchback, then there is a chance of your survival. We can operate, put you in plaster, give you a transfusion, even replace a limb or an organ. With any luck, you'll pull through.
On the other hand, if you're walking through a meadow and you're run over by a combine harvester, then I can't even guarantee that we'll find all the bits.
So, my advice to you is simply this: use a bit of common sense. I know I'm asking a lot, but it will save us all a great deal of trouble in the long run. Whenever you find yourself in the countryside, and you're uncertain or confused by a situation, try to remember these three simple rules:
If it smells funny, don't eat it;
If it growls at you, walk the other way;
And if it's sharp, metallic and it spins around really fast, then for God's sake don't put your hand in it...
... What's that? Oh, the firing squad? Ah, you're wondering how I got away, aren't you?
Well, the strange thing was, just as they were given the order to fire they were all suddenly overcome by the mystery epidemic. Dropped down dead on the spot, each and every one of them. The Sultan had to concede that it was divine intervention and he was forced to let me go.
Of course, certain unkind and misguided individuals have since claimed that the intervention was anything but divine. They have chosen to believe the so-called witnesses who claim to have seen me hanging around the kitchens with my medical bag, just before the firing squad took their tea break.
Fortunately, such people can be easily persuaded to keep their slanderous stories to themselves. After all - I know people.
Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2005