Summer detours and a pinkie problem.

This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the June 9, 2018, issue of the Kearney Hub, but it didn’t make it into the online edition. Bummer.

Summer at the Nelson house is different this year.

In the past, our younger kids have been in day care through the summer. Choose any personality test — no matter the quiz results, I do better with time to myself and external accountability.

Day care allowed that — and provided a couple quieter days per week to do freelance work.

This summer, in the Venn diagram of child care, I am by myself only when Grandma and Grandpa are available and some unusual circumstance makes child care desirable.

I work with children in my lap, at my hip, tapping my elbow, repeatedly opening the fridge, yelling “Mooo-ooommmmm” 40 million times, or asleep in the wee hours.

We’re adjusting.

I sometimes find myself acutely, wryly aware of my situation. If aliens fresh from space were watching, they would be mightily confused at the non-pattern of this life.

Here’s an example: One recent morning, I needed an outdoor clothesline.

A winter storm dropped a branch through our clothesline. One pole is tilting, and we should fix that before installing new line. To fill the occasional need to hang laundry outdoors, I’ve been rigging ratchet straps on the poles.

Whatever the job, if you can’t do it with a ratchet strap, it probably can’t be done.

With the goal of a ratchet-strap clothesline in mind, I …

• checked the oil in the lawn mower, poured gas in it, and got the oldest started mowing the grass.

• picked up several branches in the lawn.

• moved the Cozy Coupe out of the driveway.

• put the new insurance card in the Suburban.

• got the ratchet straps out of the shop.

• pulled four stickery, tall dandelions.

• hijacked the mower and made four passes under the clothesline area.

• gave a kid a drink of water.

• swapped out the hand soap bottle in the bathroom.

• answered two emails.

• started three girls on folding a basket of socks.

• strung the straps to hang the laundry.

It reminds me of Family Circus comic strips — the color Sunday strips with Billy on a mission that takes him through windows, a football game, and the neighbor’s house before he gets back to what he’s doing.

Life doesn’t often progress in a straight line. We had some unwanted excitement in May that provided a pointed reminder of that.

One Thursday morning, our two younger daughters went to the barn after breakfast to find the new kittens. I was at the kitchen sink washing dishes and could see them go.

Minutes later, one kid was screaming and the other was running to the house. That’s never good.

Finding no kittens, they had wandered off to find something different to do. We’ve still got a little corn to move, and for six months there’s been an auger in place to fill trucks from a grain bin. The auger is raised and lowered by a cable-and-pulley system.

The 2-year-old had wrapped her hands around the cable in unfortunate synchrony with the 4-year-old‘s turn of the crank, which accidentally drew the baby’s pinkie finger into the pulley.

In 10 years of having children, we’d never previously made an emergency room visit, but this was a twofer. We went first to the ER at Phelps Memorial Health Center in Holdrege, and from there to the ER at Children’s Medical Center in Omaha.

Orthopedic surgeons discovered a cut tendon and damaged growth plate, so she had a 45-minute surgery and got a pretty red cast. The cast is now off, the tendon is healed, and it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on that growth plate.

Accidents are called accidents for a reason. This one provided a turn to Thursday that we didn’t expect, and it started a chain reaction upending a bunch of intentions.

Children’s is an amazing resource. We pray for healing for our daughter, but we also pray for families whose struggle alters life’s path in many more ways.

We weren’t the parents of the medically fragile teenager down the hall, or of the baby we played with in the toy room who had a colostomy bag. We weren’t the family in the surgical waiting area with a grandmother who’d hit a granddaughter with a lawnmower.

We have, however, had a refresher course in how important it is to think ahead and be ready for the unexpected.

Be safe; preach safety day in and day out; live safely by example.

Talk to kids about carefully looking for ways they or others might get hurt; use the imagination to figure out what the worst might be and work to prevent it.

If you can, find a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day (, and send your kids. Safety Days include topics for all kids, not just rural kids.

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