FARM NEWS from Fred Owens
Man dies in torch fire accident on farm
ELTOPIA, Wash. (AP) -- A man was killed in an accident on a farm near Eltopia.
The Franklin County sheriff's office says 75-year-old Everett D. Monk was cutting scrap metal in a field with a torch Saturday when his clothes caught fire. The Tri-City Herald reports he apparently died of burns.
A friend found the body.
That was the news story. Just those few words. It was in the paper last year, but I kept this file because I wanted to think about this man, 75-years-old, and his name was Everett D. Monk.
I thought of calling his people in Eltopia to find out about his life, but I didn't need to do that. I found I could read his whole life story from this news item.
He was out in the field cutting scrap metal with his torch in early December. It was cold out there in the sage brush country.
This was in eastern Washington, with low hills and no trees -- just wheat fields lying fallow in the winter sun.
This is where you could research it -- you can find things on the Internet. You could find what the weather was like in Eltopia on the day that Everett Monk died.
But it was almost surely sunny and cold -- that's the typical winter weather, and it's good working weather.
Everett Monk was 75, but he didn't want to sit around the house. He had been a working man all his life. He grew up on a farm and started doing serious chores every day since he was ten years old.
Starting work at the age of ten, driving the pickup around the ranch and handling tools.
So he worked every day for 65 years, until December of last year, and he wasn't going to just sit around in his easy chair on that last day.
He just wasn't used to that.
Instead he got dressed and went out. There was a "bone yard" -- a pile of rusted out implements and machinery -- but it was a good hundred yards from the house.
The bone yard was a little bit out of sight, and his family was gone to town. There's not that much to do in December on a farm. That's when you have the time to work on some projects -- like making modifications on a piece of farm equipment.
You can't just buy a hay baler and use it, but you need to adapt it to the special conditions of your own piece of land.
Everett Monk knew how to do that, and his welding tools were in the back of his pickup that cold and windy day.
I'm not sure about that -- was the wind blowing? Or was it calm?
Because he began cutting the scrap metal and working in a careful way.
Then the accident happened. Maybe it was calm and then, all of a sudden, the wind picked up, and blew a spark from the torch to the sleeve of his jacket, and he may have been distracted by a sudden noise over the hill, and the spark settled on his coat sleeve and began to burn, and the wind picked up and he was on fire.
He was on fire. And he was shocked. Did he drop and roll on the ground, which is what you are supposed to do if your clothes catch on fire?
I could call the sheriff or the friend who found his body and ask them -- if he just fell down, or if there was evidence that he dropped and rolled on the ground.
But that doesn't really matter too much.
A friend found his body. Everett Monk was dead, after working on the farm all his life. He may have suffered in agony from his burns, or he may have gone quickly from the shock.
But it was over. Everett Monk, the farmer from Eltopia in eastern Washington, may he rest in peace.
He could have stayed in the house on that day in December. He could have just taken it easy, but he was used to working.
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Happy New Year,
Peace and joy to you and all your loved ones in 2011
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