I was using a backhoe/loader to move some cold mix asphalt in the temporary yard for a project. We needed more room, so I was moving it to one side of the yard.
You’ve seen backhoe/loaders. They resemble scorpions, with a front bucket as the pincers; the excavator attachment on the rear can be described as the stinger.
After running such a machine for a long period of time, using the controls is without thought. You just know what you want to do and it happens. I was busy, lost in thought and moving material.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. At that time, I had full bucket, was moving forward and in the process of dumping the bucket. Within seconds, one of the hands climbed on the moving machine to tell me something.
All I heard was a scream; a yowling scream that ended in a high pitch of fear and agony.
Although it probably only lasted for a second or two, it seemed to take forever for me to analyze what happened, look down at his foot and raise the bucket.
As he climbed on the machine, he placed one foot on the step and the other in a pinch point between two control arms. The ton of material, plus the weight of the assembly concentrated on the one object impeding the progress.
As soon as the bucket was raised, he fell from the machine, started rolling on the ground and cried as he held his leg. I stopped, jumped from the machine, and went to help.
I had to get his boot off his foot. If I left it on, his foot would swell, cut off circulation, and the damage would only be greater. We soon had the boot and sock removed; my stomach turned.
Have you ever seen a crushed foot? I never had and never want to again. It was disfigured, blue and it was obvious this was way beyond something I could handle. All I could do was talk to him and tell him help would be there shortly.
Someone in the field office called the ambulance. They arrived shortly, made a quick assessment and then were gone.
That happened in 1984. I still think about it now and then. The thoughts always lead to what I could have done differently and the guilt remains.
I don’t know what happened to him; I don’t even remember his name, but I remember that day. I had a few beers that evening. Too many and they didn’t help.