Oklahoma native Rodney Huffer says a 2010 accident serves as a reminder of dangers on the farm
MARSHALL, OKLA. – Seventy-four old Rodney Huffer adjusted the brim of his hat as he drove down the road in his Ford F-350 flatbed, on a warm, windy afternoon. He was on his way to ensure the safety of a cow that was reported by a neighbor to have wandered off.
He pulled up and parked his truck in front of the gate to the cow pasture, and walked out as a hoard of cows came to greet him. He spotted the rogue cow and grabbed a bucket out of his truck.
“They just love these cubes,” Rodney said, grabbing a fist full of cubes and tossing them into the pasture. “Every time I come driving up, they know what’s happening. They just go crazy for these cubes.”
Rodney has lived in Oklahoma birth – except for the three years he spent in Kenya, traveling with the Peace Corps to teach people about how to care for and cultivate cattle.
“At that time I was just about to be drafted to Vietnam, and the Peace Corps kept me out of that. I had a lot of success with what I was doing — educating farmers — and Angie Debo, at [Oklahoma State University], and I was contacted by the secretary of the treasury of the Kenyan government, asking me to stay on another year. Turned out, he had been a student of hers at OSU.”
His time in Kenya was transformative for him. It allowed him to become a more experienced farmer, help others feed their families and communities. It’s also where he met his wife, Mary: a Ugandan native who had been studying in Kenya,.
Rodney is an experienced cattle rancher and has seen the accomplishments farming can bring – as well as its dangers.
On Dec. 3, 2010, Rodney suffered a near-fatal head injury from an accident while unloading calves at the vet to get their vaccinations. Rodney has no recollection of the accident and struggles with short-term memory loss.
“I carry a notebook so I can write everything down,” Rodney said as he pulled a small notepad out from his front shirt pocket.
“I don’t remember names, phone numbers, nothin’ like that. I’m lucky if I remember her name,” he laughed, pointing at his wife, Mary.
When Mary first found out about what happened to Rodney, she was terrified.
“The vet called me at work and told me Rodney had been in an accident,” recounted Mary, who has been Rodney’s biggest supporter throughout the recovery from his accident “They told me he had either been hit in the head or kicked in the head. Nobody saw exactly what happened.”
Rodney spent about two months in the hospital and afterward had to learn how to do basic things over again, such as speaking.
“I spent a long time in the hospital, and I didn’t enjoy it,” Rodney said. “They had me on the first floor and they caught me crawlin’ out the window tryin’ to get out, so then they moved me to the third or fourth floor.”
Thankfully, Rodney did not develop many other issues as a result of his accident, besides his inability to taste.
“I can’t taste anything – nothing,” he said. “I can taste sweet things, but that’s it. Once a year, I suddenly can taste everything for one day, and then the next day it’s gone.”
Since the accident, Rodney has tried to pay more attention to being careful, but he has acknowledged while working with animals such as cattle, especially for as long as he has, accidents can happen sometimes. One measure he has taken to make the process safer is hiring large trucks to come and pick up his calves for him when they need to travel.
Throughout his recovery from the accident, Rodney’s dedication to farming never wavered. It was all he had ever known, and it’s what he still does to this day.
“I enjoyed doing it with the Peace Corps in Kenya, and when I came home the first thing I did was go milk the cows with my dad,” he recalled.
Today, Rodney has about a 100 head of cows which he keeps on four different pastures. He also has several horses, and continues farming with Mary, who works at the convenience store across the street from their home.