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One of the insults of aging is that I still think I can do all the activities exactly the same as I did when I was younger.

But I can’t.

Or as someone once said, the mind is willing but the body is unable.

I’ve generally accepted the idea that it may take me a little longer to split wood, shovel snow, fork manure or dig post holes than it did in my more-robust years. That doesn’t mean I still can’t do it, but I need to realize there are some physical limitations.

Many farm chores are a form of strength training and also can be aerobic exercise. So I think – especially when I suck in my belly – that I’m still in pretty-good shape.

But one thing I am no longer is extremely agile. In my younger days I was a high school wrestler and easily handled basic gymnastics routines in physical-education class. I could climb a rope without using my legs, perform what even my then-cheerleader girlfriend now-wife, Sherry, called a pretty-good cartwheel for a guy.

I even mastered the kip, a basic gymnastics move where a gymnast goes from a hanging position below the bars to one where the bar is at waist level. It involves total energy, total kinetic energy and total potential energy.

That was 40-some years ago – when I had a lot more energy of all kinds, along with the elasticity and strength to back it up. These days just thinking about climbing out of bed with my achy joints and stiff muscles requires most of my energy

Lately my loss of flexibility is displayed whenever I climb into the back of my pickup truck. My old truck – which still has a tailgate, a remarkable event in and of itself for a farm vehicle – is a higher reach. I usually need to step on the corner of the bumper and pull myself up.

My newer truck has a handy cheater step built into the bumper, a wonderful invention for short-legged creatures like myself. It’s far easier to climb into the back of that pickup, which also has a topper so crouching is required.

Recently I needed to pick up some lumber in my newer truck. I climbed into the back to secure it and then hopped out, putting my hand on the tailgate and pivoting my feet to meet the ground. It’s a maneuver I have performed probably thousands of times, like dismounting from a pommel horse.

Let’s just say I didn’t complete the landing. Instead of my feet swinging out to meet the ground, my right ankle caught on the tailgate cable and I went plunging head-first. I was able to stop my fall with my right forearm in the gravel parking lot just as my right ankle came free.

My immediate reaction was to ensure no one was looking, as my pride hurt more than the scrapes from the gravel. I didn’t see anyone. So I pulled myself up, brushed off the dirt and was thankful my ankle wasn’t twisted or worse.

I figured it was probably a score of 3.5 on the 10-point scale.

Later I realized my awkward tumble was probably captured on security cameras, so someone may have had a laugh at my expense. Who knows; someday I may be part of a video montage of stupid accidents displayed on social-media feeds.

Come to think of it, I’ve had enough episodes to make my own film.

Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise animals and crops on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, he’s a former member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and past-president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Email with comments.

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