Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 11-26-12
My dad has always made it a habit to work six days a week and take Sundays off. Sure, he does the necessary farm and ranch chores on Sunday and handles emergencies if they come up, but other than that he’s made it a day to shut down all farming — even during harvest. It’s a habit he has practiced his whole life.
But on one particular November Sunday, my dad decided to work.
It was a chilly day and started out different than the usual go to church and come home Sunday routine. My mom had to run into Denver with my grandma that day and my youngest brother — the only one still at home — headed to Strasburg for the local turkey shoot. My dad shot trap with my brother for a while, but his leg started hurting (a symptom from a back injury) so he headed home.
He’d originally planned on doing some relaxing at home, but once he got there and sat down, he couldn’t help but think of all the chores he was behind on. One thing that was really bothering him was some trenching that needed done around the house.
So, my dad got to work. He trenched for a while and then decided to make a short trip to house — an idea he regrets.
In a moment that he’s analyzed thousands of times since then, he stopped the trencher and stepped off. As he stepped down and reached to pull the trencher out of gear (it’s easier — but not safer — to pull out of gear when you are on the ground), the tire caught the toe of his boot and began to pull him down.
What followed was a series of seconds that played out in slow motion. As soon as my dad was on the ground, he knew he was going to die. The bones in his right leg popped like a rabbit under a pickup tire. He knew his chest was going to be crushed like a snake on a dirt road. The weight of the tire was intense as it passed over his belt buckle and chest — it was more than enough weight to kill him. The trencher left his body on the left side — missing his head by inches — and leaving track marks on his shoulder.
My dad felt immediate relief and shock of still being alive when the weight of the tire was off of his body, but he’d had the wind knocked out of him and couldn’t catch his breath. He felt a little panicked but was somehow able to roll over onto his stomach and breathe. He saw the trencher driving off in the distance — headed straight for his nice pickup. He tried to pull himself up to go stop it, but he couldn’t. The trencher missed the pickup, but was stopped by the propane tank — it pulled half of it up off the ground and stayed there, spinning its tires.
Nearly as miraculous as the fact he didn’t die, my dad has his phone in his pocket and had enough composure to dial my mom (she didn’t answer), my brother, grandpa and 911.
My dad had surgery on his leg that afternoon, but miraculously only broke two of the bones in his right leg and fractured two ribs that day. No one can explain why the weight of the trencher was strong enough to break his leg bones and yet leave his abdomen and internal organs unharmed.
It’s been three years since the accident and today my dad doesn’t have a single pain or symptom to remind him of his near-death experience.
Right after the accident my family and I were filled with appreciation that my dad was still alive. That whole holiday season was filled with lots of gratitude. But as the years have gone by, I have found myself forgetting that the accident even happened.
But this year, I am trying to remember that near-death experience with thankfulness and a humble spirit. Truly, all of our lives are miracles. It’s become cliché, but every day truly is a gift. I want to live like I believe it. ❖