He was trapped under his tractor. Only God and Shannon knew where to find him.
Ted: Twenty-five years of tending our 80-acre farm. It didn’t seem possible. But I still got excited every morning to go out in the fields.
One fine June morning in 2004 I planned to mow a lot of hay. I dressed quickly, snapped my sheath knife onto my belt and tucked my ring rosary into my watch pocket.
Peggy: Breakfast was ready when Ted came into the kitchen. Pancakes with lots of butter and syrup. His favorite. Shannon crawled out from under the table to greet Ted, then plopped at his feet. Such a good dog. She knew she’d get a treat if she didn’t beg for a bite of those pancakes.
“I’ll be mowing the south pasture today,” Ted said. That was okay with me. I had errands to run.
“Meet you back here for lunch,” I said. “I’ll leave Shannon in the mud room. Otherwise she’ll try to herd your tractor!”
Ted: I chuckled, remembering the pup Peggy and I had brought home nine years ago. She was the last one in the litter. Half border collie, half golden retriever. Only five weeks old.
If the barn cats hissed at her Shannon would crouch down and yip, trying to move them along. She acted like a working dog already, but we never trained her to herd our cows. We spoiled Shannon like she was a member of the family.
“You outdid yourself with breakfast this morning,” I told Peggy. “Best pancakes I ever tasted!” I gave her a kiss and was out the door.
Peggy: Shannon ran to the front window and propped her paws up on the sill, barking like crazy as she watched Ted’s tractor go down the drive. She wanted so much to be with him. That dog really loved Ted. “Come over here and get your treat, girl. You earned it.”
Ted: When I reached the end of our drive I noticed the large pile of tree cuttings I’d stacked the day before. There’s still a bit of dew , I thought. Too wet for mowing right now. I decided to take a detour and haul the branches to the gully where we dumped trash, about a quarter mile behind our house.
I stopped the tractor and climbed down. The tractor had a large saw-tooth loader attachment on the front end. I filled the loader with the tree cuttings and headed for the gully. It was about 10 feet deep, in a heavily wooded area, not visible until you got close to the barbed-wire fence that surrounded it.
I stopped the tractor some distance away and put it in park.
The tractor’s engine chugged as I unloaded the cuttings and threw them over the fence into the gully. Finally finished, I turned to walk back to the tractor. What I saw froze me in my tracks. The tractor slipped out of gear and headed straight for me. All four tons of it!
The teeth of the loader speared my right foot and leg. I flopped to the ground like a rag doll, screaming with pain. The loader had me in its grip!
Peggy: I finished my errands, and then dropped in to chat with a neighbor for a while. “Ted’ll be home soon,” I said finally. “I better go get lunch ready.”
Ted: My screams were drowned out by the roar of the tractor. It smashed through the fence. I was slammed onto my back. The tractor loomed above me. My head lay inches beneath a front tire. The loader’s teeth dug into the gully’s edge. My right leg slanted up into it.
The tractor’s rear wheels were trapped in the fence on the opposite edge of the gully. I shuddered with the thought of its wheels breaking free. I’d be crushed.
My body inched down farther into the gully. My leg could be ripped from me! I grabbed a tree limb and shoved it under my left side. That stopped me from slipping. Encouraged, I reached for a smaller branch. If I could dig out a notch for my left heel, I’d steady myself.
I unsnapped the sheath on my belt, pulled out the knife and started to dig. It did nothing but drain my strength. The tractor droned on, the noise filling my ears. I looked down. The ground was turning red. My blood was soaking into the earth.
No one knew where to find me. Peggy would worry when I didn’t show up for lunch. But she’d look in the south pasture where I’d said I’d be.
Peggy: The second I walked into our house, Shannon ran to me, whining. She had torn up the linoleum in the mud room and clawed marks in the door. “Shannon!” I said. She was usually a quiet dog. A good dog. What had gotten into her? She ran back and forth from me to the back door.
“Okay, okay!” I said. “We’ll go out.”
Ted: I fumbled into my watch pocket, and my fingers brushed the small cross on top of the rosary. “God,” I whispered, “I need you. No one knows where I am but you.”
I thought of the many times in my life when I’d felt God’s presence. Kneeling at the altar in church, or beside a newborn calf in the barn. I thought of the years of sunsets I’d been bathed in, heading home on my tractor.
Home! Maybe Peggy would come home early. She’d let the dog out. “Shannon!” I yelled. “Come here, girl!” I whistled for her. Was there even a chance she would hear me over the tractor’s engine? I yelled and whistled, resting between each effort. Peggy, are you home? “Shannon, come on, girl!”
Peggy: I fastened Shannon’s leash and stepped outside. She hardly let me close the door before pulling me down the steps and into the pasture behind our house. “Not so fast!” I cried. But she kept pulling me on. Hard. I stumbled and fell, and she kept pulling.