HURON — A cell phone became a lifeline for LeRoy Gross after an accident on Sept. 23 left him dangling precariously from the side of a large grain truck on his farm north of Huron.
Gross, who turned 84 on Oct. 1, had been combining soy beans and was using an electric tarp roller to cover up the grain he had just harvested so it wouldn’t blow out on the way to town.
“It quit rolling, so I crawled up there to see what the problem was,” Gross said. “A bolt was sheared off — it connects the electric motor to the arm for the tarp. I must have grabbed ahold of that tarp and it rolled toward me and I tumbled backward all the way to the ground — about seven or eight feet.
“On the way down I hit my ribs on my back and my left side on a battery box,” he said. “In the process of falling, something got hooked on the back of my jeans, so there I was hanging underneath the truck by this whatever, and I couldn’t unhook myself.”
Gross said he’s fortunate that he always carries his cell phone in his shirt pocket. When he tumbled from the grain truck, it fell out of his pocket landed on the ground just within reach his reach.
Had it been tucked in his pants pocket, he would have been unable to reach it while hanging off the truck.
“I was on my own farm, but I was there all alone,” he said. “Nobody else was there.”
Gross and his wife, Barbara, had moved into Huron in 2011, although he has continued to farm.
Gross said he called Harvey Wollman, who farms a couple miles away, and Harvey and his son, Michael, hurried to see what was happening. “I said I fell off the truck, I’m hooked and I need help,” he said.
“When they got there, they assessed the situation and could see I was hooked onto something,” Gross said. “Harvey and Michael both grabbed onto my clothes and lifted them to unhook me. Now I’m flat on the ground under the truck.
Slowly, Gross was able to be moved away from the truck and into a sitting position until he could catch his breath. Then he was lifted into his own truck so Michael could drive him to the hospital.
“We’re straight north of town,” Gross said. “Before the bridge was out, we were 25 miles north. With the detour, it’s almost 30 miles. We’ve been doing that detour for a year already.”
At Huron Regional Medical Center, Gross found out he had a punctured lung and had eight fractured ribs.
“I spent from Wednesday night until Sunday noon in the hospital,” Gross said. “I’m small, I’m not a big man, which is fortunate. I probably survived the fall because of my stature.”
But he still had acres of crops in the ground — both soybeans and corn — that were ready and needed to be harvested.
That’s when his family and friends stepped in to give him a hand — complete with combines, trailers and semis.
His neighbors, Gordy and Charlotte Hofer, and his sons, Chris and Greg Gross, and grandson, Max Gross, helped him finish the last 100 acres of soybeans that were left shortly after the accident. He had harvested about 70 acres before the accident.
Then last weekend, his daughter and son-in-law, Jim and Michelle Harms of Wichita, Kan., arrived to help a fleet of Gross’ cousins — all Deckers from the Frankfort area, harvest 120 acres of corn. The cousins include Vohn, who lives in Huron, and Dwane, Steve, Brandon, Bradley and Scott Decker from Frankfort.
There are still about 20 acres of corn left, which Greg Gross plans to finish up for his father.
“They came with two gleaners combines, two semis and a huge grain cart,” Gross said. “Jim (Harms) is a retired insurance man, he’s not really a farmer, but he wanted to help.”
“We are really thankful for the neighbors, friends and family who jumped in to finish the harvest,” Jim Harms said.
Gross said he is still healing, although it’s coming along slowly.
“The prayers of the people at Bethesda Church and all my relatives has really helped,” he added.
“I tire very easily, and I’m still on pain pills because my ribs still hurt,” he said. “I sleep in a recliner, the doctor recommended that. I’m just doing one step at a time and don’t rush anything. As long as the harvest is in, I’m not going to rush into anything.
“Even though we moved to Huron I still farm, I still go out there and do corn and beans,” Gross added. “It’s an income for me. And I so enjoy working the soil. I’ve been a farmer all my life, that’s all I know.”