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Wisconsin Farmer Should Be Dead
Wisconsin dairyman Steve Anderson might have uttered the epitome of understatements when he described his experience on the morning of July 21 as "unique."
He also was reluctant to retell it, contending, "No one except those who know me will believe it."
Yet the episode that occurred when Anderson, 34, was cutting hay on a neighbor's farm near Sanborn is one that Anderson said reinforced his religious convictions. "I was a believer before this happened but this clinched it."
For those who doubt this experience, Anderson has several broken ribs and rear tractor tire marks on his body to prove the actual happening of a farm accident that his doctor and others said should have left him dead.
About mid-morning July 21, Anderson was operating his 60 horse-power Model 175 Massey-Ferguson tractor, cutting hay on a neighbor's farm.
"It was just a nice day to be out in the fields," Anderson remembers.
As he neared an apiary of perhaps 16 bee hives, Anderson was attacked by swarms of honey bees.
"I guess I panicked and jumped off the tractor," he says. "I have been driving tractor since I was 6 or 7, and this was the first time I ever got off a tractor without stopping it first. But it didn't make any difference which side I jumped off. If I had jumped off the other (left) side, I would have landed closer to the hives and I just wanted to get away from the bees. As it was, it would have happened anyway, I guess."
The "IT" Anderson referred to is an incident dripping with luck, strength, valor and, he is convinced, "help from someone else."
Anderson jumped from the moving tractor, but tripped on a small pipe protruding from the side of the tractor where the front-end loader trip is attached. This caused him to land on the hayfield in a standing position, facing the rear tractor tire, which was bearing down on him.
"It almost was like slow-motion," Anderson remembers as the tractor tire started its trek up his body.
"The tire pressed against my feet so I couldn't move. It knocked me to the ground, of course, and just kept rolling up the center of my body," the 6-foot tall, 230-pound Anderson said, all the time being swarmed and stung by hordes of bees which Anderson said later "reminded me of some sort of horror movie."
And what was to happen next may be the most remarkable aspect of this freak accident on a small dairy farm less than 15 miles from the shore of Lake Superior, other than the fact that Anderson still lives.
As the left rear tractor tire crept up Steve Anderson's body, he braced his elbows on the hayfield, shielding his face, and exerted upward pressure. The tractor tire followed up his arms and over but ABOVE his head.
"That tractor weighs 7,400 pounds without any attachments and the rear tires are filled with fluid," Anderson said. "I have broken elm beams loading that tractor on a truck to take to tractor pulls, so I know it is a heavy one."
And he added, still mystified, "I don't know if it was me or somebody else lifting that tractor tire off my head."
The tractor continued its errant journey across Mary Wallner's hayfield, dragging Steve Anderson behind it only inches from an operating haybine.
Although he was covered by swarming, frenzied honey bees, Anderson braced one foot against a haybine sickle guard and grabbed a metal bar that hangs above the sickle, while at the same time pressing the other leg against the haybine frame.
"It was at this point that I thought for sure it was all over for me," he says. "I was covered with bees and barely hanging on to a runaway tractor pulling a fully operative haybine. And I can remember screaming, 'Oh, my God, don't let me die.'
"When I said that, the tractor stopped dead."
Indeed, the tractor had stopped. It had come to rest against the only tree in an entire fenceline large enough to stop the tractor and haybine. A rather small tree was bent over by the front end of the tractor; it snapped up against the front tractor axle, causing the rear tires to spin and dig deep holes, killing the engine.
But that wasn't the end of the morning ordeal for Steve Anderson.
After


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1986 - Volume #10, Issue #5