Community rallies to support crash survivor

A community at work: neighbours take Keith Taylor's crop off while he recovers from plane crash.

September 19, 2012: Two weeks ago Keith Taylor’s spray plane crashed to the ground when it touched a power line while doing a custom spraying job. “God was watching over him,” said his wife Kari, and anyone who sees the plane wreckage would have to agree. His Dad Chris told me the Westlock doctor who sent him on to the Edmonton emergency didn’t expect to see him again.

But Keith was out there in his pickup today, watching the neighbours take his crop in. His internal injuries are healing, the broken ribs and bruised vertebrae will take some time, but he’ll be okay. “I should be at home,” he admitted, ruefully rubbing his painful back. “But this is too much fun!” Five combines were making short work of 240 acres of canola. Besides his Dad, his hired hand and two neighbours, the boss of the local Case dealership had brought out one of their big machines. Three men were running the four trucks to keep up with the hungry combines.

Keith Taylor miraculously walked out of this wreckage.

But the big day was yesterday, Monday, Rick Johnson told me. Rick has been organizing the work bees to get Keith’s crop off, 1500 acres of it. Nine combines harvested 540 acres of wheat in less than six hours. Five combines worked on one quarter with two grain carts and a bagger, while the other four, a grain cart and the trucks cleaned off the second field. “It was amazing,” Chris Taylor told me. “Everyone just knew what they were doing.”

Rick Johnson, organizer of the work bees, discusses the day's logistics with Jim Wiese.

Neighbours sent food and others helped cook, so the day was finished with a grand meal at the Taylor house. “You get a bunch of farmers together, and you get a lot of stories!” Chris said.

Showing support in a very tangible way: Jim Wiese helps Keith Taylor's hired hand unplug the combine.

Jim Wiese was there with his truck. When Rick told him they actually had enough trucks he said, “No, I’ve got to be there!” A year ago the community did the same for him, when he was spending his days in the hospital with his wife, who was in intensive care after a serious accident. She’s doing well today, but he hasn’t forgotten what it meant to him to have that kind of support. Keith was one of the main players behind the effort in Jim’s fields. It was payback time for Jim.

“People started calling as soon as they heard about the accident,” Rick told me. Neighbours big and small and the John Deere, New Holland and Case dealerships offered machines and men to drive.

“It surprised me who came, and who didn’t come,” Keith said. One farmer sent two big combines and trucks on Monday. He wanted to come again today, but Keith told him to stay home – the farmer had enough of his own to do yet.

“It meant a lot just to have people call and ask how we were doing,” Kari said.

At 4:30 p.m. when I dropped by again on my way home from town, the canola field was almost finished. Once again, a community had rallied around those who were suffering and shown its compassion in a very hands-on way. Humans can be a pretty good lot at times!

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