TODD COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — Last week’s winter storm left many South Dakotans stranded — at home, in truck stops, on highways. One Todd County rancher found himself stranded in a pasture for more than a day.
Rodney Paulson, a rancher in his 70s, went out to feed his cattle Thursday afternoon and got stuck. Nearby neighbor Gus Gran tried getting to Paulson, but the blizzard conditions and deep snow were too much for his farm equipment to handle.
“I made it a mile from it, and I got stuck and it was getting dark. So I called my dad, and he come down with another loader tractor, and it took him two hours to dig me out,” Gran said.
Gus Gran said it took them another five hours to get only three miles back home.
“And I said, Dad, I said, look, ‘Rodney’s going to have to stay there tonight.’ I said, ‘We can’t get to him.’ And so we called him and Rodney said, ‘That’s fine.’ You know, he had fuel, he had heat. That’s all that we could do,” Gran said.
On Friday, Gran said he did everything he could to find someone with equipment big enough to get to Paulson. He met a trucker who had a tracked tractor that was loaded up on his semi trailer in Jackson, Minnesota, bound for a dealership in California.
The trucker, Ryan Spartz, was on Highway 18 through South Dakota when the storm hit. He came across cars stranded and blocking the road and decided to start helping people with the tractor.
“I bet I called the dealership about three or four times total because I just wanted to make sure it was OK for what we were doing with that thing. And they said, ‘Yeah.’ No hesitation,” Spartz said.
Using the tractor, Spartz and Gran were able to reach Paulson, blowing through snow drifts along the way.
“It was just too good to be true,” Gran said.
“Yeah, it really was,” Spartz said. “It was unbelievable what that thing went through.”
“It was a cakewalk,” Gran said.
The rescuers made it to Paulson after he had spent 27 hours in his tractor.
“I teared up. We pulled up there, I started crying,” Gran said. “You can ask Ryan. I had tears in my eyes. It was a big relief to get him home, and it was just, it’s crazy. I mean, pictures don’t do this deal justice.”
Gran and Spartz helped even more people, including DOT workers, break through drifts and get back home off the impassable Highway 18.
“It was no problem to me to help out, get everybody out and save them. That’s a pretty serious event when you can’t leave and you can’t get help for yourself and your stranded somewhere,” Spartz said.
Spartz says the Fendt brand tractor used in the rescues was dropped off in California yesterday and is now cleaned up and on the dealership’s lot.