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Harvest help

STEPHEN, Minn. - Todd Nelson sat in the passenger seat of Steve Weberg's yellow Agsco pickup Sept. 5, watching his friends harvest his sugar beets. "A lot of good neighbors helped out," he says. "It's much appreciated. I'm pretty lucky." Nelson w...

STEPHEN, Minn. - Todd Nelson sat in the passenger seat of Steve Weberg's yellow Agsco pickup Sept. 5, watching his friends harvest his sugar beets.

"A lot of good neighbors helped out," he says. "It's much appreciated. I'm pretty lucky."

Nelson wasn't so fortunate three months ago, when he was involved in a head-on vehicle collision that left him paralyzed below the waist.

It was about 4 p.m. June 6 - "6-6-06," as he calls it. He was driving his pickup near his home when an oncoming car veered into his lane. He had no time to react.

"I said a few swear words and braced for impact," he says.

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Police say the driver of the car, who died in the accident, apparently fell asleep at the wheel.

Nelson, 45, was rushed to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, N.D., then transferred to Rochester, Minn. He had suffered a crushed spine, which paralyzed him below the waist. He also suffered other severe internal injuries, including broken ribs and a rupture in his aorta.

"The doctors in Rochester said I probably shouldn't have made it," he says. "It was a long deal in Rochester. I feel better, but it gets pretty uncomfortable after a while, sitting in a pickup and riding over these fields."

Help at home

He returned home to Stephen, Minn., about two weeks ago. By that time, neighbors already had harvested his 500-acre wheat crop. As many as nine combines took care of the wheat in a few hours, with volunteers hauling it to Northwest Grain in Stephen and to Farmers Co-op Elevator in Alvarado, Minn.

"Todd wanted to hire custom harvesters to take off his grain," says Tom Peterson. "We said, 'No way.'"

His friends and neighbors returned Sept. 5 to harvest 125 acres of sugar beets. Eight harvesters. Six roto-beeters. Twenty-seven trucks in one field. Fourteen in another. The task took just over four hours.

"Nobody hesitated," Peterson says. "Todd's the kind of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back and never ask for anything in return."

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They'll return when it's time to harvest his soybean crop.

Nelson's mother, Joyce Nelson, provided breakfast "care" packages for the helpers - doughnuts, muffins, grapes, trail mix and soda pop. Lunch - brats, potato chips, cookies and refreshments - was provided by Farm Credit Services in Warren, Minn., as well as by Agsco and Simplot Grower Solutions in Stephen.

"When it's a well-respected member of the community, it's a pleasure to help out," says Leif Aakre, another neighbor.

Getting around

Nelson uses a wheelchair to get around. Friends and relatives already have helped to make his home wheel-

chair-accessible. Decks and ramps have been built, and doorways have been widened.

Dennis Olson, Nelson's landlord, is organizing another group to pour a new concrete slab for a garage at Nelson's home.

Meanwhile, Nelson will continue with physical therapy. He's trying to learn how to stand on leg braces, hoping to get around on them.

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Some feeling is returning in his legs. That's a good sign. Doctors say it could be up to a year before they know if he'll be able to walk again.

Meantime, he's talking about getting a vehicle equipped for him to drive. And he hopes that some day, he'll be back planting and harvesting his own crops.

"It's nice to get home, but it's tough because you can't do much," he says. "I hate to give this up - the farming aspect of it. I hope I'll be able to do it again."

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