THORNTOWN, Ind. — With a wet spring and a dry summer, it’s been hard for Indiana farmers to stay on their feet, but that doesn’t stop 73-year-old Lloyd Hayden from doing what he loves.
"Beautiful day," Hayden said while staring out at his fields from behind the driver's wheel of his combine. "I enjoy this. Who gets to drive a big combine? This is a treat for everybody!"
Hayden grew up on this farm. Through his career as an iron worker, and even during the Vietnam war, Hayden always aimed to be in the field for harvest.
“I got drafted in, what, '66?" Hayden asked himself. "And I had a crop out that year. They let me out, instead of taking me in July, they let me get my crop in.”
So when Hayden was involved in a serious accident that nearly cost him his life, he wasn't going to let that stop him.
"I’ve known Lloyd for 21 years, and it was very difficult," said Lebanon Fire Chief Chuck Batts, who is also Hayden's son-in-law. "I was trying to build a scene in my mind on how exactly he was caught because there was not a description.”
Batts was enjoying lunch with his wife when he got the call, and he immediately rushed to the scene. His father-in-law had been run over by a combine.
Once Batts got there, he realized it was worse than he thought. Both of Lloyds legs were caught in the corn heads, and only one thing would get him out.
"It was very difficult because we knew the only option we had was to remove his legs due to the extreme injuries to both of them,” Batts said.
Now as a 73-year-old double amputee, Hayden still climbs into his truck unassisted and goes to work.
"Some people retire and quit, go to Florida, whatever they want to do," Hayden said while looking out at his farm. "I’d rather do this.”
There’s no special equipment on his combine or truck. Hayden prefers to do it himself, for as long as he can.
"They got things they’ll put on your pick up truck to lift you up, put you in the combine or tractor or stuff like that," Hayden said. "I don't think I'm ready for that yet. As long as I can do it on my own, I’d rather do it that way.”
"It’s closure, it really is," Batts said of seeing his father-in-law back working. "He’s back to doing what he really loves. Farming is a part of Lloyd and Lloyd's family, and he loves it, and to see him back is closure.”
Even as the sun begins to set on his field, Lloyd is still out in his combine, proving that the sun never sets on a guy like Lloyd Hayden.
"They say God has a plan for you," Hayden said. "I gotta make something of it.”