Printed with permission in the October 2011 issue of Dakota Valley News Magazine.
BY ERIK GERMAN, The Daily
BISMARCK, N.D. — It’s easy to look at the accident that paralyzed Russell Carlson, 62, and see only gross misfortune. A faulty ladder and a 14-foot fall left the North Dakota wheat farmer trapped in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“It’s frightening,” said Carlson, a gray-bearded bear of a man who looked profoundly misplaced in a hospital room. “I probably haven’t come fully to grip with it yet. It’s gonna be a hell of a change.”
But visit with Carlson for long, or talk to family and friends who inhabit the high plains surrounding his farm, and a brighter picture emerges. For anyone facing personal misfortune, there’s perhaps a lesson in Carlson’s refusal to submit to bitterness. And for a country facing widespread economic misfortune, there may be a lesson in how Carlson’s community has come to his aid since his fall. In an act reminiscent of an old-time barn-raising, neighbors are helping harvest Carlson’s 3,000 acres of wheat and soybeans and an organization called Farm Rescue has pitched in. All those involved insisted that, in their part of the world, such efforts are nothing remarkable at all.
“That’s just what we do around here,” said Kathy Blouin, 48, a neighbor who spent several days helping the Carlsons. “We can’t think of it any other way.”