MANCHESTER — Tim Bryant was haying a field on North Road on June 16 when he was run over by a 10,000-pound tractor.
He spent 11 days in an Albany, N.Y., hospital for 16 broken bones, including six ribs, six vertebrae and a collarbone, and two collapsed lungs.
Almost a month later, he's back at home. He credits local emergency response personnel, and doctors and nurses for saving his life. He's thankful for support from family, friends and community members, many of whom have asked him how he survived.
And he's still trying to figure that out himself.
"As somebody told me, and I can't argue with it, it just wasn't my day," he told the Banner on Tuesday.
The 67-year-old lifelong farmer also wants to caution people to stay alert around farm machinery, from veteran operators to his grandchildren.
"I've been driving farm machinery for 60 years. I took my eye off the ball for half a second, and was nearly killed," he said. "It was something that could have been avoided if I had been more cautious."
Bryant said he was driving a tractor and haying a 30-plus acre field when the mower's rear tire broke off. He parked on only a slight incline, put the tractor in neutral, and hadn't set the brake. That's a mistake, he said — people should always set a brake even on a slight incline.
A few minutes went by as he sized up the problem, he said, and decided to unhitch the mower from the tractor. Suddenly, out of the corner of one eye, he saw the tractor roll towards him.
"I remember the rear tire bumping me on my right shoulder," he said. "When it started to go over me, I figured that would be the end. I thought, 'Nancy [his wife], I'm sorry I never got to say goodbye.'"
"Next thing I know," he continued, "I'm laying facedown on the ground."
By chance, he had brought a cell phone that day — he doesn't always, he said, since cell service in Pawlet can be spotty.
"If I hadn't had it with me, I believe I would've died," he said. "It was around noon and no one was expecting me to be done for another five or six hours. It was over 85 degrees that day. That, with my head being down and me not being able to breath, I can't imagine I would have lasted long."
He called 911 from the field, he said, and Manchester Rescue Squad quickly arrived on scene. He was airlifted to Albany Medical Center and spent three days in the trauma center and another eight in patient care.
Today, he's at home and ambulatory, he said, but has some pain when he walks.
"I'm lucky. They had me up walking three days after. I still remember the euphoria when I took those steps. Anything I need to do, I can still do. I can't lift anything, but have no cast or braces. So some people don't believe me when they see me."
He said anyone who operates any kind of machinery, whether it be a farm tractor, push mower or chain saw, needs to be cautious. An accident can happen in a split second, he said.
"It's amazing how many of my farmer friends have called me and said they've done similar things," he said.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.