It was a hot July day in 2003, and Susan Archie was in her back yard, looking at the big tractor her husband used when he cut the lawn. He had always promised to teach her how to drive it, but with all the outside chores in their rural home in South Carolina, he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Right now he was working in front, but the back lawn needed cutting, and the tractor didn’t look all that hard to drive, Susan mused. She did know how to stop, and go, and it would be one less chore for him…
She checked on her six-year-old son, Joshua, who was riding an old lawn mower that his dad had adjusted to go very slowly, so Joshua wouldn’t get hurt.
Their son was enthralled with all things mechanical, and probably knew more about the tractor than she did. Nevertheless, she would be extremely careful. “Stay over there, Joshua,” she called to him. “I’m going to cut the grass on this side.”
Up and over and into the seat before she had time to reconsider. The wheels on the tractor were up to her nose, and the cutting blade was seven feet long. It all looked potentially lethal…. She wouldn’t think about any of that. Plenty of women drove tractors. She turned on the ignition, and the engine sprang to life.
One pass along the outside of the grass, turn, and then another pass. Susan was doing just fine. Joshua had approached once, yelling something, but she couldn’t hear him and had waved him away. Now he was back on the safe side of the lawn. Or was he? Suddenly Susan realized that Josh was not where she’d thought he was. Frantically she looked around. There he was, off the lawn mower, running right alongside her! “Josh, get away!” Susan stepped on the brakes.
“Mom, you’re not cutting it right!” she heard him shout. Then Josh attempted to jump onto the tractor. In a horrified moment, Susan’s feet came off the pedals, throwing Joshua off. He slid beneath the tractor, and the huge wheel rolled over---and stopped---on his stomach and chest. She could only see his head, sticking out from beneath the machine. “Josh!” Susan screamed, trying to turn off the engine. Her husband came running from the front yard. “He’s under the wheel! I’ve killed him!” Susan leaped off, as her husband cut the tractor’s power. Both parents rushed to Josh. As if in a dream, Susan noticed that her son was now lying on his side, with the wheel off of him, and had somehow avoided the blades. “I’ll get him out!” Susan’s husband said. She ran for the phone in the house. To this day she does not remember her feet ever touching the ground.
The shock of the unbelievable scene stayed with her as she phoned the paramedics. Why hadn’t she been more careful? The wheel could have cut off his air supply---and had the blade done damage she hadn’t yet seen? God, God… Her heart seemed ready to burst.
Since the Archies lived so far into the country, Susan asked the paramedics to meet her and Josh at a country store several miles away, rather than waste precious time giving them directions. She ran back to the yard. Her husband had somehow gotten Josh out from under the tractor, and he was lying on the ground. Stunned, she realized the six-year-old was conscious and breathing, and there was no sign that he had been cut by the blade. “I’m okay, Daddy, it doesn’t hurt,” Josh was protesting.
“Lie still, Josh, and don’t talk,” the adults told him as they carefully carried him to the truck. He couldn’t be okay, Susan thought. She had felt the huge wheel go over him. His lungs must be crushed, and as for internal injuries….she didn’t want to think. Would Joshua die because she hadn’t learned to drive the tractor? From her cell phone, she again called 911 to update the ambulance, and then called her mother to alert her church’s prayer chain. Word immediately went out over the hills and hamlets. There was power in prayer. But could it save Joshua’s life?
The truck sped down the country road. Before they even reached the country store, Susan saw the paramedics pull up. They had apparently decided to airlift Josh to a larger hospital, because the Lifeflight helicopter set down in the parking lot just a few minutes later. Susan and her husband would have to drive, since there wasn’t room in the helicopter for them. “As they were getting ready to put Joshua in the helicopter, I kissed him and told him that I loved him,” Susan says. “He told me again that he was okay.” She watched the plane take off, asking angels to encircle it.
Then as she and her husband pulled out of the parking lot, Susan noticed that the lot was almost full. People….people she knew, and some she didn’t, all alerted to Joshua’s condition, she realized. They had come to the store to offer silent support, just to let her know they were praying. Tears streamed down her cheeks. God, God….
Susan prayed all the way. And when they finally entered the emergency room, the first voice she heard was her son’s. “My mama wasn’t cutting the grass right,” he was explaining to someone.
“That’s Joshua!” she shouted. “Where is he?”
Physicians checked every inch of Josh, and ran several scans. They discovered that his liver had been almost cut in two, his lungs were bruised and two ribs cracked. Yet aside from bloodshot eyes due to the pressure of the tractor, Joshua looked almost the same. It was almost unbelievable that he did not have more serious injuries, Nor was he in any pain. “I want to go home, Mom,” he kept telling Susan. “I feel fine, honest.” A very lucky little boy…
Yet Susan knew it was far more than luck. From the moment she had asked for prayers, they had come. The first gathering in the parking lot led to visits, people dropping off notes at her house, and phoning the hospital, leaving messages of hope. Others wrote letters from faraway places, people from all faiths, all assuring her that they were praying for her son’s healing. Again, she remembered the moment of the accident, and her bewilderment that Josh had been run over while lying on his back, and yet when she reached him, he was on his side, with the wheel completely off.
“He seemed completely normal,” Susan says. “Despite his IV, he was hungry, and after the first night, he actually roamed the hospital halls, looking for something to do.” The liver mended without surgery.
Josh went home in less than a week, and has had no ill effects. One night shortly after his release from the hospital, he and Susan were talking about the accident. “Did it hurt when the tractor ran over you?” she asked.
“I didn’t feel it run over me,” Josh says. “God was with me.”
God, and a team of angels to lift the wheel, summoned by prayer.