By Don McAlavy: Local columnist
This story is told by the daughter of Clyde Sparks, Neva Riggins of Clovis, and takes place in the fall of 1945.
“Dad said that he lacked two rounds being completely finished with the wheat harvest in that field. It was close to sundown so he felt that he could get it finished before dark. Then the combine bogged down.
“He said that he could see that the canvas looked like it just needed a jog to unclog it. He said he lowered himself into the thresher without touching the canvas and pulled himself back up as a trial just to be sure he could pull himself back out quickly. He thought he could do it easily.
“But when he jumped on the canvas it immediately came unclogged and his feet were suddenly caught in the mechanism. His heavy work shoes clogged it up again, but his feet were mangled. He extricated himself, leaving his shoes in the thresher. He did not say whether the tractor had died at that point, but I don’t think he took the time to turn it off if it was still running.
“I asked him (I was just a 12-year-old then) what was the first thing he did. He said, “I prayed that God would let me get to help.” He then crawled for a quarter of a mile to the pickup. He drove the pickup only with his hands. He took the fence gate with him. He drove three-quarters of a mile to his boss’ house: Luther Moss. Moss saw him coming with the gate hanging on the front of the truck and ran to see what was the matter.
“Moss wrapped daddy’s feet in a sheet and came to our house a mile or two away, to get mother. When he got to the hospital, he had lost so much blood the doctors could not wait for a cross match. They had to give him blood plasma. Since the bottoms of his feet were now mangled the doctor left the soles of his feet minus his toes and turned them up over the raw feet.
“About six weeks later Dad started to learn to walk again. He would lean against the wall and push himself away from the wall and start jogging to learn to balance and walk. It took a while but he did it! He went to driving the tractor, but he was barefoot and the clods and stickers were murder on his tender feet.
“He went to town and bought a pair of shoes and cut them down to fit his round feet. They were crude so he contacted a bootmaker, Mr. Loudermilk. The bootmaker made a plaster of Paris cast of Dad’s feet and with that form he built many a pair of shoes for dad over the years.
“Daddy continued to farm for eight more years. He and mother moved into Clovis in 1953, joining the First Baptist Church and soon he was the church’s custodian. After 15 years there he retired and began a lawn service and mowed lawns all over town until 1982.
“When he died on Dec. 6, 1995, he was 91 years old. My Dad, William Clyde Sparks, was buried in the Oklahoma Lane Cemetery east of Farwell. My Dad was an amazing man!”
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: