September 12, 2016
Farming runs deep in Glenn Dodds' blood. A near death power incident more than 40 years ago, however, almost ended his life as a farmer before it had even begun.
Glenn has lived in Loreburn, Saskatchewan – a town of just over 100 people 46 km west of Davidson – his entire life. His farmyard lies directly across the road from town, and is a hub of activity when we show up for our interview. Despite the cloudy day, a few workers busy themselves about the yard. Glenn welcomes us from inside his shop, where two small farm kittens tumble about recklessly.
We first met Glenn last summer while on the SaskPower Safety Tour. After graciously posing for a "Come Home Safe Tonight" photo, we had the opportunity to briefly chat with him about his own near death experience. A year later we are back in Loreburn, sitting down with him in his shop to listen to his story.
It was 1975 and Glenn had just taken over the Dodds family farm with his wife and two small children, finally ready to accomplish his dream of operating his own farm.
"I was building a fence to keep my kids in. They were little and climbing all over the place... I hit my finger with a hammer so I said 'Okay, I'm going to go fly my [model] airplane for the first time.' "
Glenn owned a Control Line model plane with a 48" wingspan. The plane was connected by a steel cable line to a hand controller, allowing him to control the flight using only the movement of his hands.
"I got it going and I didn't have a proper handle for the cables to be on... After the second [time circling above] the cable came off one end and the plane went up and over a power line," Glenn motions to the power line out in the farmyard behind us. It is still standing, 41 years later.
The plane's cable contacted the power line. Glenn's wife, cousin and two children watched in horror as 14,400 volts passed through him.
"It happened so fast I didn't have time to let go or react... My one daughter was only two. And she knew exactly what had happened. How did she know at two years old? But she was just screaming and crying."
After blacking out for a moment, Glenn felt a massive hum throughout his body. "I realized that I was getting electrocuted, so I tried to open my hand, but my hand was just paralyzed. I couldn't let go.
"I started running and everything just seemed to be in slow motion. I jumped and it seemed like I was in the air forever, and then came back down. I rolled and my cousin said, 'The cables burned off, Glenn. You're okay.' "
He still remembers looking down at his hands, only to find them covered in burns. Even his leather Adidas running shoes had blown holes through the bottom and sides.
"I was in the hospital for, I think, five days. Just mainly getting dressings on my hands and feet. [The electricity] blew holes in my feet that would have been close to a half inch deep in three spots." To this day, his feet remain scarred and he is unable to extend many of his fingers.
Even though he was back to work on the farm a week and a half after the incident, Glenn felt the effects for decades.
"The one thing that did bother me for a long, long time: my heart would get arrhythmia. It did that for 25 years. I could not take diesel fumes at all...That would make my heart go crazy."
It has now been 41 years since his incident. While his body has healed, Glenn still thinks about that day. He tells us that after four decades, the power line in the farmyard is scheduled to be buried. The last reminder of that summer day in 1975. So what does Glenn want to tell those that may be working around power lines on a farm?
"Power kills. And it hurts bad. You take it for granted – that it's something that we all need and enjoy – but you have to respect power because it is deadly."
As we pack up our belongings to leave, we wish him luck for the rest of the season. With one final wave and a "Thank you,", we drive out of the yard as Glenn heads back to work in his shop.
After 41 years of farming, it is clear that Glenn still loves what he does. And farming will forever be in his blood.
If you are ever working around power lines on your farm, always make sure you have a spotter, lower your equipment, and plan your work ahead. For more information, visit saskpower.com/safety.