Salem, SD – It is the true heroes among us who face adversity and walk confidently right on past to a better future. That is exactly the kind of story we have for you from Salem, South Dakota where at the age of 25, doctors told Geno Sandine that he would be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Well, doc, just watch Geno go.
Today we’re in Salem, South Dakota where you’re going to hear a motivational story about a man who was finishing up chores for the weekend, grinding up feed, then had a 25-foot fall from this grain bin. A life changing event that would slow most people down… but not the man you are going to hear about next.
“I have had a lot of experiences with God that I could have been gone many times,” Geno Sandine said. This story came about from a visit with some men in what they call “the dumb room” at a local C-store in Salem, South Dakota. They told me about Geno Sandine and a day that would change his life and the community he loves, forever.
“I went down to grind feed and it was raining that day. It was October 23 of ’75 and I fell off a grain bin. I went up to close the doors. At that time, they didn’t have these fancy hoods, so I went up to shut the doors. I was in a hurry and when you think you’re smart enough to do what I did, it was a dumb thing to do. I used a rope to go from one hatch door to the next hatch door and I got caught and I cut it and I just fell 25-feet down.” Geno Sandine said.
His family got anxious when Geno didn’t return home from chores. Geno’s big brother, Ronald, came to check on him and found the unthinkable. “So, then I hollered his name and he says, ‘I am over here.’ So, I come running around the bin, found him laying there on the ground there. I says, ‘How are you doing?’ And he says, ‘I can’t feel my legs.’ I says, ‘Oh my God.’ ” Ronald Sandine said. “I thought he had a broken back. That is what I thought. I thought, ‘Oh my God’, young guy, and always active and all that you know. I just couldn’t imagine him being paralyzed. He wouldn’t go for that,” Ronald Sandine said. “He wouldn’t go for that?” Mike Huether asked. “If he had a choice. Let’s put it that way,” Ronald Sandine said.
At only 25-years old, Geno’s prognosis was not good. It was a grueling rehabilitation process that went on for two months. If walking again was part of life’s plan, Geno was the one who could pull it off. “Did they give him a chance in the beginning?” Mike Huether asked. “Well, the doctors said at first he was just going to be a wheelchair person,” Ronald Sandine said. “And then he says, ‘No I’m not’ and kind of proved them wrong. Through therapy and healing, why by the grace of God he made it to what he’s doing today.”
When I asked Ronald to give me one word to describe his brother Geno, he said “determination.” “After 4 months or so in the spring, everybody said I should go down to Social Security and get help. And they denied me,” Geno Sandine said. “They denied you?” Mike Huether asked. “Yes. And I walked out the door, shrugged my shoulders and I guess I gotta go to work. So, I worked ever since. So, that was probably the better thing that they did do is saying that… ‘Go to work’,” Geno Sandine said.
And work he did. It didn’t take long for him to get back to his farming roots. “You could have picked an easier profession after you had that accident, but obviously Ag is in your blood,” Mike Huether said. “Yeah, that is the only thing that I knew how to do,” Geno Sandine replied.
Salem resident, Kevin Peterson, knows all about his good friend’s strength, will and kindness. “If somebody says, ‘Well, Geno you can’t do that.’ That is an invitation for him to get it done. No matter what it takes, he’s gonna get it done. And that is his whole life is that way. It is just amazing. He is a good example for a lot of people, you know, just enjoy life,” Kevin Peterson said.
Geno could not have found a better home than Salem. He has lived there his entire life. “This community loves you, but I know you love Salem. How does that connect with the challenges you have had?” asked Mike Huether. “Just like this here. They come together. We come together when somebody is hurting,” Geno Sandine said.
Geno runs his own payloader clearing snow, drives combine, hauls grain in his semi-trailer and so much more. He has been farming now for over 50 years. And oh yes, there’s one more thing you need to know. “Most people can get up and start walking. I got to put my foot on, you know, it is a process,” said Geno Sandine. Yep, Geno Sandine puts on his foot before he ever starts his day.
And he still climbs those grain bins at the farm. Somebody has to go up there and check the grain, he relayed to me with pride. “Could you talk Geno into not climbing the grain bins? Can anybody do that?” saked Mike Huether. “I doubt it. I doubt it. I doubt it,” said Ronald Sandine.”Can you talk him out of doing anything?” Mike Huether asked. “Not if he has his mind set on doing it,” Ronald Sandine said. “You’re not going to do it,” Huether replied.
Geno lay in the dirt for an agonizing 30 minutes before his brother found him that day. He says the support of his family, especially his dad, helped get him to where he is today. And where he is today is alongside his wife of 12 years, Janet, who told me, “Mike he has nine lives and the last one belongs to me.” Well, Janet and Geno, we hope it’s a long life indeed.