Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Rancher, motorists rescued after being stranded 27 hours in Winter Storm Diaz

Ryan Sparz
Ryan Sparz (right) and Gus Gran with the Fendt track tractor used to rescue a stranded rancher and more motorists as Winter Storm Diaz whipped through South Dakota.

WINNER, SD – In a week full of rescue stories in the midst of Winter Storm Diaz that dumped four feet of snow with drifts seven feet tall and higher, this one connected strangers from Minnesota to South Dakota to California.

It started when a rancher out feeding his cattle got caught in the storm.

Rodney Paulson, a rancher in his 70s, went out to feed last Thursday afternoon and was soon stuck. Nearby neighbor Gus Gran tried getting to Paulson, but the blizzard conditions and deep snow were too much for his farm equipment to handle.

“I made it a mile from it and I got stuck and it was getting dark. So, I called my Dad, and he came down with another loader tractor. It took him two hours to dig me out,” Gran said. According to Gran, it took them five hours to get only three miles back home.

“And I said, ‘Dad,’ I said, “Rodney’s going to have to stay there tonight.  We can’t get to him.”

And so we called him and Rodney said, ‘That’s fine.’ You know, he had fuel, he had heat. That’s all that we could d0,” Gran said. On Friday, Gran began making calls to find someone with equpment big enough to get to Paulson.  Turns out the answer wasn’t far away.

A trucker, Ryan Spartz from Minnesota, had ended up on U.S. Highway 18 between Mission and Winner during the storm, hoping to get across South Dakota.

He came across cars stranded and blocking the road and decided to start helping people; not with his semi, but with what was loaded on it for delivery to California – a Fendt 1100 Vario MT Series tractor.

After checking with the dealership that it was okay, Spartz unloaded the Fendt and went to work. Stranded people, including DOT workers, got back to Mission with his help as Highway 18 became impassable.

But the rescues went beyond the people on the highway.

Gran heard about the trucker and the Fendt busting through drifts on the highway and was able to reach him, asking for help for his neighbor.

Using the tractor, Spartz and Gran were able to reach Paulson, blowing through snow drifts along the way.

“It was a cakewalk,” Gran said.  “It was unbelievable what that thing went through,” Spartz added.

They made it to Paulson after he had spent over 27 hours in his tractor and got him back home.

“I teared up. We pulled up there, I started crying. You can ask Ryan,” said Gran. “I had tears in my eyes. It was a big relief to get him home. And it was just, it’s crazy. I mean, pictures don’t do this deal justice.”

Spartz and Gran continued helping stranded motorists using the Fendt tractor, in the storm that closed the interstate, highways and secondary roads throughout South Dakota for several days.

The Fendt brand tractor used in the rescues has been dropped off in California and is now cleaned up and on the dealership’s lot, according to Spartz.

Editor’s Note: Fendt is a German agricultural machinery manufacturer founded in 1930 by Xaver Fendt in Marktoberdorf, Allgäu region, Germany. Fendt manufactures tractors, combine harvesters, balers, telescopic handlers and row crop planters. It was purchased by AGCO Corporation in 1997.

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12:06 am, December 1, 2023
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