SEVASTOPOL - Pete Peot, a farmer, isn't used to folks helping him with his 45-head dairy farm. He's known in the community for being a man of few words, with actions that speak volumes.
Helping out neighbors, friends or family is woven into the fabric of rural life. When Peot, 46, sustained life-threatening injuries trying to dislodge hay stuck in baling equipment about three months ago, the people he has helped over the years rallied to help him.
That support continued Saturday with about 400 people participating in a benefit event Saturday Sept. 9to raise money to cover Peot's expenses and medical bills. The outpouring of help is "amazing," Peot said. It will be another three months or so before he will be recovered enough to manage the farm with minimal help.
Farming flows through Peot's veins — he followed in his father's footsteps and has managed the family farm for decades. Peot knows every detail of the land, can soothe the mood of an anxious or ornery cow, and adeptly fix anything that breaks.
"If a cow was injured, I could lift it, and I could throw the bags of feed. But, now, I can barely lift anything," he said. "It's frustrating, but it's just the way it is."
Peot said he knows its a miracle he's alive.
"Nobody is supposed to live after getting caught in a hay baler; the odds of surviving are very slight," said Ralph Bocheck, a neighboring farmer and farm equipment dealer.Bocheck was one of the organizers for the fundraiser. "I know two (men) personally who were killed by round balers."
The community support for Peot plays out in Door County whenever someone needs help, Bocheck said.
"People do what they can," he said. "People help each other out."
Neighbors heard Peot's screams around 6 p.m. June 7 when his hands became stuck in the baler. They ran to the field to help him while paramedics provided the care to stabilize his wounds on the way to the hospital.
Both of his arms were shattered and mangled by the machine. For 5½ hours, a medical team at a Green Bay hospital repaired his arms, Peot said.
After a week at the hospital, Peot was discharged to his home. While waiting to begin therapy, he completes stretching exercises at home and very slowly increases the amount he can hold or lift with his arms.
"I'm up to about three or four pounds," he said.
A core group of about 20 to 30 friends and family members are helping Peot to run the farm. His girlfriend, Casey Heldmann, is managing his house and related chores while his daughter, 9, has been his main gofer.
"There's not much you can do on a farm when you're only 9 years old, but my daughter is a good help," Peot said.
The brush with mortality renews Peot's appreciation for each day and his community.
"I've always lived by 'you treat people like you'd like them to treat you,' but I never thought someday I would be the one needing the help,'' Peot said.
- What: Pete Peot Benefit
- Mail check to: Capital Credit Union, 665 N. 12th Ave., Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235