Riggin Baloun is a lucky boy. The 8-year-old survived being buried in a grain wagon during wheat harvest this year.
Riggin was standing on top of a loaded 500-bushel grain wagon on the Baxter Angus Farm near Rockham, S.D., and was sucked down into the wheat when the wagon gate was opened.
"I thought he had gotten out of the tractor and had gone in the house," says Todd Lindgren, who was running the wagon back and forth between the bin site and the field on that fateful day in August. Riggin was riding along in the buddy seat. "I didn't even know he was around the wagon. Then I saw the bottom of a shoe stuck in the bottom of the wagon gate."
Lindgren climbed up the 10-foot tall wagon's ladder and looked in the box.
All he saw of the 4-foot tall boy were his eyes, nose and face sticking out of the top of the grain.
"He had his head back, like he was treading water and trying to keep from going under," Lindgren says.
Lindgren jumped in the box to pull Riggin out, but a wave of grain flowed down from the sides of the wagon and covered the boy. Lindgren dug frantically and cleaned the grain off Riggin's head.
He grabbed his shoulders and pulled.
"I couldn't pull him up, the grain was too strong," Lindgren says.
Lindgren tore himself away from Riggin – the panic in the boy's eyes shocking him -- and climbed out of the wagon.
Another wave of grain flowed down on top of Riggin and covered him.
From atop the 10-foot high trailer, Lindgren jumped to the ground. He pulled out his cell phone and called Baxter.
"You've got to here," Lindgren hollered into the phone. "Riggin's buried in the grain."
Lindgren says he wasn't sure what do next, but knew he had to get the child out, somehow.
"I wasn't going to let him die," he says.
Lindgren cranked open the wagon gate all the way and strained against the grain as it cascaded out of the wagon to reach Riggin's feet. He found them, pulled and the boy popped through the gate.
Lying on his back on top of the grain, Riggin let out a gasp and cough. He had been holding his breath since he had gone under.
"He is lucky to be alive," Baxter says.
Read more about Riggin's close call in the October issue of Dakota Farmer.