NEW PALESTINE — It seemed like a good idea, a surefire way to save a little money.
Everything was going as scheduled; the tree in the front yard was finally getting cut down, until Donald Minix lost his footing and catapulted 20 feet to the ground.
The New Palestine resident knows he is lucky to be alive after the accident Sunday. Minix landed on several cement rocks surrounding the old tree on his property in the 7300 block of West Creekside Drive. The fall fractured his back, leaving him in the worst pain he has ever felt, he said.
Not only did Minix end up in the hospital with a broken back; he also left a mess of a tree that was halfway cut down, with branches scattered about the yard. Then, the same firefighters who helped Minix the day he was injured came to the rescue again, returning to his home and finishing the job.
For firefighters in the small community, their work serving the public is about more than the shifts they put in at the fire station each week. It’s about taking care of neighbors, both on and off duty, they say. The second time the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department showed up to Minix’s house, it was to finish the work the New Palestine man was doing when he fell.
Capt. Brandon Kleine, Lt. James Wolsiffer and firefighter Andy Drake spent several hours on their off day Monday cutting the tree down. They also stacked the wood neatly in Minix’s driveway, just as he would have.
The family that had so much on its plate after the accident was heartened by the firefighters’ efforts.
“It was wonderful what they did,” Minix said. “Here I was trying to save a few bucks, and I end up in this situation with a cracked vertebrae.”
Drake and Kleine were two of the first on the scene to help Minix; when they left, Drake said he couldn’t get the image of the mess in the front yard out of his mind.
Wolsiffer drove past the Minix home Monday to see if the tree still needed to be taken down, and there, it was. He texted Kleine and Drake, and the three made fast work of the project.
“The tough part was getting the actual tree down,” Drake said. “We didn’t want to break any of the concrete in the driveway.”
Kleine said they weren’t looking for recognition; they were simply following the golden rule.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Kleine said. “If someone from my family fell out of a tree, I’d want someone to help them.”
Wolsiffer added it’s not uncommon for firefighters in the department to reach out and help families who’ve been in dire situations. Firefighters said they have cut grass, cleaned yards and helped hang flags on their days off.
Wolsiffer said taking care of daily chores is the last thing people want to do when they’ve been hurt badly, and public servants see pitching in as one more way to help.
“It was just like, ‘Let’s go over there and take care of it,’” Wolsiffer said.
Minix also broke a piece of his vertebrae off and said he’ll probably be in recovery for several months, making him all the more grateful for the helping hands.
While he’s still in serious pain, Minix managed a smile when thinking of what the firemen did.
They were kind from the moment they came to his aid, he said.
“It hurt so bad when I was lying there, I wanted to cry, and they told me to go ahead and cry, that men do that,” Minix said.
The firefighters said it’s just part of their job, helping a person in need.
“We love our job and our community,” Kleine said. “This is how we do it around here.”