Sammie's Story

Suppose you were a young man only 17 years old, someone who began his working life at the very young age of 12, you were in the eleventh grade with only one year to go till graduation from high school, and because of an accident that happened while out in the woods cutting firewood, you were told youíd never walk again, can you imagine how that would feel? Iíve tried to do just that today after meeting a remarkable young man who lives in Hanging Limb, but no one could know how that would feel until faced with that situation. Certainly anger, depression, and hopelessness would be some of the feelings a person would experience having what we think of as an everyday life taken away at such a young age. But if this young man ever had a single one of those emotions, it surely isnít evident today. Sammie Norrod, son of Ray and Willene Norrod, who reached his 36th birthday the day I visited on May 12th, lives a very normal life in most respects despite the fact that he has not been able to walk since that day he and his friend, Michael Hoover, were in the midst of cutting firewood when a tree they had cut became lodged on another one. In their efforts to free the tree, a wind came up, causing the tree to come crashing down on top of Sammie, crushing two vertebras in his back. As a result, he is paralyzed from the waist down. He told me he knew immediately he had a serious injury. When the tree came down, Sammie was setting on a tractor and was pinned there until Michael Hoover was able to lift the tree off him and take him to an uncleís home for help. (When Sammieís father and three other men later returned to where the accident happened and tried to lift the tree off the tractor, they were not able to budge it. It had to be cut off with a chain saw.) Michael Hooverís uncle rushed Sammie to the emergency room in Cookeville where he was later transported on to St. Thomas in Nashville. Sammie underwent surgery to have steel rods placed in his back requiring a hospital stay of 6 to 8 weeks. From there he went on to Vanderbilt Hospital for another month long stay to undergo rehabilitation. It was at Vanderbilt that he learned the basis of how to care for himself, and included in that rehabilitation therapy, were lessons on how to drive a vehicle with hand controls. When he was able to return home, he completed his high school education at Monterey High School. He had formerly attended Rickman High School, but that school closed the same year of his accident.

Sammie told me that one of the doctors advised his parents that their son would probably go home, get on the couch, get fat, and that would be how the rest of his life would be spent. I surely wish that doctor could see Sammie now. Would he be in store for a very big surprise! That was totally the opposite of what Sammie has done. He said as soon as he got home, he made up his mind that he was not going to let what had happened to him stop him from doing anything he wanted to do, and thatís exactly what heís done. The day I visited him, he had just finished mowing his yard. But thatís just the beginning of the things he does. Sammie grew up hunting and fishing, and these sports are still a very big part of his life. He goes on week long hunting trips, participates in fishing tournaments, turkey hunts, and even deer hunts from a tree stand. He laughed and told me how a tree stand once fell with him while on a deer hunt. He and a friend had gone together, and when the friend returned to the tree where he left Sammie earlier, there was no sign of Sammie or the tree stand. He called out for Sammie who answered "Iím sitting right here on the ground." Another time, a friend had put a deer stand up too high in a tree to be able to lift Sammie up to, and even though Sammie warned him that he would not be able to lift him up that high, the friend insisted he could, but Sammie turned out to be right. The friend dropped Sammie, and he landed right on top of him. Sammieís condition did not excuse him from being fined by a game warden once either. A stuffed deer whose tail even wagged was placed along side the road. Sammie drove by, thinking it was a real deer, and shot it. The game warden appeared, presented him with a rather large fine, and took away his gun also. But Sammie wasnít the only one who made this same mistake. The stuffed deer ended up being shot seven times that same day by others who were also on the receiving end of the big, fat fine.


Sammie has now owned a total of four four-wheelers that he uses not only get out and ride on, but to go hunting on too. When going on camping trips, he pulls a 16 foot camper behind his truck. He has lived on his own since 1997 in a mobile home a short distance down the road from his parentsí home. He does all his own cooking, he washes dishes, and does his own laundry. Sitting right in front of his mobile home is a log cabin that is under construction. One of his friends has gotten the log cabin to the point of being framed in, and Sammie, along with his father, will complete the rest of the construction work themselves. A tour of the log home was also included in my visit. Sammie bought the materials for his home in Jamestown, and hauled them back to the building site himself. He hopes to have the log home completed by June or July of this year.

At the young age of 12, Sammie learned how to run a dozer, and by the time he was 16, he was quite good at working with one. When Sammie was just a grade school student, Laddie Key would get him to help out with farm work, and this is something Sammie continues to do for Laddie even today. But thatís not all Sammie does with his time. He has learned how to do taxidermy work, and is very good with this too. He has deer heads he has mounted, and three large fish hang proudly on the wall of his home. One was caught in a fishing tournament Sammie participated in at Watts Bar Dam.

I was truly amazed at the grit and determination this young man possesses, and the fact that he has let nothing stand in his way of living as normal a life as possible. During my visit, I kept looking for even a slight hint of bitterness or resentment that this accident had taken away Sammieís ability to walk, but there was none. His warm and genuinely happy smile, along with those bright blue eyes show that there is absolutely nothing negative in his life. I came away feeling very glad to have had the opportunity to get to meet someone who is truly making every minute count of his time on earth, even though he no longer has the use of his legs to do what we take for granted every single day. Thank you, Sammie, for sharing your story. What a wonderful example and exceptional person you are. By the way, should that doctor who said Sammie would go home and get fat ever read this story, he should also see what a nice, trim and fit young man Sammie is today too. He just wouldnít believe it!


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