Tractor pull champion Larry Koester inspiring others decades after life-altering accident

One tragic accident in 1986 changed Larry Koester’s life forever. He was driving a tractor down his driveway when the bank beneath it collapsed.

“When it caved away way the tractor turned upside-down, and I went with it,” Koester said.

Koester was knocked unconscious while the steering wheel pinned his legs, and leaking gas fell onto his body. When the tractor caught fire, 42 percent of body was severely burned.

“I didn’t wake up for six weeks, so they didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.

The burns forced doctors to amputate his legs.

“The depression was terrible, because I was a 6’3″ and 220-pound guy, very athletic. And I couldn’t do anything. I was 136 pounds when I got out of the hospital,” Koester said.

A few weeks later at home, he heard his three-year-old daughter calling for him.

“I tried to put myself in my wheelchair, and I just couldn’t put myself in it,” he said. “I wasn’t strong enough. So I opted to do what I call knuckles and butt, pick yourself up with your hands and scootch.

“I went down the hallway and went in the room, and of course I had tears in my eyes. I look in the corner and there’s this three-year-old girl and she’s got tears rolling down her eyes. She walks across the room, puts her arms around my neck, and she goes, ‘Don’t cry Daddy. I love you even without your legs.”

And his lowest point became a turning point.

“She didn’t care that I didn’t have any legs,” Koester said. “I don’t think she’d care if I had no arms. She wanted a daddy. And I decided to be a daddy.”

And in the decades since, his whole family has bonded through tractor pulling competitions across the nation. And they’re not slowing down anytime soon.

“Until it’s not fun anymore, I’m going to keep doing it,” Koester said. “And hopefully I can show a lot of people what you can do with a positive attitude.”

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