COVER STORY: One man's determination to defy the odds and pull his late father's tractor just one last time

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Pictured to far left is Dustin Frankie.
Friday night’s tractor pull at the Franklin County Fair in Union, Mo was more than just another tractor pull for one individual.

At some point during our lives we suffer the loss of a loved one, or experience a tragic event affecting the rest of our lives.  Some people choose to move on or give up because of the hand life has dealt them.  However, there are those few, rare individuals who refuse to give in and they overcome the odds.  They don’t look back at the life they could have had, instead they make the most of what they do have.  The night of the tractor pull I had no idea I would meet someone so inspiring.

In 2001, 19 year-old Dustin Franke broke his neck after diving into a swimming pool leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  As if this weren't enough, in 2008, Franke would suffer another life changing event. His father, Robert “Skip” Franke passed away after suffering several strokes.  Before his father began having health issues, “Skip” had bought a tractor to rebuild. However, due to his health issues he was unable to make much progress.
Pictured to right is the tractor "Skippy's Dream".

Franke grew up going to tractor pulls with his parents on the weekends during the summer.  Franke said, “It’s just a life style we had.”  Prior to Franke’s accident, he and his dad pulled tractors together, forming a special bond.  Franke said, “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.”

During the past three years, with help from family and friends, Franke has worked on rebuilding the Minneapolis-Moline, a tractor his father so dearly loved.  Franke’s dream after the passing of his father has been to get the chance to pull his father’s tractor down that track just one more time, to relive all of the memories he has of pulling tractors with his father.  Franke does not want to do this just for himself, but for his dad and all those who have put countless hours helping Franke rebuild his father’s tractor.  The G1000 Minnie is painted with the endearing term, "Skippy's Dream".

There is only one thing preventing him from pulling "Skippy’s Dream" even if it is only one time.  Franke needs to purchase and install hand controls similar to those in his car.  This would enable him to control the throttle and breaks.  Unfortunately, a device of this nature is out of Franke's financial reach because Franke has been laid off since August; it has been a slow process. Franke came up with how to get on the tractor by mounting a wheel chair lift just like the one he uses to get into his car.

Pictured left is Randy Klenke pulling "Skippy's Dream".

Friday night was the first time “Skippy’s Dream” had pulled since Franke began rebuilding it three years ago.  I sat with Franke at the end of the track while family friend, Randy Klenke pulled on to the track and got "Skippy’s Dream" hooked up to the sled.  I had chills while standing there and watching "Skippy’s Dream" dash down the track.  The smile on Franke’s face was indescribable.  "Skippy’s Dream" ran better than Franke could have ever imagined.  Even though he was not the one on the tractor he said, “To see it have such a great pull, I can’t describe the feeling.  We have been having a lot of troubles getting it to run and for it all to come together tonight, I know my dad is looking down with a big smile.”  Franke also said, “It was even more special to see it be pulled for the first time here in Union, because this is where I grew up.”

I have no doubt that someday Franke will pull his father’s tractor because of his willpower and determination.  It is my hope that someone will read this article and help Franke’s Dream come true.  I have met a lot of people in my lifetime and sometimes an individual deserves a little help.  Franke did not ask me to include this in my story, but he has put forth the so much effort and time so that he can once again drive "Skippy’s Dream" one last time.  Click here to read how this fairy tale story continues