Gage Crutchfield was in first place as he raced around the family’s pasture with his cousin. That morning they weren’t allowed to go hunting, so the cousins thought they might race their quad bikes. That was a mistake.
“The day before, grandpa went out there to the pasture and rutted it up, and there were some big tractor ruts we didn’t know about. The first lap around, I was first place and didn’t want to let up on the gas and was drifting around a corner,” Crutchfield said. “I rolled my four-wheeler.”
At 8 years old, Crutchfield suffered a broken neck, a crushed skull, a punctured lung and a broken jaw. The injuries put him in the hospital for 93 days. Then came complications — Crutchfield suffered hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within his brain. Then he suffered a stroke.
“I went back to a baby,” the Chisum High School senior said.
So severe were his injuries his doctors said he might not walk or talk or have a life close to his previous normal. The diagnosis didn’t sit well with the then 8-year-old.
“Well, that made me mad because growing up on a ranch, grandpa always taught me work ain’t done until it’s done. If you start something, you finish it,” Crutchfield recalled.
And so he fought. After defying the odds, he’s now looking forward to a bright future in agriculture.
“I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy after high school,” he said. “With my grandpa starting to hand the reins over to me now, I think I’m going to stick with ranching; it’s simple.”
But the road to recovery to that “simple” life was bumpy. When he couldn’t talk, Crutchfield forced himself to write — something made all the more challenging because of his dyslexia. Through therapy, he learned to walk again. Then talk again. He knew he needed to put in the work if he wanted back on the ranch.
Though he could walk by the time he left the hospital, he couldn’t talk and he couldn’t pump up his BB gun.
“Boy, this made me mad,” he said with a laugh. “By that time, I was already hunting, had a few guns of my own and to not be able to pump up that gun was frustrating.
“So I started working that, trying to get my strength back to where I could work, and it took me about six months to get back close to 100 percent of what I could do before the accident.”
Never one to sit back, Crutchfield went on to earn his welding certificates at 13 years old. He’s since worked at a few local trailer manufacturers.
“My stepdad came into my life when I was around 6 years old. He was a rancher out in Honey Grove, so I would ride with him everywhere. He started welding, and I watched him, I just wanted to be like him and make him proud. He taught me, and before too long I was working at a trailer factory alongside him, 40 hours a week, you know, a man’s job,” he said.
Summer work never gave Crutchfield reason to flinch, and he learned how to work around the difficulties caused by his injuries.
“Gage is one of, if not the most, inspirational students I have ever had in the 10-years of teaching agriculture,” Chisum Ag Science instructor Matt Preston said.
Crutchfield said college isn’t in the cards for him, but he is looking forward to attending a trade school to become a lineman in addition to being a rancher. He realizes the job is high risk, and his remaining disabilities from the crash will make it hard to be as physical as he would like, he is willing to work at something he can do to make the money he’ll need.
“He has had every reason in the world to throw in the towel and give up, but somehow finds it within himself to keep pushing on and working towards his dreams and goals,” Preston said. “I know that he will be super successful in life because no matter how much life throws at him, he always seems to land on his feet with a smile on his face and the same outstanding work ethic that he has shown me over the past few years.”
That work ethic, Crutchfield said, comes from living the agriculture life.
“From working on the ranch to being involved in FFA, getting the tools I needed for life has been a blessing,” Crutchfield said. “Every kid should look at these programs while they’re here in school and give it a go. There’s something for everyone and FFA has helped me get where I’m going and where I’m going to go.”